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Highlights: 
Checks are one of the most prevalent, familiar and universal designs in the world, that are made available in almost every hue and shade under the sun.

You will hardly bump into anyone who hasn’t heard about the good ol’ checks or chequered pattern. This graphic print, resembling a checkboard, is undoubtedly the most popular pattern that has been inspiring the fashion industry for decades now. Having dominated the fashion domain since the last three to four decades, checks have penetrated into almost every nook and corner of the closet, right from suiting to knitwear. With its innate charm on offer, checks have actively made their presence felt almost everywhere in the clothing sphere.

Checks are one of the most prevalent, familiar and universal designs in the world, that are made available in almost every hue and shade under the sun. The iconic print encompassing altered stripes consisting of intersected horizontal and vertical lines that form a square has its name derived from the ancient Persian language word shah, that means “king”, from the game of chess, played on a square board. Plaid and checks are one of the most pervasive patterns in contemporary fashion. Since time immemorial, this cross-hatched pattern has been adored for the smart and well-groomed look it lends.

In the beginning

Origin of plaid and checks goes back to the early 1500s. Before we talk about the origin of plaid, we must first understand the difference between plaid and tartan. The latter was referred to an unusual fabric pattern which was used to differentiate one Scottish clan or topographical region from another. Going by the original Scottish definition, a plaid was a Celtic kilt or blanket that served as an external layer to combat the Highland elements. Plaid was eventually adopted by British and American manufacturers, who fashioned patterned fabric which bears a resemblance to tartan. After being banned and forbidden in Britain during the 18th century, the pattern made a gradual leap from Europe to the US, where plaid became known by the word moniker. These characteristic red and black chequered patterns became an essential and indispensable attire in office wear.

The 1970s witnessed the big plaid rebellion with the fabric and pattern being donned on almost everything from suits, footwear, bags to interior design elements.

Evolution with time

Today, plaid has become a one-of-a-kind pattern. What we garner from plaid’s rollercoaster journey is that no matter the decade, plaid will forever continue to carry it with a hint of elegance, chic and comfort, whether it’s matched with formal pants, pressed khakis or a pair of baggy jeans. A check-on-check look is amazingly simple to pull off only if both are strikingly dissimilar and aren’t competing for attention.

While a man’s shirt has always been considered to be an unquestionably vital component of his fashion statement, the emphasis on the shirt coupled with designs, patterns and colours has been dominating the retail and bespoke tailoring industry in current times. Having said that, checks offer plenty of options to choose from, which helps in uplifting the overall look.

Here is a guide to all things chequered:

• Gingham: This pattern came into being in the mid-18th century, with blue and white shades being the most prevalent choice of colour. Currently, there are no limitations on colours and it is available in a gamut of hues. This is a form of chequered patterned shirt that is characterised by typical white and coloured even-sized checks. To form this design, same-coloured horizontal and vertical stripes criss-cross each other on a stark white background.

• Madras checks: This pattern is formed on light-weight fabrics that have their origin from Madras or present day Chennai. This pattern of checks comprises diverse shades of stripes that cross each other to form irregular-sized checks. It is used primarily for summer clothing such as pants, shorts, dresses, and jackets.

• Shepherd’s check: The name comes from the chequered design worn by shepherds in the hills of Scotland. A go-to option to wear in a formal professional set-up, shepherd’s checks entail interchanging shaded stripes that seamlessly cross each other to produce a check pattern that is set against a twill texture that distinguishes these shirts from Gingham shirts.

• Windowpane: These shirts come with a two-tone colour scheme and are considered to be apt for a formal attire. These comprise moderately thin stripes that cross each other to create a large check pattern that closely resembles the designs of a simple window pane.

 Currently, trends have turned their attention from the typical stripes or polka dots to checks. Checks are not just limited to the domain of apparel but have slowly made their way into bags and shoes which feature a veritable patchwork of checks.

 (The author is founder and
CEO of Corporate Collars)

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