What Is A Check Pattern?
A check (also referred to as “checker” or “chequer”) is a pattern of horizontal and vertical lines crossed over each other each other to form squares on a fabric. Checks are seen in various scales ranging from incredibly small to quite large, and certain styles of checks -plaids- have associations with Scottish clans that go back centuries.
Etymologically, the word comes from ancient Persian. The word shah, meaning “king,” is actually the basis of the word. When considering the game of chess, which is played on a checked board, the expression shah mat was used when a player won. It means “the king is dead,” which would translate to “check mate” in modern times.
The French corrupted the word around the 11th century and used échec, and the word was adopted into English from there.
Types Of Check Patterns
The word “check” refers to a simple square-on-square pattern, but encompasses a wide variety of sub-checks as well. Below are the most common ones you’ll see.
When checks go large scale we call them windowpanes due to their resemblance of, well, windowpanes. This check works particularly well on sport coats and is absolutely divine on flannels with a chalky look to it, similar to a chalk stripe.
It’s also found on certain suits, though these tend to be quite loud and are more geared towards dandies wearing them about town as opposed to a conservative businessman.
Plaids & Tartans
Plaids (also known as tartans) are, in fact, a style of check. There are quite a few tartans, and their color and size permutation possibilities means that new ones can be created ad nauseum.
Due to the depth of the subject we’ve created a guide to plaid, which we cordially invite you to read.
Burberry’s check, technically a tartan, is known the world over. The Scottish Register Of Tartans even says that this particular tartan has “…become so much part of the Burberry image that it has been trademarked and can now be regarded as a Corporate tartan.”
The company used to feature its tartan much more prominently until its use became widespread within chav culture. Regardless of one’s feelings on the term (which is pejorative but considered by some to be a manifestation of classism), Burberry attributed this trend to easily acquired counterfeit merchandise.
Typically reserved for shirts and, to a lesser extent, waistcoats, tattersall refers to a check that’s done in two or more colors, often on a light background. This could be, for example, black vertical lines crossed with blue horizontal lines on a white background. Tattersall is more often than not found on cotton and makes for an excellent business casual shirt.
If you’d like to learn more about the business casual wardrobe, see our business casual guide.
If you ever see an article of clothing that resembles a picnic tablecloth, it’s gingham. A pattern mostly seen on shirts and pocket squares, it’s almost always done on cotton. Blue and white is the classic color scheme, but theoretically any color combination will work, especially if white is one of the colors.
How & When To Wear Checks
Generally, the answer to the question of when to wear checks is directly linked to how you wear them. From a high level though, know that checks can be worn any time of year and work particularly well during the day. We’ll go over some key check garments below.
Checked suits are typically found as customer creations from custom suit shops. As they don’t fit the sartorial needs of the average businessman, few ready-to-wear companies will make it because the production costs are simply too high.
With that said, a checked suit makes for an incredibly bold look. If you’re a man who simply likes wearing suits or has a reputation for being a clothes guy, a checked suit is for you. Also, if you’re attending a celebratory occasion such as a daytime wedding, definitely look into the possibilities of a checked suit.
If you need more information on what to wear to a wedding (no matter what your role in the wedding is, if any), we highly suggest you take a look at our wedding guide.
Alternatively, we’ve gathered a selection of excellent custom check suits, which you can read about below.
A checked sport coat is a key item for any man who wants to have a well-stocked closet. They pair beautifully with solid trousers be they simple cotton chinos, denim, or dressy flannels.
Sport jackets are available in a wide range of colors and often fall into the windowpane and plaid groups. For more on sport coats, see our sport jacket guide.
Checked shirts are one of the easiest ays for a man to put some pattern into his life because the pattern is widely accepted in most offices and always works when out on the town (unless you’re wearing a tuxedo, of course). Shirts are often made in tattersalls and ginghams, though simple one-color checks are also extremely common.
For plenty of information on how to wear shirts, our guide to men’s shirtings is a great resource.
Handkerchiefs are made in just about any pattern and color imaginable, and checks are no exception. Equally as popular in cotton and silk, a checked pocket square can be paired with a tie, shirt, coat, or even a pair of socks.
Our pocket square series has coordination advice, different ways to fold, and plenty more on handkerchiefs if you’d like to see more.
Popular Colors Combinations & Materials
As far as color is concerned, checks are made in every color you can think of. Generally, checks tend to be colorful as opposed to subdued, but of course there are always exceptions.
On suits, sport coats, and odd vests, checks on a wool fabric are a very smart look. They work particularly well when the wool is a nubbier flannel as opposed to a smoother worsted, much in the same way a chalk stripe looks better in this way. Even when put onto a dressier garment, though, a check looks great on wool and most men benefit from having at least one such piece in their closets.
Checks on cotton is generally reserved for shirts and pocket squares, which in turn means that most cotton checks tend to be tattersall and gingham. Every guy, regardless of his age, profession, or stature in life, should own a few such garments.
Best Check Suits To Buy Online
As mentioned above, we’ve sampled a selection of our favourite custom check suits to buy online. These are featured in no particular order of preference but each give an insight into the fabric’s properties.
- Black Lapel Windowpane Shadow Check Suit
- Indochino Darwen Windowpane Navy Suit
- Indochino Burgundy Check Cotton Suit
- Black Lapel Santorini Check Custom Suit
- Black Lapel Navy Micro Check Custom Suit
You can use the menu above to jump ahead or scroll down to discover them all.