Suiting fabric patterns are many and varied. Apart from the fibre composition of the fabric, a topic deserving of its own article, you should understand the basics of suiting fabric patterns and their best applications. We've scrutinized a few of our favorite patterns below and have suggested some situations where each may be better or worse.
The Windowpane check gets its name from the checks that break up the base colour fabric into a series of "windows". Like Clark Gable and the Duke of Windsor, who both wore this pattern, the windowpane check's flamboyance and showiness is legendary. It captures attention through its casual boldness, which is often used in a business suit that can also be worn casually. We're of the opinion that, if you have the gall to wear this pattern at work, you shouldn't stop at a bold pattern: go for a double-breasted jacket with a four inch peak lapel and cuffed pants. There are no full marks for half efforts, gents.
Glen Urquhart Plaid
Glen Plaid, short for the Glen Urquhart Plaid, is a woven woolen pattern of small and large checks. It is usually made up of distinct separate colours in order to provide a strong contrast between the twill weaves that make up the pattern. This was another favourite of the Duke of Windsor, and he wore it with traditional style. This is where we believe the strengths of this pattern lie. Grey office suits in this pattern will appear undeniably traditional and graceful. Style the jacket with a white pocket square and shirt and perhaps a plain grey varation tie. This is a pattern for a settled man.
Although perhaps most recognisable as the Australian retailer, David Jones's, corporate logo, the Houndstooth was first donned by shepherds of the Scottish highlands wanting to wear a clan-neutral pattern. Accordingly, the local highlanders referred to Houndstooth as "Shepherd's check".
Although there remains the possibility of a stylish shepherd wearing a houndstooth coat, you are more likely to see this pattern used in overcoats or jackets. This pattern's boldness creates a rugged elegance, and we believe it is best used in evening coats or jackets. A full suit is not out of the question, but you should consider where you intend to use it.
Puppytooth, Houndstooth’s “junior”, also deserves a mention. Although the smaller pattern is more likely to end up in shirts or some jackets, the puppytooth may end up in a suit, although it will have less of the bold vigor in contrast to what its big brother is famous for.
“You know why the Yankees always win, Frank?”
“'Cause they have Mickey Mantle?”
“No, it's 'cause the other teams can't stop staring at those damn pinstripes...”
—Catch Me If You Can
Striped patterns come in many forms, the most recognisable of which is the pinstripe. As Frank Abagnale Sr suggested in Catch Me If You Can, the pattern catches the eye and holds your attention. If nothing else, it creates an impression of a life more adventurous than it probably is. (Humphrey Bogart, for example, wore pinstripe in The Maltese Falcon, as the off-brand detective chasing the bejewelled Maltese falcon.)
A series of small pin stitches in a line make up the pinstripe pattern, although it is not uncommon to see a thin lined pattern referred to as ‘pinstripe’. Although often captured with imagery of prohibition gangsters and detectives, the pinstripe suit descended into the world of cheap suits and square-toed boots (think 1980s and 1990s office attire). More recently, discerning patrons have brought it back into a more tasteful realm, and it is now common among bespoke or quality made-to-measure suits.
The current trend of pinstripe suits perhaps reminisces the infamous origins of the pattern better than ever, as it appears on all sorts of people in very difference places. In this sense, it is probably the most difficult pattern to categorise, and perhaps such a pattern should not be categorised?
For our money, a royal blue pinstripe suit with a wide lapel will look good on anyone. For additional character, roped shoulders will bring out some more of the pattern’s old-school charm. A dark charcoal pinstripe with wide notch lapel will be versatile in most business situations, and will probably have you branded a badass amongst more conservative colleagues.
- Wide lapel
- Dark charcoal or Royal blue
- Snug fit
- Double breasted? Perhaps.
- Linen is not unacceptable as a base fabric
- Become involved with eccentric criminals seeking a bejewelled falcon
- What square-toed shoes, ever (a subtly squared-off square toe is acceptable though)
Although perhaps falling into the same style categories as the pinstripe, the chalk-stripe deserves a mention as a pattern in its own right. Like its pinstripe cousin, the chalk-stripe pattern is bold and is most often used in flannelette fabrics. As the stripe is wider and perhaps slightly uneven due to the base flannelette fabric, the chalk stripe is aptly named due to its resemblance to a the chalk markings made by a tailor on fabric.
Chalk-stripes usually appear on relaxed flannelette suits. Look for thin stripes, as thicker stripes may be overbearing and lose their integrity in the fuzzy flannelette fabric. This is a casual suit fabric, although we don’t think you should go over the top with your style details. Opt for a simple notch lapel with a soft shoulder.