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Style Defined: Houndstooth

November 12th, 2015

Glenplaid, tartan, twill, herringbone. The immense variety of options when it comes to patterns in menswear is half of what makes style so fun. Here, we’re taking a closer look at a perennial fall/winter favorite: houndstooth.

Like so many classic menswear patterns, the houndstooth pattern was first created in Scotland. Its earliest appearance dates back to the 1800s. Traditionally making use of dark and light alternating ‘checks,’ the pattern quickly followed suit with other historical Scottish fabrics to become a staple pattern in wool suiting and outerwear.

The houndstooth pattern is characterized by an almost checked appearance. Rather than just squares, however, houndstooth is made up of a specific repeating geometric block. The term ‘houndstooth’ itself is derived from the protruding jagged teeth that define that particular block.


Despite its complexity, houndstooth isn’t a pattern that is just printed onto fabric – at least not originally, though some manufacturers may very well shortcut these days. Instead, it was/is the result of a rather technical weaving pattern – an explanation of which is beyond the scope of this article.

Houndstooth is a very versatile pattern. Playing with the size, scale, contrast and color of the pattern only adds to that. A large scale houndstooth can be bold and daring, while a micro-pattern will look almost solid from a distance.

Likewise, one can choose between pairing high-contrast checks like black and bright white, or more subtle variations like brown and tan or a mid blue and navy.

Add to that the fact that houndstooth patterns are now used for literally every piece of apparel (from ties to shirts to pants to socks to blazers to topcoats to gloves to vests to scarves to even shoes), and the options are truly endless – all you have to do is find the one that suits your need and style.

HSS Style Advice: A small scale houndstooth – or puppytooth, if you will – is an easy way to begin adding the pattern into your personal style. From a distance, it will appear solid, but upon closer inspection it reveals that you’ve got some advanced style chops. See an example of this here.

For the more adventurous, a big, bold houndstooth is the way to go. It will certainly grab some attention, but all the right kind of attention. Try a large pattern in a blazer for some creative cocktail attire or in a luxe topcoat for the winter.

Chime in: How do you like to incorporate houndstooth into your personal style?

Stylishly Yours,

Adam Lehman

Menswear history buff? Read more of our Style Defined series and explore the Glossary.

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