Did you know that the grey suit worn by Cary Grant in North by Northwest was in fact a ventless glen plaid check with a blue-ish weave and not in fact, plain grey? Do you also know the difference between a glen plaid check and a Prince of Wales and from which Royal we have that name? Check tailoring is good for the average pub quiz, but it’s even better for your wardrobe.
Check blazers are everywhere this season. Tartan, tweed, Prince-of-Wales, glen plaid, window-pane, gun-check; from the subtle to the bold, checks are a thing. The season’s runways were awash with fashionable check patterns of all iterations. But that’s not why we’re telling you to embrace pattern in your wardrobe. For all its timelessness, a check blazer is a point of difference, a break from the norm and could be just what you need to spice up both your formal and casual dress.
One of the most stylish designers out there, Patrick Grant – creative director of E. Tautz – tell us, “We’ve always believed that tailoring needs to continually evolve, it needs to feel new and relevant, whether that’s in its construction (softer, more fluid), its cut (straighter longer, squarer), or its pattern. For AW18 we’ve continued to make the patterns in our jackets more vivid, with heavier contrast and grander scale. Because we think tailored clothes should say something bold.”
That’s the low down. Here are five stylish ways to wear a check blazer.
How To Wear A Check Blazer
If it’s your first foray into the pattern, then start with a casual take on the check blazer and keep it simple. By its very nature, checks carry an air of formality, especially if they’re weaved in contrasting colours. For a casual style, keep the check tonal and in a smaller scale – the gun check offers a great sporting take on this notion.
The gun check was traditionally worn in country settings. Its contemporary name came from the American Gun Club in the late 19th Century who had in turn adopted it from the home of most check patterns, Scotland, where it was originally known as the Coigach, and was a type of check used to show your regional heritage – in the same way a tartan represented clans.
Today, the check translates perfectly to a more urban casual look. Fendi offered this up in a whole range of jackets and coats, from trenches and raincoat to bomber jackets, and braces. This Lardini version is perfect, and worn with jeans, a polo shirt and a sweater layer, the plain neutrality of the look will ensure a casual take throughout. And as a nod to the Scottish country roots, wear with heritage hiking boots and go for a good old ramble (through a park at least).
If the idea of wearing checks in your everyday wardrobe is daunting, then saving it for the ultimate in formal dressing is the perfect way to embrace pattern. Tuxedos always allow for stylistic embellishment and going full check, check trousers or just the check tuxedo jacket is perfectly acceptable and, in fact, encouraged.
Black-watch tartan is the most likely check to be weaved into an evening suit (avoid Lumberjack red at all costs), and no you don’t need Scottish heritage to embrace the look. As it’s evening wear, maintain formality with the black tones on the the grosgrain or silk facings on the lapels and a traditional black bow tie, and go for a classic dress shirt – the less fussy the better.
So, the suit’s no longer necessarily the go-to option for the office, but if you’re longing to break up the block-colour separates, a perfect alternative is a check blazer. A lighter blue version with a lighter white soft overcheck gives it a more casual feel whilst the cut of a more traditional sports jacket combined with the check ensures it’s still ok for the office. Pair with a crisp white shirt and grey trousers – albeit in a lighter tone than you’d wear with a traditional navy blazer.
The clarity of the check will decree the formality and strength of the overall pattern. A very defined check will be more difficult to match so opt for a very subtle version to keep it veering into foppish territory. As Edward Finney, head of design at Gieves & Hawkes tell us, a well rounded collection of check jackets could include “a very British earthy check with a classic dry hand feel, through to a more luxurious-touch, cashmere-blend flannel in deep rich colours which offers an alternative for sophisticated daywear.”
It’s one of the most formal checks you’ll encounter, and contrary to how businessmen in the ’80s were wearing it, a Prince of Wales or a glen plaid check (and they are slightly different), doesn’t always need to be double-breasted, oversized or worn with a shirt and tie. In fact, whilst one of the most widely used fabrics for suits, both glen Plaid and Prince of Wales are two of the most versatile and attractive checks out there and can be interpreted in any strength or size.
Walk into Edward Sexton, one of London’s most prolific and important tailors, and he’ll tell you that a Prince of Wales suit is an essential garment of any wardrobe. A monochrome version in particular is fantastic, especially when the check is subtle and worn with a black roll neck. You could go full suit or pair a blazer with black trousers or jeans – it’s an ideal look for a winter cocktail soirée.
Don’t be afraid to embrace a Prince of Wales in other colours, especially muted tones, too; blue hues with a darker over-check can be a subtle way to wear this pattern. And what’s the difference between the Prince and the plaid? The weave of a Prince of Wales includes an additional windowpane over-check in a different colour, whereas glen plaid doesn’t feature the added square pane over the top. Simple.
Go All Out
For menswear fanatics, there’s a brilliant article in Dressing the Man by the godfather of menswear, Alan Flusser, on pattern mixing. In it, he betroths expert guidance on wearing multiple checks in close proximity (to each other). The short version? It can be done. In fact, this is a great way to style a check – by wearing it with other checks. And the key? Wear checks of varying scale and subtlety.
So, a full check suit works well in tonal colours paired with a smaller scale check shirt and if needs be for formality, a plain tie or a check pocket square (work in descending scale to match the size of the garment). This full look check works in any season – a full three-piece navy wool windowpane check is a good option all year option. And in warmer climes, a full check two piece is a great alternative to classic plain navy suit.
Solicitor-turned-model-turned-style aficionado, Richard Biedul is bang on the money with his style tips: “When it comes to wearing a check blazer, my mantra is simple: more is more. This might seem like a formidable task, but try pairing your jacket with more checks… trust me it works. Mix and match the colour, texture and size of your checks and take your style cues from Kean Etro and Allesandro Michelle, who are the masters of combining these complex designs.”