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The evolution of check print

Woman in black pants and black and white checked blouse and black handbag

Is there a pattern more classic or timeless than checks? It seems that one cannot be too old or too young to rock some plaid, and there’s not one piece of clothing that the pattern doesn’t work on. From lumberjacks to punks to Ivy League professors, plaid and checks works for everyone. What’s even more fascinating about the print is how far it actually dates back and the versatility it’s proven to have throughout the centuries:

Picture9Scarf Poncho with Belt from Monroe and Main


According to Bustle, the first wave of plaid was used in Scottish clans’ tartans. Each clan had a different pattern, though many of them were quite similar. Apparently even King James V had plenty of plaid garments made for his wife, and later People in Britain and America began adopting the pattern as well.

Since plaid was so closely tied to the Scottish clans, the Scottish Rebellion of 1745 actually got the pattern banned from England for almost 40 years! When the ban was lifted, men and women both embraced the pattern and it became the “it thing” regarding formal wear.


 Max Plaid Shirtdress from Monroe and Main


We all know the classic black and red “lumberjack” pattern, but have you ever thought about where it actually originated? In fact, it was first manufactured by legendary outdoors company Woolrich 1850 for, you guessed it, lumberjacks. In fact, the company still manufactures the pattern in jackets and flannel shirts, almost 170 years later. If that’s not staying power, we don’t know what is.

“Plaid began making waves again in the 1970s.”


For over 100 years, plaid was almost exclusively worn by men who worked outdoors. It made some appearances on women’s skirts and some men’s jackets throughout the years, especially in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the pattern began making waves again – practically comparable to the impact when it was first designed. In the 1970s, plaid was everywhere. Men wore it on their leisure suits and Catherine Bach made it sexy for women to wear by pairing it with her “daisy dukes” on the hit TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” By the time the ’70s were over, plaid and checks were staples in both casual and formal wear. Even British punk rockers like the Sex Pistols were incorporating it in to their clothing.

check blouseMini Pane Shirt from Monroe and Main

1980s and ’90s

In the 1980s, plaid was a bit more polarizing. While it was used in school uniforms and worn by a preppy crowd, like the popular girls in “Heathers,” plaid was also big in the counterculture, as young people began rocking flannel shirts once again. Grunge icons  like Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder were rarely seen without their signature plaid in the 1990s.


 Houndstooth Skirt Suit from Monroe and Main.


Plaid has become one of the most versatile patterns in recent years. It makes appearances on just about anything people wear, from fashion scarves – like the chic Burberry that Kate Middleton wears – to the flannel on the hipster barista at the coffee shop down the street. Plaid is even working its way into home decor, from boldly patterned couches to smaller details throughout your home.

A great way to work plaid into an outfit is to choose one statement piece. A plaid fashion blazer with a plain black T-shirt, dark skinny jeans and some heels is an ultimate polished look that can translate form casual Friday at the office to the weekends. Depending on what you pair it with, checked patterns can give off the punk rock vibe of the late ’70s, the the preppy feeling of the ’80s or the grungy aesthetic of the ’90s.

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Published on Aug 18 2016

Last Updated on Aug 19 2016

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