“I’d just like to say that I appreciate your tie today, Niclas!”, one of the interviewers said. The panel broke down laughing. Had they been thinking about it the whole time?

I wore a paisley patterned tie at my interview for a PhD studentship in Paisley which I’m now undertaking. I was advised about the tie by a friend. Considering the reaction, I think it was the right choice.

If the paisley pattern was the starting point of my PhD process, it holds a certain symbolic value for my thesis, too. I’m studying what outcomes can be traced from investing in the creative economy of Paisley, indirect as well as direct. I’m looking at how projects in the creative economy could be leveraged to create inclusive economic growth, instigating urban regeneration and a thriving town. To acheive this, I’m addressing questions like: What cultural values do a town like Paisley have? One of these values may be “being the Western namesake of the paisley pattern”.

I recently came across a study from the 1950s where the value of recreational fishing in a certain river was defined as “the market value of the fish caught”. Obviously, the fishing, as well as the paisley pattern, have deeper values and meanings than present market value. French luxury fashion brand Hermès currently sell a scarf called “Paisley from Paisley”, created in co-operation with textile conservators in Paisley. How should I capture Paisley’s benefit of that?

Apart from being able to draw tourists to Paisley, which may create considerable value if expanded from the knitting clubs and textile nerds coming to visit the old looms and pattern collections, the pattern holds other values too. These values may be intrinsic, a value in itself beyond the market value. Even if I never wore a paisley pattern (though obviously, I do), my knowledge of the town’s proud heritage of textile production with a name resounding on all continents may be valuable as well.

Some researchers and politicians claim that these kind of intangibles are impossible to measure reliably. Luckily for me, there is a growing body of research developing methods to capture these values. Maybe a part of the solution is simply to ask people what they think of the paisley pattern, or consider event attendance and places related to that part of local history. Perhaps I could count the number of people wearing paisley patterned ties on High Street?

I’ve worn paisley patterned clothing about once a week since I got here. Each time, someone has exclaimed “Paisley! Great!” or something similar. I think there is a value there. I just need to measure it.