Modern yet universal, houndstooth is a staple print that never loses its luster. In recent years, there has been a revival of the two-toned textile as seen on models strutting down the runway donning new designer styles.
What is Houndstooth
A large check pattern with notched corners suggestive of a canine tooth, typically used in cloth for jackets and suits.
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.
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 history of houndstooth
Worn as an outer garment by shepherds, houndstooth originated in wool cloth from the Scottish lowlands dating back to the 19th century. Even though the pattern emerged over a century ago, the popularity of the print did not step into the fashion world until the 1930s.
Houndstooth was initially adopted by the upper class as a status symbol for wealth upon arriving to the style scene. Christian Dior was one of the first designers to incorporate houndstooth in his designs for the 1948 Haute Couture spring/summer collection. In 1959, French shoe designer Roger Vivier created pointed court heels for Dior with a smaller scale version of the pattern. Six years later, he enlarged it for a turquoise and black A-line coat.
Even though houndstooth is commonly seen in black-and-white, many modern variations have hit the catwalk. Designers from across the globe have re-envisioned the traditional mosaic by toying with its color and scale. The remixed print captivates the eye while paying tribute to the past. Houndstooth is a classic print for old and new fashionistas that never goes out of style.
Style of Houndstooth
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.