From classic Prince of Wales to oversized windowpane, checks are a recurring theme in men’s tailoring season after season. And, considering the versatility of this timeless pattern – eye-catching, rather than attention-grabbing – it’s easy to see why.

Checks lend themselves well to all manner of designs, so there’s a modulation to suit every man. Wise to this fact, many designers, for autumn/winter 2015, focused their efforts on crossing lines in new and surprising ways. From barely there to boldly rendered, tonal takes and stark contrasts, checks were used to breathe new life into suits and tailored separates alike.

On The Runway

Thanks to their strong visual impact, bold checks make for perfect runway fodder. Nowhere was this more apparent than at British heritage brand Hackett London’s autumn/winter 2015 show.

The brand’s tailoring nodded to tradition with fairly conservative cuts, but inventively executed checks offered a visually arresting update on the tried-and-trusted pattern. Whether shown as monochromatic houndstooth on a two-piece suit, manifest in a plaid blazer that provided a punchy jolt of interest to an otherwise conventional look, or realised as tonally contrasting windowpane separates, checks ruled at Hackett.

Elsewhere, on a subtler note, Ermenegildo Zegna Couture showed checks which demanded closer inspection to appreciate their full effect. From a distance, these tailored pieces had the appearance of a mélange textured weave, but, close up, the intricacy of their diminutive check pattern became apparent. This theme was skilfully achieved by using deep charcoal grey as a base and splicing with muted black and green checks for contrast.

Hackett AW15 Hackett AW15 Hackett AW15 Ermenegildo Zegna Couture AW15 Ermenegildo Zegna Couture AW15 Ermenegildo Zegna Couture AW15

Key Styles

Windowpane Check

We’d go as far as to say that, right now, any designer worth their salt has some variant of a windowpane check in their autumn/winter 2015 offering.

The beauty of this pattern? It can be as powerful or restrained as you like, but make no bones about it, it’s a sure-fire way to give your tailoring a look-twice appeal.

Canali Issey Miyake Joshua Kane Vivienne Westwood

Tonal Check

Testament to the current menswear landscape’s ability to reinterpret the familiar is the unstoppable rise of the tonal check. Royal blue on navy? Classically elegant yet interesting. Brown on green? A modern way to wear a heritage-inspired pattern.

If you invest in no other patterned tailoring this season, make sure you plump for a tonal check to ensure you’re in the most stylish company possible.

Brioni Corneliani Hardy Amies Pretty Green

Key Pieces

The Checked Blazer

For those who’d rather dip a toe into the trend, a checked jacket is the safest place to start. Yes, the Prince of Wales check may be familiar, but when put across a tailored staple like the blazer, the pattern’s seasonless appeal becomes obvious.

It’s been hanging in the wardrobes of stylish men for generations. Why? Because it’s a smart-casual essential, working just as well with your downtime go-tos as your slightly more buttoned-up pieces.

Team yours with a white shirt, light neutral chinos (tan, beige etc.) and a pair of black leather Chelsea boots and you’re looking at your all-new Sunday best. Or, slip on over a charcoal roll neck and finish with a pair of smart black trousers and oxblood monk-straps for a look that’s Bond-worthy.

Want to stray from the beaten path? Play to a boldly patterned blazer’s spirited design and team with a fuss-free white T-shirt, relaxed indigo jeans and brown Chelsea boots. Be sure to leave your accessories – bar a watch and belt, maybe – at home too, and let your shrewdly selected tailoring do the talking instead.

El Burgues AW15 Hackett AW15 Luigi Bianchi Mantova AW15 Bugatti AW15 Boomerang AW15 J.Crew September 2015 Tommy Hilfiger AW15 Ravazzolo AW15 Reiss AW15 Acquascutum SS16 Suitsupply AW15 Tom Ford AW15

Current Styles

  • Asos Skinny Fit Longline Blazer In Check
  • Reiss Check Blazer In Regular Tailored Fit
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Check Blazer
  • Boglioli Navy Dover Checked Wool Blazer
  • Hugo Boss Ross Slim-fit Checked Tweed Blazer
  • Barena Slim-fit Checked Stretch-wool Blazer
  • River Island Grey Check Wool-blend Slim Blazer
  • Topman Selected Homme Brown And Blue Check Slim Fit Blazer
  • Ted Baker Piibald Tonal Check Suit Jacket
  • Pal Zileri Check Wool Blazer
  • M&s Collection Pure Wool Tailored Fit Buttonsafe 2 Button Windowpane Checked Zip Out Jacket
  • Ted Baker Canne Wool Check Jacket

Checked Tailored Trousers

Checked tailored trousers are a natty way to smarten up off-duty ensembles, but require more of a judicious approach than a blazer.

Feeling brave? Pull on a smartly fitted pair of plaid trousers for instant impact, but temper your look by keeping the rest of your outfit tame. A black crew neck jumper in either a fine or heavy gauge and a pair of minimal white leather trainers will make the perfect companions.

Make minimalism your rule of thumb when going checked on your bottom half and you’ll pull it off without appearing like you’ve tried too hard.

If you prefer your checks a little quieter, there are rewards to be reaped for taking the subtle approach. There’s nothing like finding that item of clothing which will send your cost-per-wear calculation crashing through the floor, and lightly checked trousers offer just this.

Pick up a pair, then slot seamlessly into both your working and weekend wardrobe, using them as a direct substitute for your tailored wool trousers and slim-fit chinos, respectively.

Reiss AW14 Bally SS15 Zara AW15 Facconable AW15 River Island AW15 Hackett AW15 Hugo Boss Sportswear AW14 Boss Orange AW15 Tommy Hilfiger AW14 Ted Baker AW14 Henry Cottons AW14 David Naman AW15

Current Styles

  • Topman Selected Homme Navy Trousers
  • Noose & Monkey Wool Check Suit Trousers In Skinny Fit
  • Ted Baker Checked Wool Trousers
  • Topman Blue Black Window Check Skinny Chinos
  • Topman Blue Teal Check Stretch Skinny Chinos
  • Reiss Jones Checked Trousers
  • Pure New Wool Slim Fit Supercrease Flat Front Check Trousers
  • Ted Baker Piitro Checked Tonal Trousers
  • He By Mango Check Cool Wool Suit Trousers
  • River Island Brown Check Wool-blend Slim Fit Trousers
  • Burton Light Grey Check Skinny Fit Suit Trousers
  • Paul Smith Slim-fit Checked Baby Alpaca-blend Trousers

How To Wear Tips

The key to wearing checked tailoring well is knowing your limits. Something that feels over the top for one man may feel perfectly pitched for another.

Similarly, some men might consider subtle, or ‘entry-level’ checks, a dull cop-out, while others couldn’t imagine wearing the pattern any other way. As always, trust your gut, and go with what you feel most comfortable in.

At The Office

It goes without saying that, at the office, less is most definitely more. Checks that sit more on the conservative side offer a great way to stand out in a sea of navy, black and grey suits without making waves.

Stay workplace-appropriate by opting for fine checks or subtle tonal variations – no man wants to be the butt of water cooler wisecracks.

Image: Burton Autumn/Winter 2015

Off-Duty

Sporting checks off-duty is the perfect opportunity to be a little more adventurous. Want to wear the pattern in all its glory? Call on a windowpane checked blazer to add verve to a pared-back chino, trainer and Oxford shirt combination.
Be fashion-forward but keep on the right side of tasteful by making your tailored checks the focal point of an otherwise unfussy look.

Image: El Ganso Spring/Summer 2015

Final Word

With so much variety on offer, checked tailoring is a trend that’s got something for every man. Testament to the fact is the sheer number of designers – many with very different aesthetics – who added the motif to both suits and separates this season.

What’s your take on checked tailoring? Will you be embracing this timeless motif or opting for a plainer weave? Perhaps you’re planning to add a different pattern to your tailoring collection altogether?

Comment below to let us know.