The Brief and Colourful History of Tie Dye | Aspiral Design

What does Tie Dye mean to you?

Synonymous with the swinging 60’s and the American counterculture movement, Tie Dye brings with it a sense of nostalgia and cultural significance.

But which culture?

It’s easy to fall into the joy of creating your own Tie Dye designs and wearing your favourite patterns proudly, without knowing how rich a history Tie Dye has.

Let’s jump in our time machine and take a quick spin through history to discover the amazing truth about Tie Dye.

You might be surprised where we end up…

The earliest expressions of Tie Dye

The artform of Tie Dye goes back as far as 4000 BCE. Yep, we’ve gone way back in the time machine here.

Indian cultures practised the technique of ‘bandhani’ – a type of early Tie Dying used to decorate textiles. The term ‘bandhani’ itself comes from the sanskrit verb ‘bandh’ which means to “to tie”.

These early expressions of Tie Dye were deeply connected with religious and ceremonial events, like marriages or wakes. So the next time you throw on your favourite piece of Tie Dyed clothing you’ll be connected to a rich, historical heritage stretching back thousands of years.

How cool is that!

Japanese Shibori technique

Our time machine has brought us to 8th century Japan this time, where the fabric manipulation technique of Shibori was widespread.

The second oldest Tie Dye technique on record, Japanese Shibori technique created stunning patterns of spider-web inspired shapes, as well as geometric patterns and figures. This was done by binding cloth before treating it with dyes.

Favouring indigo dye in particular (which was widely available at the time) this evolution of Tie Dye was used by lower social classes who were barred from wearing silk but still looking for creative ways to stand out.

Looks like throwing on a Tie Dye and heading out to turn heads has been in style for a while.

The American 20th Century

While Tie Dye appeared throughout history – from the Indonesian ikat to African gara and adire, it was the American 20th century that brought bright colours and swirling patterns back into the limelight.

But we’re not ready to take the time machine to the swinging 60’s just yet.

During the Great Depression (1929-1933), the US Government handed out pamphlets teaching people how to Tie Dye old cotton and sugar sacks to make clothes and save money. Instead of traditional dyes though, the economic challenges meant people had to use blackberries, red cabbage and marigolds.

Now that’s creativity!

The era of modern Tie Dye

We’ve tumbled out of the time machine now in a time of civil unrest, of rejection of social norms, of wanting to embrace peace and love.

How did people express their individuality and reject the establishment? Tie Die!

With thousands of years of history behind it, Tie Dye was now available to the masses through affordable and squeezable liquid dyes. With widespread accessibility, Tie Dye was one way for everyone to participate in a growing movement towards love and peace.

Youth cultures rebelled against more conservative forms of dressing and acting, and while hippies popularised tie-dye with electric swirls and vibrant colour palettes, this was a time when anyone could wear Tie Dye and feel unique. After all, each Tie Dye garment is like a snowflake – no two are alike!

The future of Tie Dye

Tie Dye began to fade in popularity during the 1980’s, but it’s impossible to keep down an artform that’s been ever-present since 4000 BCE.

The stunning kaleidoscope print is making a resurgence with Tie Dye clothing an affordable and fun way for people of all ages to embrace their own unique style.

With Tie Dye kits introducing new generations of kids to a colourful new fashion, it’s pretty clear from our adventures through time today that Tie Dye is here to stay.

Discover your own affordable Tie Dye adventure in our online shop – prices from as low as $15