Checkmate: Understanding Check

It’s the undisputed king of menswear patterns. Polkadot and pinstripe quiver in it’s wake – no other features so prominently in the wardrobes of men around the world. Check, in it’s varying forms, permeates every garment in a man’s sartorial canon. But do you know your gingham from your Glen Plaid? Or your Glen Plaid from your plain old plaid? Read on to discover just a few of the different types of check, where and when to wear them, and increase your pub quiz knowledge to boot.

Plaid

Let’s start with the obvious one – an all American favourite, and a check that’s enjoyed by both sexes. Apart from that time Avril Lavigne nearly killed it in the early 2000’s, the love affair has never really ended. And when it appears on flannel? Heaven. It’s a check that says comfort more than no other – it’s a check for a relaxed look, invoking the outdoors. Or just web designers. Whilst it’s never gone away, we think plaid is back in a big way for A/W13 – watch out for it loosely tied around teenagers’ waists. Don’t ask us why these things happen, they just do.

How to spot: vertical and horizontal lines of two or more colours crossing in a wide square.

Glen Plaid

Sounds like it should be similar to the above – it’s not. Think Prince Charles, think Pee-wee Herman. Not one for the faint hearted, this check is incredibly difficult to pull off. It hails from Scotland and sadly reminds us of when we used to hit the wrong button the remote and get all that grey fuzz. But, if you’re a fan of grey fuzz, and can make this work, more power to you.

How to spot: tight contrasts of large, then small check.

Tartan

Another Scottish check, tartan was actually once the national dress of Scotland. Today it’s probably closer associated with Burberry or with the punk era, depending on the colour. Again, one that a conservative dresser might want to avoid, but done tastefully and in limited amounts, it can work. It can also work well in accessories or even as lining – particularly in outerwear. A flash of a bold tartan can look ace as you pull your coat together against the rain or wind. Fashion drama, that.

How to spot: criss-cross horizontal and vertical bands, in multiple colours.

Gingham

One of our favourites. Gingham should not, under no circumstances, be just left for girl’s school dresses. It’s the perfect check for so many occasions – summer picnics, weddings, dates – even for business. Despite what your mother may say, you are not wearing a table cloth. Stick to more muted colours, and the optical illusion effect will prove a winner every time. Especially to add some extra interest to a boring suit. Do it. Now.

How to spot: tight square checks, in opposite colours.

Windowpane

Or as we like to call it ‘the Dermot’. Seriously, whoever styles X Factor must have a thing for this check. Dermot and Gary can’t get enough of it. That’s not to say it’s bad – it’s the quintessential check for stylish, classic dressing. The subtle lines work on jackets and on shirts, and is a favourite of tailors. Whilst you might be tempted (or talked into) wearing this check in some shade of brown, we find that a bit, well, obvious – go for a blue or grey instead. And avoid anything shiny or garish where this one’s concerned, otherwise you’ll just look like a banker. Unless you are a banker, of course.

How to spot: well, it looks like windowpanes?

Then there’s just houndstooth, argyle, tattersall, madras… Bit that’s for another day.

If you’re in the market for some new check, check out (get it? GET IT? How did we manage to get through so much without making that joke?) Gant, who do a lovely range of pretty much all the above.

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