The current popularity of check patterns within the industry has spawned a number of key sub-trends that will begin to infiltrate style-conscious gents’ wardrobes during the upcoming winter season and as we move into the new year; the most prominent of which is set to be checked tailoring and suiting.
Over the past few years men have become much more adventurous with their choice of formal wear. Unconventional suit colours like khaki, brown and burgundy have been pushed into the limelight, as men look to separate themselves from the crowd and combat the monotony of getting dressed in the morning.
And with designers and the high street continuing to encourage us to push boundaries, it seems only natural that this year’s major print and pattern trend be applied to the last true bastion of menswear – just in time for party season…
On The Runways
As always, major fashion trends are driven by the global fashion week previews – and the check pattern is no different.
In our previous trend report we highlighted Moncler Gamme Bleu and E. Tautz as two of the biggest advocates of checks, but when looking specifically at checked suiting and tailoring, Tom Ford (who else?) displayed a highly desirable and stylish collection.
Key Show: Tom Ford AW13
The range by Ford was clearly influenced by previous eras, which was epitomised by the use of autumnal tones like tan, brown, oatmeal and grey. The overall feel of the tailoring was very reminiscent of the 1960s – when icons such as Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Cary Grant were often captured wearing checked suiting – with roll necks and oversized black-rimmed glasses adding the finishing touches to tailored pieces, the majority of which featured some form of check pattern.
The suit collection included windowpane checks in tawny browns, chocolate shades and tan, along with large yet muted Prince of Wales check patterns. Checked overcoats oozed luxury and were combined with micro-check suiting in brown and grey, with the subtle tonal contrasts emphasising the mix and match appeal of the entire range.
Ford continued down this tonal route by pairing monochrome checked suits and shirts for a daring take on pattern mixing that was surprisingly refined and entirely office-appropriate.
Finally, Ford incorporated tailored, patterned separates that saw checked trousers matched with Fair Isle roll necks, chunky cable knit sweaters and fur-lined hooded parkas – dressing down the formal nature of the pieces and demonstrating their true versatility.
In fact, almost all of Ford’s looks incorporated an element of check patterning somewhere, which only goes to prove how big this trend is set to become moving forward:
Key Show: Valentino AW13
Another designer who took influence from the 1960s, in terms of both the application of checks and palette utilised, was Valentino.
Key pieces included a grey and sand checked suit, smart checked capes with black panel detailing and a blackwatch tartan print suit.
Yet the highlight of the showcase was a chess board-style suit, which created a slightly bolder, statement effect due to its striking black and white contrast – but still remained completely wearable:
Leading By Example: John Varvatos
Finally, we cannot report on the checked tailoring trend without mentioning John Varvatos. Although his collection for AW13 did not contain a huge amount of checked pieces, the suits he did showcase were stunning and some of our favourites from all of the shows.
The jackets, trousers and waistcoats sent down the runway came in sumptuous tones of grey, blue and navy, and were often paired with contrast striped overcoats that helped demonstrate how to pattern mix in an elegant way.
The cut of each suit was perfectly proportioned, and the overall aesthetic was extremely sleek and modern. Finishing touches included slim leather gloves, block-colour roll necks and puffed pocket squares, which gave each outfit a sense of individuality and made them stand out for all of the right reasons:
The Fashion Press
Press reaction to the return of the checked suit has been really positive. British GQ wholeheartedly backed Tom Ford’s collection and described it as “Undoubtedly the most talked-about presentation at London Collections: MEN”.
Showing their sartorial powers of foresight, earlier this year GQ also included a feature starring Kick Ass 2 star Aaron Taylor-Johnson dedicated solely to plaid and checked suits, which included pieces by Calvin Klein, John Varvatos, Gant by Michael Bastian and Valentino.
Rather than treading carefully with checked tailoring, GQ advocates the notion of standing out amongst the crowd and using your checked suit as “a visual business card”. The publication went on to encourage pattern mixing – “there’s a formula: One big pattern + one small pattern + one solid = success” – and identified the colour pairing of blue and brown as a tonal match made in heaven.
If that wasn’t enough, in US GQ‘s current December 2013 ‘Men of the Year’ issue, Justin Timberlake is seen modelling some of this fall’s best double-breasted suits – many of which contain checked patterns rather than traditionally block-colouring.
Proving this opinion is not limited to the staff of Condé Nast, The Guardian online published a preview article back in September that picked out some of the best men’s checked suits for the upcoming AW13 season, with the tagline: “Choose from windowpane, dogtooth or Prince of Wales – just make sure it’s check” summing up their opinion perfectly.
Similarly, Shortlist recently included a feature on ‘Smartening up your wardrobe’, in collaboration with Topman, which included checked pattern suits at very reasonable high street prices. The editorial also showcased check/tartan tailored separates paired with block-colours for an altogether more subtle take on the trend.
How To Wear
Checked Suiting Lookbook
The great thing about checked tailoring is that no matter the colour or style of check, it will still make a statement. Not only that, checks are timeless and will never go out of style, even if they do trend cyclically within the industry, ensuring you will get good wear out of a check suit all year round, for many seasons to come.
With this in mind, why not invest in a classic Prince of Wales check suit for the upcoming party season? Pick one in a muted, tonal palette such as grey or navy and you cannot go wrong – all your existing shirt and tie combinations will still work with the piece, due to its classic colouring, meaning there is no need to over-think how you style it.
You can also split up the suit and utilise the trousers and blazer as standalone statement pieces, which will help take your smart-casual looks to the next level.
Topman’s winter 2013 three-piece version, shown in the lookbook below, is an excellent example that offers the wearer multiple ways to style both the full suit (as a two or three-piece) and the separates (blazer, waistcoat and trousers):
Checked Separates Lookbook
If a full suit is not for you, but you still want to inject a touch of statement tailoring into your party season attire, a checked blazer or pair of trousers could be just what you’re looking for.
As you will not be wearing this piece to work or true formal occasions, it gives you more freedom to experiment with vivid palettes or bold checks. A rich blackwatch tartan would be FashionBeans’ choice for AW13; full of heritage, classic and yet will still make an impression.
However, the key with any bold pattern is to keep the rest of your outfit more restrained and neutral in order to let your checked piece do all the talking:
- River Island Green Check Wool-blend Slim Suit Jacket
- Reiss Calvert Three Piece Suit With Peak Lapel Grey
- He By Mango Prince Of Wales Milano Suit
- Topman Grey Checked Skinny Suit
- Topman Premium Biscotti Check Heritage Three Piece Suit
- Vito Check Suit In Jungle Green
- Topman Vito Check Suit In Jungle Green
- Asos Skinny Fit Double Breasted Suit Jacket In Prince Of Wales Check
- J.crew Slim-fit Glen Plaid Wool-blend Suit Jacket
- Reiss Derby Double Breasted Window Pane Blazer Grey
- Hardy Amies Slim-fit Check Wool-blend Suit Jacket
- Topman Burgundy Tartan Skinny Blazer
- Jigsaw Tartan Wool Blazer
- He By Mango Prince Of Wales Suit Waistcoat
- Ami Slim-fit Prince Of Wales Check Wool Coat
- Ted Baker Rolatro Cotton Check Trouser
- Lambretta Check Trousers
- Topman Black Checked Skinny Trousers
Needless to say, checked tailoring has stamped its mark on menswear in time for party season, and it could be just the thing to help individualise your look and cement your ‘best dressed’ award at any event you may be attending.
Although a word of warning: there is always the risk of going too far in an attempt to stand out – our advice would be to try and keep it simple and opt for a more subtle checked pattern. Whether this means a tonal palette or a classic, muted Prince of Wales check is up to you – take a look at our guide to the key check patterns currently available on the market and adjust to your personal style and the occasion.
But something we’re sure we can all agree on though is that after years of being confined to the timeless yet limited choice of navy, grey or black, the return of sixties-inspired check tailoring offers a refreshing and welcome addition to our formal wardrobe.
As always, we want to hear your thoughts and feedback on check tailoring in the comments section below…