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CHECK IT OUT: WHY YOU NEED TO OWN A CHECKED SUIT
by Slaters Style February 8th, 2021
When it comes to fashion, too many men run in fear from patterned clothing, choosing instead to stick to familiar — and often, boring — styles. Little do they know, that being a little more adventurous can lead to some seriously stylish results.
So what’s so special about checks?
An often underutilised pattern, checks are available in a huge range of styles and designs for men’s suits. More than just a simple square, there are many heritage checked patterns that have played a big role in men’s fashion. Plus, with options that include patterned blazers, shirts, waistcoats and more, a checked suit is key to achieving some truly individual looks.
CHOOSE FROM A WIDE RANGE OF STYLES
Referencing the classic divided windows of yesteryear, windowpane checks are thin lines that cross to form large, clean squares. In truth, the pattern usually creates rectangles, rather than even squares — you’ll find they’re longer vertically as it creates a subtle slimming illusion.
Windowpane suits are a great choice for those who want to wear patterns without being too daring. The design is sophisticated while remaining reserved, making it easy to experiment with checks without straying too far out of your comfort zone.
Definitely a summer favourite, gingham is a classic pattern that is most often found on shirts. The design is traditionally formed with a single colour crossing over a white background. This method may sound simple, yet the darker checks of the overlaid colour add additional depth for a rich finish. Wear gingham with a block colour suit to add some easy contrast. Or, ditch the jacket for warm-weather events and pair with a pair of crisp chinos for effortless smart-casual style.
GUN CLUB CHECK
Although originating in Scotland — like most check patterns — gun club check was adopted by America in 1874. It is essentially the American version of tweed, as it was popularised by the gentry for shooting; hence the name gun club check. With a similar pattern to gingham, gun club checks traditionally feature four distinct colours of the highlands; black, rust, green and gold. You can of course find a range of colours and shades in modern gun club check, making it a more versatile choice for the modern man.
Owing its distinct look to its rural origins, shepherd’s check is similar to gingham with the addition of a striking twill pattern. Predating even tartan in Scotland, this classic design is used in modern fashion to seamlessly blend traditional methods with modern tailoring. Shepherd’s check is often found with contrasting colours, resulting in bold, eye-catching clothing. However, choosing a shepherd’s check suit with two similar colours creates a subtle shift in tone for a more distinguished outfit.
Tattersall is a type of graph check — a grid of evenly-sized squares — that is made up of two or more complementary colours. Blue and black, red and blue, or green and blue are all common examples, highlighting how the simple addition of another colour can significantly add to the complexity and depth. A simple yet effective design, you’ll find tattersall on suits, shirts and ties, making it a multifaceted pattern that’s suitable for a range of occasions.
Easily the most recognisable check pattern for clothing, tartan also features one of the most complex designs. With lines and squares in different colours, shades and sizes, tartans can be highly varied despite all sharing the same classic checks.
Tartan is an adaptable pattern, making it a go-to look for a range of events. If you’re keeping things casual, a shirt in classic red or green tartan is a classic, while a tie or pocket square can really lift an otherwise plain suit. You can of course opt for the full tartan suit, or even a kilt if the occasion demands it — it can be daunting for those who usually stray from patterned materials, but can be a showstopper when worn with confidence.
PRINCE OF WALES
The Prince of Wales is an interesting pattern that has evolved from another popular design. The glen check was developed in Scotland, of course, and features varying houndstooth patterns. After Edward VII fell in love with the design, we soon had the Prince of Wales checks we know today — a superimposed grid or windowpane pattern to contrast with the glen check and provide more depth.
Definitely one for more formal occasions, a Prince of Wales suit can be found in a number of classic colours like grey, navy and earth tones. There’s no need to go overboard with accessorising this one, stick to reserved colours and patterns for your shirts and ties, and let the suit do the heavy lifting.
HOW TO WEAR CHECK
A blazer is the perfect testing ground for anyone who wishes to experiment with adding checks to their wardrobe. As a patterned blazer is less of a statement than a full suit, you have more freedom to try different styles with relatively low risk. The main thing to watch out for is your choice of colour palette. If, for example, the grid of the checks feature bright, solid lines, the contrast of the design will be far more stark than if they were a softer tone. This may be the effect you’re looking for during outdoor or summer events, but may be too garish for an evening setting.
The versatility of checks makes it effortless to add a waistcoat to your ensemble, either on its own or as part of a suit. If you’re opting for the three-piece, there are a couple of avenues you can take: a matching waistcoat or a contrasting one. If your suit features a check pattern, you’ll want to choose a matching waistcoat. This will create a sophisticated ensemble that looks tailored and well put-together and doesn’t risk clashing with your outfit. If you’re leaning towards a more conservative suit, however, a contrasting check waistcoat adds an extra level of depth and acts as a fantastic focal point — especially if you’re choosing to go jacketless.
Patterns may be a bold choice for some garments, however, you’re in safe hands with a checked shirt. With the versatility to be worn as part of a suit or as casualwear, you have a lot of freedom with checks. Micro checks like gingham are a classic choice for those who want to create an innocuous, modern look, and pair nicely with a patterned tie like stripes or spots. Bolder designs like tartan are better suited to casual events, yet they can still be dressed up with a tie — wear with dark slim jeans and a pair of tan Chelsea boots for a winning smart-casual combination.
When it comes to a full checked suit, it’s important to err on the side of caution. Like any strong pattern, checks are a bold statement and can easily become overpowering if donned without restraint. All checks need to be worn confidently, so if you’re apprehensive, dip your toe first with a simple windowpane or shepherd’s check suit. Stick to classic colours like grey, brown and navy to ensure your outfit isn’t too flamboyant. If however, your goal is to stand out from the crowd, feel free to experiment with more daring styles — just remember that often with bold patterns, less is more. Moreover, checks should be worn with the forethought of where you’ll be sporting them.
CHECK FOR WORK
Naturally, your work clothes need to meet a certain standard, which — when it comes to suits — usually demands a more professional, corporate look. Definitely not a tartan-appropriate setting, your workwear should remain reserved and all-business. This doesn’t mean you need to dress boring — far from it. Choose classic professional colours like navy or grey to form the base of your outfit, whereas checks in a subtle accent colour add some 9-5 flair without being inappropriate for the office. There’s no need to go crazy with accessorising this look as the checks will do the hard work for you; an understated shirt and tie and a smart pair of dress shoes are all it takes to finish off this look.
CHECK FOR PARTIES
If you’re looking for a way to try something daring-yet-stylish, there’s no better scene than a party. Patterns are a great way to break from the usually rigid structure of how to wear a suit by making it easier to dress down. A plain t-shirt under a bold tartan or tattersall can create some interesting outfits that cut with a casual edge. Alternatively, try pairing a smarter check like a windowpane or Prince of Wales with a casual grandad shirt to achieve the smartest smart-casual look there is.
CHECK FOR WEDDINGS
It’s time to look further than the same go-to wedding suit that’s been cluttering up your closet. Checks are a fantastic way to make an effort for the big day without wearing an outfit that’s too distracting. You’ll want to shy away from anything too brash like tartan, and instead opt for a more sophisticated pattern like a Prince of Wales or gun club check. Always make sure you’re wearing something tailored for the occasion, and take the opportunity to accessories for an extra splash of style. A matching tie and pocket square in a complementary pattern will go a long way to keep you looking sharp.
CHECK OUT OUR RANGE
To find out which check patterns work for you, the best thing to do is experiment with your wardrobe. Whether you want to slowly test the waters with a discrete windowpane suit or go big with tartan, our collection of suits features a range of styles to help you find the look you want to achieve. Or if you’re looking for more expert advice, head over to our Style Inspiration page to learn more.