Cheq shirts

No need to sell you on the merits of check shirts. But if there were, here are three reasons we rate them: they’re comfortable; they’re an easy way to wear a bit of pattern; and there’s a check for everyone, from preppy to neutral. Plus, while the look may seem casual, almost every type of check can be smartened up.

So which check is right for you? Here’s more about our six favourite types of check shirt, from smart gingham to bold plaid.

Gingham originated in Brittany (the birthplace of the equally iconic Breton stripe) and was actually a fabric with a striped pattern. It transformed into a checked fabric in Manchester in the 1700s—most often woven in blue and white—but it really found its footing in the 1960s, and retains a mod vibe. This particular style’s logo and button-down collar (above) make it pretty informal, so it’s not quite office-appropriate. But it would be good for a date or night out with slim jeans and brogues or minimal trainers.

Everyone knows tartan’s Scottish—woven by Highlanders from the 1700s onward to differentiate clan from clan—but today it doesn’t have to be bold and primary-coloured. In fact, most checks are tartan derivatives, and even when they’re neutral in colour, as shown above, the bold size of the check looks strong and goes well with dark denim.

Madras comes from a small fishing village of the same name in India, where the English East India Company traded cloth from the seventeenth century—and where the first Madras, vegetable-dyed with bright patterns, was born. Even when it wasn’t dyed, Madras cloth was popular due to its lightness and breathability—and it still is. This, the lightest plaid shirt (above), is perfect for your summer holiday, particularly because the bright colours and uneven grid make the check just a bit irreverent.

Photographed: Hammond & Co navy check shirt (£42)

This one’s name needs no explanation: Windowpane check has generally been seen as bold and therefore casual. Clark Gable and the Duke of Windsor were fond of wearing the pattern in a more daring fashion: in suits. When it comes to shirts, though, windowpane is minimal enough to be worn smartly or casually. This pattern is particularly good on a larger guy as it elongates the torso, making you look leaner.

Photographed: Gant blue check shirt (£90)

The larger the check, the more casual—which means this shirt is best worn with jeans and trainers or boots, or open over a t-shirt. Go for an oversized fit to make it extra boxy and comfortable.

You’ve probably got a few check shirts already but if you’re in the market for a new one, look out for:

  • Colour: Neutral shades will work with more of your clothes.
  • Pattern: A small check is smarter; the larger you go, the more casual things get. Somewhere in the middle is the most versatile option.
  • Fabric: Go for a soft fabric like cotton or flannel and the shirt will look good either unbuttoned or done up all the way.

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