The checked suit is a timeless choice with a rich history in British fashion and style. With roots in Scottish traditional kilt-wear, it has been adapted and modified in several iconic ways. We explore everything you need to know before you buy a checked suit.
What Is Check?
Check, also known as plaid, is often a general term used to describe clothes that come with a boxed, checked pattern. There is no strict definition for size or style necessarily, but there are some clear designs that stand out and have their own handles, such as tartan, windowpane, and gingham.
While plaid finds its heritage in Scotland, contemporary styles on offer today offer a very different impression and can be found globally in tailors and suit shops from New York to Hong Kong. They’re a staple choice for smart suits, along with pinstripe and block patterns, but also offer a unique character that other styles can’t.
Types of Check and Plaid
The tartan pattern used for kilts and suits is by far the most iconic and recognisable heritage plaid design. It dates back to late 17th century Scotland, where it was used as a symbol of rebellion against England. However, more recently, the style has been taken up as an alternative dress style for more contemporary looks.
In English and even American fashion heritage, you’ll also see many classic plaid designs. These include the glen check, houndstooth and gun club check. While many of these are variations on a theme and often overlap, you can find certain designers adhere more strictly to a specific heritage design.
Another heritage design, but so much more, the gingham is a much loved check design for both menswear and womenswear. This was particularly popular in the sixties when ‘mods’ chose this as one of their favourites, consisting of mini square checks in two colours (typically white and one other colour).
While gingham suits come with very small checks, windowpane suits are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They will have very wide checks and admittedly look like a series of window panes. The lines forming a windowpane can be softly or strongly defined, broken up or even doubled. This, and the colour of the panes, will determine how bold or conservative the overall look is.
How To Wear Checked Suits
A full suit in check is a big statement. You can go for a dark grey suit with subtle checks or a lighter coloured fabric with bold wide checks. The difference the pattern can make on your overall look is quite drastic, so be aware of this if you need your suit to function well in multiple settings, such as corporate meetings, as well as summer weddings.
You can also wear a checked blazer or jacket alone without matching trousers. This can be a good option if you’ve never worn full check before and aren’t feeling that confident about both tops and bottoms. When using lighter, more modest check designs, you should be able to pull this off with dark trousers without much of a hitch.
Having said this, checked trousers are perhaps the best thing about going with checked formal wear. Tartan, black watch, or gingham trousers simply look amazing and when paired with a nice white shirt and royal oak cufflinks, there’s nothing quite like it in our opinion.
Need Accessory Advice?
If you’re looking for the right set of cufflinks to complement your check or suit, whether that’s tartan, gingham or windowpane, we specialise in providing unique and designer pieces that help to make a great suit arrangement even better.