As popular as checked patterns are (especially during the fall) it boggles our minds when we encounter a tattersall-clad individual who confuses the pattern with, say, gingham. Part of dressing well is being knowledgeable of what you’re wearing. Just as you would easily differentiate between wool and cashmere, bootcut and straight, or moss and hunter green, you should know the difference between your beloved patterns. If you’re guilty of making a minor mistake then continue reading. We’ll forgive you…just this once.
Windowpane: Popular with men’s suiting, this pattern is aptly named for its resemblance to a series of window panes. Typically the fine lines are seen in a lighter, contrasting color upon a darker colored background. The look is quite distinguished, especially on a double-breasted, wool suit.
Argyle (Argyll): Probably one of the most well-known checks, it is an autumn essential for knitwear and socks. This three-dimensional pattern is distinguished by its overlay of diagonal lines upon solid diamonds. The name is derived from the tartan of the Campbell Clan of Argyll, Scotland, used for kilts and Highlander socks that were generally known as “tartan hose”.
Tattersall: This pattern’s name has a rather unglamorous provenance. In the 1700’s, Tattersall’s Horse Market of London created a cloth composed of regularly-spaced, thin, even stripes of two alternating, darker colors that were placed upon a light background. The cloth was used to keep the equine companion warm (read: horse blankets). Despite it’s beginnings the pattern is fashionably used on shirts, flannels, and waistcoats.
Madras: Known colloquially as “Madrasi checks”, this summertime favorite takes its name from the Indian city now known as Chennai. Similar to that of plaid, this fabric consists of checks and stripes in muted, yet soft and vibrant colors. Unlike the symmetric patterns of other checks, those of Madras tend to be uneven, which creates a sense of dimension and depth. Perfectly paired on light cottons and seersucker, this pattern keeps you looking cool when the weather isn’t.
Glen Plaid: Made renown by the Duke of Windsor, and thus nicknamed “Prince of Wales check”, this pattern is not often seen in the States. It is a handsome woven pattern typically made of black/grey and white, or with more muted colors, particularly with two dark and two light stripes that alternate with four dark and four light stripes which creates a crossing pattern of irregular checks. The name Glen plaid does not appear before 1926 where, until then, it was formally known as Glen Urquhart check, after the valley in Inverness-shire, Scotland, where it was first used.
Gingham: Worn by the mods of the 1960’s, Brigitte Bardot on her wedding day, and Dorothy as she traversed the yellow brick road, this pattern is often referred to as the “tablecloth pattern”. With its square checks of two contrasting colors and its fabrication, this pattern has no right or wrong side being the same from front to back. Depending on the colors used, Gingham is seasonless and an often welcome addition to both the male and female wardrobe.
Plaid/Tartan: There is often confusion between these two. Plaid actually comes from the Gaelic word for blanket and in Scotland refers to a piece of fabric that is belted, worn, or slung over the body. Where plaid refers to the fabric or garment itself, tartan refers to the pattern. However in America the two have become synonymous, thus when in Rome. This pattern is widely used from fashion to homeware and is easily distinguished by the crossing of vertical and horizontal bands of two or more colors.
Houndstooth: Probably the least subtle of the checks, this pattern is often found in both mens- and womenswear, gracing the likes of coats, jackets, neckwear, and hats. Originating from woven wool cloth from the Scottish Lowlands, this textile pattern is characterized by broken checks or abstract four-pointed shapes, often in black and white, although other colors are used. Despite its inability to be worn incognito it is the perfect compliment to classic ensembles in need of a lift.