Check Mate

Once the uniform of the lumberjack or design of your nan’s favourite blanket, check/tartan patterns are currently experiencing a renaissance and have developed into a major trend for AW14.

A classic and masculine motif, the majority of men will already be comfortable sporting checks – particularly in the form of shirts, accessories and, more recently, tailoring.

Yet for those who haven’t yet invested in menswear’s most prominent pattern, this article is set to highlight the key check and tartan pieces that should be considered for AW14, while showing you how to combine them with your current wardrobe staples…

1. Check Trousers

A must-have for the guy who likes to make a statement, check/tartan trousers offer the ideal way to add vibrancy and personality to an outfit, casual or formal. Whether you go all-out with a Black Watch tartan pair or desire something more muted and refined, patterned legwear will add fresh impetus to your go-to autumn/winter outfits.

But how do you wear a pair of trousers like this without looking like an out-of-touch Ian Poulter? Well, it’s simple really: keep the rest of your outfit neutral and restrained to anchor the trousers while letting them take centre stage.

Check and tartan trousers were particularly prominent at the AW14 shows, with everyone from Ami and Billy Reid to Hardy Amies and Richard Nicoll including them within their collections:

Hardy Amies Richard James bally Richard Nicoll Billy Reid Rake Brioni Z Zegna ami

As you can see, the majority of designers opted for classic Prince of Wales or herringbone designs, which came in timeless shades of grey and brown. Ideal for combining with tailored separates or dressing down with knitwear and bomber jackets, they make a versatile and subtly striking addition to any contemporary wardrobe.

To create your own look, we suggest teaming a pair of winter-ready checked trousers with a cutaway collar shirt, tie, blazer and loafers for the office or a night on the town, switching for a simple t-shirt and heavyweight bomber jacket for Sunday drinks with friends.

Before making your purchase, it’s important to consider where and how often you want to wear these trousers. If you’re after a smart pair that are office-appropriate, subtle, tonal versions in dark palettes such as black, grey and navy are the safest choices.

That said, if you want to make more of a statement, a contrasting black and white check (perfect for nailing AW14’s monochrome trend) or punk-inspired tartan pair (see: Casely-Hayford or Ovadia & Sons’ AW14 runway showcase) would definitely have you standing out from the crowd this season.

Lookbook Inspiration

Calliope aw14 florentino aw14 lbm 1911 aw13 mauro grifoni pre aw14 tomorrowland aw14 Todd Snyder aw14 hugo boss sportswear aw14 ted baker aw14 henry cottons aw14 hugo boss aw13 drykorn aw14 tommy hilfiger sportswear aw14

Key Styles
  • Selected Tartan Cropped Trousers In Skinny Fit
  • Topman Burgundy Check Skinny Trousers
  • Topman Grey Window Pane Check Suit Trousers
  • Topman Light Grey And Burgundy Check Suit Trousers
  • He By Mango Check Wool Suit Trousers
  • Asos Slim Fit Smart Trousers In Tartan
  • Selected Check Suit Trousers In Skinny Fit
  • Ted Baker Theotro Check Cotton Trousers
  • Reiss Seth Houndstooth Check Trousers
  • River Island Green Tartan Smart Slim Trousers
  • Austin Reed Viyella Tartan Wool Trousers
  • Alfred Dunhill Mayfair Slim-fit Plaid Wool Trousers
2. The Check Jumper

Ideal for the colder months ahead, the tartan/check jumper will not only keep you warm, but also have you looking unique and stylish while doing so. Whether opting for a bold and bright tartan or more subtle autumnal palette, this new season essential will give your winter wardrobe a colourful punch.

Another item that was spotted on the AW14 runways, the check jumper came in a variety of forms. Alexander McQueen was a prominent advocate, incorporating monochrome versions that featured both traditional large check patterns as well as contemporary geometric squares.

Elsewhere, MSGM and No. 21 showcased red and navy tartan jumpers in both crew and v-neck silhouettes, while Saint Laurent and Fendi followed McQueen’s lead with black and white checks:

Alexander McQueen Alexander McQueen Fendi Saint Laurent No. 21 MSGM

Ideal for layering, this eye-catching garment can be worn over a classic white Oxford shirt for a sleek and stylish aesthetic, or underneath a blazer for a relaxed take on winter tailoring. To create your own outfit, we recommend teaming your jumper with an on-trend parka jacket, jeans and military boots at the weekend, switching for a white button-down shirt, flannel trousers and leather loafers for more formal occasions.

Like with checked trousers, it’s best to keep the rest of your look fuss free to avoid creating a patterned mess. If you’re adamant about pattern mixing, though, consider utilising accessories rather than other patterned garments – a simple striped scarf would work particularly well here.

Keep these guidelines in mind and you won’t go far wrong: for every two patterns you use, anchor with a neutral piece; no more than three (max) patterns within any outfit; and try to vary the shape, size and scale of the patterns you are mixing together.

Lookbook Inspiration

hugo boss aw13 tesco f&f aw14 customellow aw14 j crew aw14 ovadia & sons aw13

Key Styles
  • Topman Selected Homme Greaser Tartan Turtle Neck Jumper
  • New Look Monochrome Check Contrast Sleeve Jumper
  • Jigsaw Needle Punch Merino Crew Neck Jumper
  • Asos Jumper With Tartan Design
  • Selected Homme Wool Back Check Jumper In Red
  • Staple Tartan Jumper In Red
  • Farah Vintage Tartan Jumper In Black Watch
  • Alexander Mcqueen Check Mohair And Wool-blend Sweater
  • J.crew Check Knitted-wool Sweater
3. The Check Shirt

A genuine wardrobe essential, the checked/tartan shirt is a simple and timeless design that will serve you well for many more seasons to come. Less in your face than many of the other garments featured in this article, a check shirt offers an easy way to channel the trend without pushing you out of your comfort zone.

On the runways, check shirts were spotted at A.P.C., Ami and Ovadia & Sons, with punk-inspired black and red versions and classic blue and white combinations particularly prominent:

Ovadia & Sons ami apc Ovadia & Sons ami apc

The majority of men will already own a number of checked shirts, as they are extremely popular. But this popularity comes with a significant drawback: they are overused and perhaps slightly overdone.

With this in mind, it’s important that you either wear your check shirt in a slightly unexpected way or opt for a unique design this AW14. The red and black versions seen on the runway would be ideal as men tend to shy away from colour in winter, while this iconic punk motif would add an edge to any off-duty ensemble. Try teaming with a biker jacket, skinny denim and Dr. Martens boots to really reinforce its heritage.

But that’s not to say you can only wear checked shirts at the weekend. Why not dress yours up with a textured tie and winter-weight three-piece suit this season (see lookbook below)? Not only does this take a predominantly casual piece and spin it on its head, giving it the unexpected twist we crave, it would be a great way of separating yourself from the rest of your colleagues who continue to stick with classic white, sky blue or pink dress shirts.

Finally, if you opt for a thicker version in one of our essential autumn/winter fabrics, flannel, you could choose to nail two trends in one by opting for a slightly oversized fit and using it as an overshirt. Throw it on over a tee, Henley or even another shirt and combine with rugged pieces such as jeans, gilets, heavy duty boots and fisherman beanies to nail the classic worker wear aesthetic. Practical, masculine and stylish.

Lookbook Inspiration

j crew october style guide 2014 j crew october style guide 2014 M&S aw13 pull & bear aw14 minimum aw14 primark aw14 burton aw14 avva aw14 he by mango winter 2014 tesco f&f aw14 ben sherman aw14 he by mango blacksmith aw14

Key Styles
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Check Shirt
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Plaid Cotton Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Flannel Check Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Topman Green Tartan Longline Shirt
  • Obey Morton Check Shirt
  • Barbour Shirt With Tartan Check In Slim Fit
  • Indigo & Maine Buffalo Check Shirt In Red
  • Paul Smith Jeans Shirt With Check In Tailored Fit
  • Reclaimed Vintage Checked Shirt
  • Gitman Vintage Button-down Collar Checked Cotton-flannel Shirt
  • Our Legacy Overdyed Check Cotton Shirt
  • Band Of Outsiders Plaid Button-down Collar Cotton-flannel Shirt
4. Checked Accessories

An easy way of subtly injecting some vibrancy into your winter wardrobe, check or tartan accessories are a must-have for the guy who wants to nod to the trend, without having to dramatically alter his current personal style.

Used by designers such as Michael Bastian on the AW14 runways, practical accessories such as scarves, hats and socks will slot straight into your cold-weather wardrobe. Whether combining a rich tartan scarf with your favourite piece of outerwear (à la Bastian) or setting off your neutral tailoring with a vivid check sock, accessories keep you firmly in control of just how much of a statement you make.

For those who work in corporate environments, a textured tie or matte pocket square in a rich autumnal check would help bring character and personality to your professional wear, especially as the motif is still widely underused for these types of formal accessories.

Lookbook Inspiration

he by mango fall 2014 Gieves & Hawkes aw13 simons aw14 the kooples sports aw14 river island aw14 austin reed aw13 zara august 2013 next aw14 ti for men aw14

Key Styles
  • Topman Green And Blue Check Scarf
  • He By Mango Check Scarf
  • River Island Dark Grey Brushed Tartan Scarf
  • Etro Checked Gloves
  • River Island Red Tartan Ankle Socks
  • Jigsaw Two Colour Check Sock
  • Beams Plus Tartan Cotton-blend Socks
  • Lanvin Cashmere-lined Check Leather Gloves
  • TM Lewin Blue Red Tartan Check Slim Tie
5. The Checked Overcoat

One for the man who isn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd, a tartan/check overcoat makes a bold and stylish statement.

Stamping their mark on the AW14 runways, the check overcoat was arguably the most popular silhouette of the season, coming in every palette, style and cut imaginable.

Here in London, Agi & Sam and E.Tautz sent black and white, knee-length versions down the runway, while tailoring house Gieves & Hawkes took a similarly restrained approach by featuring a gingham design in a brown, earthy colour way. Richard James, on the other hand, went big with wide windowpane checks applied to thigh-length textured coats, which were paired with classic neutral suits to cut a sharp, contemporary figure.

Elsewhere, Ami and Bally followed E.Tautz’s lead with Prince of Wales check versions in dark monochrome shades; Cerruti and Saint Laurent opted for seasonally-appropriate earth tones; and MSGM made a statement with a raglan sleeved design in rich navy and blue tartan:

Agi & Sam ami bally MSGM Saint Laurent Cerruti 1881 Paris Gieves & Hawkes E. Tautz Richard James

The type of coat you choose will come down to personal preference, when you intend to wear it and your body type. Single/double-breasted, knee/thigh-length and the size/colour of the check are all variable and can be adapted to your particular circumstances.

Those looking for a professional overcoat for the morning commute should stick to classic Prince of Wales or smaller gingham checks in a timeless neutral palette – the Ami and Bally versions above would be ideal. Not only will these classic coats never fall out of style, ensuring your investment pays off for many more winters to come, they also look extremely refined and offer something much more individual in comparison to the ubiquitous plain navy/grey/black versions on the market.

If you would prefer something slightly more relaxed that can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion, consider a tartan overcoat in a classic Black Watch pattern, rich navy/red combination or outdoors-inspired earth tone palette.

Lookbook Inspiration

m&s best of british aw14 ede & ravenscroft aw14 luigi bianchi mantova aw14 jaeger aw14 ben sherman aw14 scapa aw14 river island aw14 mauro grifoni pre aw14 ti for men aw14 sandro aw14 Gieves & Hawkes aw14 m&s best of british aw14

Key Styles
  • Shades Of Grey By Micah Cohen Plaid Belted Coat
  • He By Mango Check Wool-blend Overcoat
  • Jigsaw Prince Of Wales Double Face Coat
  • Austin Reed Ar Red Nick Hart Navy/check Carcoat
  • Ben Sherman Yellow Check Wool Sartorial Car Coat
  • Ted Baker Luboc Large Scale Check Coa
  • Ted Baker Mordane Wool Blend Check Coat
  • F&f Wool Rich Checked Coat
  • Hentsch Man Prince Of Wales Check Wool Overcoat
  • Ami Prince Of Wales-check Overcoat
  • Kenzo Square-print Wool-blend Coat
  • Richard James Mayfair Checked Contemporary Overcoat
Final Word

With winter fast approaching, now’s the time to begin planning your new season wardrobe. And what better way to breathe life into your cold-weather looks than with a bit of tartan or check?

Whether you opt for subtle accessories or go all-out with a vibrant overcoat, we would love to know your decision.

So, as always, let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment in the box below…