With Alex Woodhall’s article on prints last week kicking up all kinds of debate and pithy banter, it got me thinking about another trend mainstay that is set to get even bigger as the weather gets warmer – gingham. Often misunderstood, and rarely favoured here in the UK over its near cousin plaid, a gingham shirt, tie and even jacket can be just the touch of spice that your attire has been looking for.
Now as much as I hate to get into specifics, it’s a good idea for us to know what we mean when the word gingham gets thrown around. A yarn dyed cotton fabric, usually from two different colours, in a traditional check pattern is what comes to my mind and generally the most used definition. Or in layman’s terms; it’s a small-to-micro check pattern often involving white and another primary colour such as red, blue or green.
Gingham has been (and probably always will be) a big part of preppy brands such as Ralph Lauren, Gant and Tommy Hilfiger – and due to its background in the 60s Mod scene, is also prevalent in traditionally English brands such as Ben Sherman, Fred Perry and Pretty Green. So there’s plenty of choice out there for the modern stylish gentleman. But why should you start ditching your classic plaid, striped or solid shirts for gingham?
Well, because it’s versatile, classic and underused. This generally ticks all the boxes for me when it comes to ideal pieces of menswear.
The versatility of Gingham comes from the size of the checks that are used. Because they are smaller than a plaid pattern and can go all the way down to a micro-check, there is really nothing they can’t be paired with. Solids are an obvious go to – such as a red gingham shirt paired with a navy suit and brown penny loafers – but what if that’s a little bit too boring for you?
Yes patterning mixing can be a dangerous art but with gingham it becomes a whole lot easier. The general rule is to make sure that the patterns you use aren’t the same size as one another. Due to gingham being such a small pattern, it can be paired perfectly with something as adventurous as a shadow plaid grey blazer or a wide striped black business suit. The same also goes for any of your ties – as long as their stripes or checks are bigger than the shirt and you stick to the golden rule of always having your tie a darker colour.
I think gingham is a classic pattern partly because of its versatility but also because of how much subtlety it can introduce to a look. When considering something as simple as a jeans, shirt and jumper combination, the hint of a green gingham shirt from underneath a burgundy v-neck really adds depth and little bit of Italian flair to the overall aesthetic. Micro-check is especially good for a business environment, because it will go perfectly with everything you already have in your wardrobe and until the person gets up close to you, it will look like a plain solid shirt or tie. Ideal for those of us who need to adhere to conservative office dress codes but still like to have a bit of fun!
As for wearing it because it’s an underused piece; well I’m sure we can all agree that here at FashionBeans there’s always a small (OK, well maybe with me a big part) that wants to stand out from the crowd. With gingham yet to take a firm hold over plaid here in Britain, it’s a chance for us natives to be ahead of the curve and get a little bit of sartorial attention.
If you’re not from the UK and gingham does play a huge part in a guys wardrobe – like it does in the US or Italy – then why not thinking about how you can add a unique twist to it? One of my style heroes Nick Wooster often pairs checks of the same size together in a shirt and tie situation but has one of the patterns running diagonally (rather than a standard check) to add an extremely unique take on pattern mixing.
For inspiration, check out my gingham lookbook below.
So there you have it guys, hopefully a solid argument on why you should invest in some gingham or just smaller checks in general.
As always, make sure you let me know how you feel about gingham, the ways you use it in your wardrobe or any questions you might have.
Until next week,
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