Checks aren’t going away this fall. They’ve always been here regardless of trends and just like stripes, they’re universally flattering to wear all year round. The question is: Do you know them well enough? Even though they all look similar – with criss-crossed grid lines intersecting in a perpendicular fashion – tartan, gingham and checkerboard checks are different from one another.
How do you distinguish one from the other? Keep reading to find out!
Do you know which is which? Answers are at the end of this article.
A tartan pattern is formed by criss-crossed lines of various widths in different colors, while a plaid is traditionally a piece of cloth worn by the Scottish and features a tartan pattern. The word “plaid” comes from the Gaelic word plaide, meaning blanket, and indeed blankets can be called plaids in Scotland.
Nowadays, however, plaid has become a synonym for tartan, especially in the US. Also, tartan shirts are often called “flannel shirts” even though they may not be made from flannel material. One of the most famous tartan patterns is the Burberry check, which you can recognize from the brand’s trench coats and scarves.
2. Glen Plaid
Also known as the Prince of Wales check, glen plaid is a twill pattern made from notched checks in small and large sizes. It originated from the Glenurquhart Valley in Scotland, where it was used by the Countess of Seafield in the 19th Century to outfit her gamekeepers. It was then popularized by Edward VIII, Prince of Wales during the 1920s. Glen plaids usually come in black and white. Thanks to its origin, the pattern has a sporty but polished appeal and is often used in suit jackets and officewear.
Houndstooth is a pattern characterized by even-sized notched checks in black and white. Like glen plaid, it can often be found in suit jackets and officewear.
As its name suggests, checkerboard refers to a black-and-white check pattern like the one on a checkerboard or the finishing line flag at a Formula One race. The pattern consists of evenly sized squares in two different colors placed in alternating positions.
5. Gingham Check
Gingham was originally a fabric made from cotton blend yarn, but the word has also become synonymous with its associated pattern. The gingham weaving process results in a monochrome check pattern against a white background. The level of transparency varies, depending on the color used.
6. Shepherd Check
Also called “border tartan,” the Shepherd check looks similar to gingham except for the visible twill weave. The name is derived from the plaid worn by shepherds in the hills of the Scottish borders. The Shepherd check usually comes in a black-and-cream color combo.
7. Buffalo Check
The Buffalo check features a black check pattern against a red background. It got its name from a designer based at the Woolrich Woolen Mill in Woolrich, Pennsylvania, who copied the pattern from Scotland around 1850 and named it after his buffalo herd. The mill’s Buffalo check shirts soon became popular among lumberjacks in the region, and finally reached mainstream fashion in the 90s.
This pattern resembles windowpanes, with thin and light-colored bands forming relatively large checks against a solid background.
The tattersall got its name from Tattersall’s horse market in London, where cloth with this pattern was sold during the 18th century and used for horse market blankets. It is distinguished by its evenly spaced lines in alternating light-hued colors against a white background.
Check These Out This Fall!
Below are three major check trends to try this fall:
1. Colorful Plaid Paneling
An iteration of mixed prints: This trend mixes plaids of different colors, sizes and even textures for a fun mix. The use of primary colors (red, blue and yellow) amplifies the clashing effect. Try it with suit jackets, shirts and pleated skirts!
2. Checkerboard Slip-Ons
The checkerboard has become an iconic print for skateboarding shoe brand Vans since the late 70s. Wear your checkerboard socks or slip-ons with a flannel shirt or polo dress to master street style chic.
3. Plaid Mini Skirts
A plaid mini skirt is a winter must-have! Look for colorful wrap or pleated versions, preferably accented with metal hardware such as buckles, grommets, zippers or circle pulls.
1st row: windowpane, gingham, houndstooth, tartan/plaid, glen plaid
2nd row: tartan/plaid, Shepherd’s check, Buffalo check, checkerboard, tattersall