Introduction

A quick glance at the pages of any menswear magazine or city street will immediately reveal there’s more than a hint of punchy pattern about this season – bold checks and plaids are back with a bang, and are a dominant feature of AW13′s design motifs.

From traditional tartan prints to elegant Prince of Wales checks, embracing patterned fabrics is the way to show your sartorial mettle during the winter season.

In this piece, we take a look at the plaids and checks you should be investing in for AW13 and beyond…

Blackwatch

Blackwatch check is everywhere this season. Embraced by the highest echelons of Milanese design through to high street stalwarts, this dignified, masculine plaid is defined by its muted blue, green and black tones, and appears on everything from tailored jackets to trousers and knitwear.

The three-tone pattern’s origins stem from traditional Scottish clan tartans, earning its name from the black lines that separate the blue and green threads. A subdued and refined check, this plaid is perfect for guys who like to take a more subtle approach to pattern.

The menswear design team at Valentino took a real shine to blackwatch this season, using the motif for tailoring and its cult sport luxe trainers, whilst high street bastions Topman and Zara also adopted the weave for knitwear and jackets.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Blackwatch Plaid/Tartan Lookbook Inspiration

angelo nardelli aw12Ralph Lauren Purple Label double-breasted suitD.S. Dundee aw11office shoes aw13j crew aw13jigsaw
Key Pieces
  • Topman Black Tartan Contrast Short Sleeve Denim ShirtTopman Black Tartan Contrast Short Sleeve Denim Shirt
  • Topman Green And Navy Checked Skinny Suit JacketTopman Green And Navy Checked Skinny Suit Jacket
  • Jigsaw Tartan Wool BlazerJigsaw Tartan Wool Blazer
  • Zara Sweater With Checked Pattern At The FrontZara Sweater With Checked Pattern At The Front
  • Topman Green/navy Tartan Check Cropped Skinny ChinosTopman Green/navy Tartan Check Cropped Skinny Chinos
  • River Island Dark Green Tartan Brushed ScarfRiver Island Dark Green Tartan Brushed Scarf
  • John Lewis Black Watch Tartan Bow Tie Green/navyJohn Lewis Black Watch Tartan Bow Tie Green/navy
  • Underground Tartan CreepersUnderground Tartan Creepers
  • Valentino Wool And Cashmere-blend SweaterValentino Wool And Cashmere-blend Sweater
Windowpane Check

Windowpane check, so called for the pattern’s resemblance to its namesake object, is typified by large, square blocks drawn with fine, chalk-like lines.

The pattern is popular in tailoring, particularly in Italian cloths, and is a great way to inject a pattern into a conservative working wardrobe, owing to its subtle refinement and altogether more formal air.

Windowpane check is timeless and has a regular presence in tailored collections each season, so opting for a quality suit in the pattern is a worthy investment. Try Peter Werth, ASOS, J.Crew and Jaeger for some great windowpane check pieces.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Windowpane Check Lookbook Inspiration

Viyella aw13Luigi Bianchi Mantova aw13zara editions 2013angelo nardelli aw13ami ss14ted baker aw13moss ss13bal aw13lbm 1911 aw10
Key Pieces
  • Lightweight Shirt In Citrus Windowpane CheckLightweight Shirt In Citrus Windowpane Check
  • Topman Peter Werth Hemsworth Window Pane Check Shirt Topman Peter Werth Hemsworth Window Pane Check Shirt
  • Asos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Window Pane CheckAsos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Window Pane Check
  • Jaeger Overcheck JacketJaeger Overcheck Jacket
  • Reiss Derby Double Breasted Window Pane Blazer GreyReiss Derby Double Breasted Window Pane Blazer Grey
  • Charcoal Lilac Windowpane Saxony Slim Fit Suit JacketCharcoal Lilac Windowpane Saxony Slim Fit Suit Jacket
  • Asos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Window Pane CheckAsos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Window Pane Check
  • Thom Browne Window Pane Check ShirtThom Browne Window Pane Check Shirt
  • Reiss Calvert Three Piece Suit With Peak Lapel GreyReiss Calvert Three Piece Suit With Peak Lapel Grey
Prince Of Wales Check

Officially known as Glen Plaid, this fine check, used for day suits, was originally employed by the Countess of Seafield to clothe her Highland gamekeepers.

Whilst heir to the British throne in the 1920s and 1930s, the pattern was popularised by the Duke of Windsor, for which it earned its popular moniker, ‘Prince of Wales Check’.

The weave has enjoyed a warm revival in recent seasons, with the motif appearing on jackets, trousers, outerwear and accessories in all manner of updated forms. Usually composed of low-key tones, the pattern consists of alternating dark and light stripes arranged to create a fine, irregular criss-cross design.

A great option for both formal and casual occasions, this check has a masterful ability to adapt to most sartorial situations. Try pairing a single-breasted Prince of Wales check jacket with a dark-wash pair of jeans and leather brogues for a look that will transition from day to night with ease.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Prince of Wales Check Lookbook Inspiration

Luigi Bianchi Mantova aw13river island xmas 2013suitsupply aw13angelo nardelli aw12he by mango aw12ami ss14m&s aw13drykorn aw13moss ss13
Key Pieces
  • Richard James Slim-fit Prince Of Wales Check Cotton ShirtRichard James Slim-fit Prince Of Wales Check Cotton Shirt
  • Asos Skinny Fit Suit Jacket In Prince Of Wales CheckAsos Skinny Fit Suit Jacket In Prince Of Wales Check
  • He By Mango Prince Of Wales Suit WaistcoatHe By Mango Prince Of Wales Suit Waistcoat
  • Reiss Puglia Double Breasted Check Blazer Soft GreyReiss Puglia Double Breasted Check Blazer Soft Grey
  • He By Mango Prince Of Wales Suit TrousersHe By Mango Prince Of Wales Suit Trousers
  • Ami Slim-fit Prince Of Wales Check Wool CoatAmi Slim-fit Prince Of Wales Check Wool Coat
  • He By Mango Premium Prince Of Wales BlazerHe By Mango Premium Prince Of Wales Blazer
  • Tommy Hilfiger Prince Of Wales Wool ScarfTommy Hilfiger Prince Of Wales Wool Scarf
  • Michael Bastian Prince Of Wales Check Wool TieMichael Bastian Prince Of Wales Check Wool Tie
Lumberjack Checks

The US has given us some enduring elements of menswear style, and the Americana-inspired check is one of its greatest legacies. From check cotton shirting to heavy plaid outerwear, our cousins across the pond have done a great deal to popularise checks as one of the cornerstones of masculine dressing.

A key motif across many AW13 collections is red and black plaid, the signature pattern of Pennsylvania heritage label Woolrich. This instantly recognisable weave has its origins in Scottish tartan and consists of densely woven dark red and black threads. From hunting jackets to bombers, the red and black check is one of the key plaid patterns this season.

Wool and cotton shirts in a wide variety of check patterns also remain a core theme, with nearly all menswear brands taking inspiration from iconic stateside styles.

Whether opting to wrap up with a plaid hunting jacket, or layering a check shirt beneath a chunky knit, lumberjack checks are a great way to pep-up a winter wardrobe with a colourful punch.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Workerwear/Lumberjack Check Lookbook Inspiration

marks & spencer aw13burton aw12tesco f&f aw13ami aw13M.Grifoni denim aw13asos aw13minimum autumn 2012Woolrich John Rich & Bros aw13burton aw12
Key Pieces
  • Asos Wool Check JacketAsos Wool Check Jacket
  • Asos Backpack In Buffalo CheckAsos Backpack In Buffalo Check
  • River Island Red Check Flannel ShirtRiver Island Red Check Flannel Shirt
  • Ami Shearling-trimmed Check Wool Bomber JacketAmi Shearling-trimmed Check Wool Bomber Jacket
  • Topman Buffalo Check ScarfTopman Buffalo Check Scarf
  • Dickies Sacramento Shirt In Check FlannelDickies Sacramento Shirt In Check Flannel
  • Uniqlo Men Flannel Checked Long Sleeve Shirt IUniqlo Men Flannel Checked Long Sleeve Shirt I
  • Gant Nolita Check Long Sleeve ShirtGant Nolita Check Long Sleeve Shirt
  • He By Mango Check Wool-blend PeacoatHe By Mango Check Wool-blend Peacoat
Houndstooth

This iconic 1960s pattern has stamped its mark on AW13, with many designers showing oversized, contemporary takes on the retro motif. Although originally popularised in the ‘Swinging Sixties’, the origins of houndstooth go back to the Scottish lowlands of the early nineteenth century.

Identifiable by its ‘broken check’ weave, which is said to resemble the cross-section of a dog’s tooth, the pattern was widely used in tailoring and outerwear in past decades.

This season sees designers give a fresh, modern slant to this timeless check, showing it in overblown forms and colourful hues. Houndstooth was a key motif for labels such as Paul Smith and Topman Design for AW13, with both brands using the pattern to spectacular effect on bold knits and statement outerwear.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Houndstooth Check Lookbook Inspiration

ramsey aw13reserved aw13zara edition aw12reiss aw13ami ss13balmain ss14
Key Pieces
  • Asos Stripe T-shirt With Houndstooth PatternAsos Stripe T-shirt With Houndstooth Pattern
  • Paul Smith Mainline Pink Houndstooth Knit JumperPaul Smith Mainline Pink Houndstooth Knit Jumper
  • Paul Smith Houndstooth CoatPaul Smith Houndstooth Coat
  • Topman Houndstooth JumperTopman Houndstooth Jumper
  • Reiss Sonoma Houndstooth Check Blazer NavyReiss Sonoma Houndstooth Check Blazer Navy
  • Topman Harris Tweed Navy Houndstooth WaistcoatTopman Harris Tweed Navy Houndstooth Waistcoat
  • Paul Smith Mens Silk Houndstooth Print Pocket SquarePaul Smith Mens Silk Houndstooth Print Pocket Square
  • Asos Socks With Houndstooth DesignAsos Socks With Houndstooth Design
  • River Island Black And White Dogtooth TieRiver Island Black And White Dogtooth Tie
Final Word

Adding a patterned punch to your look with a statement check or plaid couldn’t be easier this season. The choice is endless – from tailoring to knitwear, trousers and accessories, there’s something to suit every man’s sartorial proclivities.

But this look is not merely about a trend: checks and plaids are timeless and enduring. Most patterns we see today have existed for hundreds of years virtually unchanged, which is something of a reassurance that the cashmere-blend Prince of Wales suit you’ve just shelled out for will have wardrobe longevity.

Along with paying tribute to tradition, checks and plaids are also an easy way to liven up the gent’s winter wardrobe, which is too often dominated by muted hues and solid tones.

Unlike many trends that tend to be spurred on by the women’s side of the industry, checks are a firmly masculine affair and will continue to look great on guys for years to come – long live the steadfast check.