Plaid and checkered patterns are two of the most common ways to create a unique look for your outfits and home decor.
However, many people struggle to find the perfect plaid and checkered pattern for them. This is caused by a few things. The first is that people often do not know the differences between them.
The second is once they learn the differences between plaid and checkered patterns, they soon discover that there are many subcategories of these respective patterns, and it can become overwhelming.
Luckily, we are here to help! We have created a guide that will tell you everything you need to know about plaid and checkered patterns, so you never need to be confused again! Read on for more.
The checkered pattern is one of the oldest known patterns used by humans. The earliest evidence of this pattern dates back to about 3500 BC when it was found on pottery from Egypt.
It’s believed that Egyptians were using the checkered pattern as a way to help people remember things like directions or numbers. This pattern has been around since ancient times and can be seen in many different cultures.
Checkered patterns are created using squares or rectangles that run horizontally or vertically. These designs are usually simple.
Checkered patterns usually contain repeat, symmetrical patterns which work to create a sense of unity. Checkered patterns usually come in two colors only, though they can sometimes contain more.
When a checkered pattern does contain more than one color, the colors will still always follow a symmetrical pattern.
However, despite the basic rules of the checkered pattern, it actually comes in a variety of styles. The size of the pattern can vary.
For example, squares that create the houndstooth or gingham pattern that are typically found on coats, wool suits, or swimsuits, are very small. Meanwhile, the buffalo checkered pattern has somewhat large squares. The larger squares are considered to be a more modern take on the check pattern.
Additionally, while the general rule of check patterns is simple and symmetrical, you will find that there are exceptions to this rule.
For example, the Argyle checkered pattern you can find on many sweaters and sweater vests feature slanted diamonds rather than the traditional square, checkerboard look.
What Garments Feature The Checkered Pattern?
The checkered pattern is often used on sportswear like polo shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, and sweatpants. It’s also commonly seen on coats, such as the aforementioned houndstooth coat.
However, the checkered pattern is not limited to these items. You can even see it on accessories and household goods, including bedding, wallpaper, and furniture.
While the checkered pattern may seem like an old-fashioned design, it is actually quite versatile. This pattern is perfect for creating a stylish outfit, whether you want to wear it at work or out with friends.
Today, the checkered pattern is still being used in many different places. You may have noticed the checkered pattern on clothing, bedding, wallpapers, furniture, and even jewelry.
When someone says “plaid”, they are usually referring to the crisscross pattern on horizontal and vertical lines, of different widths and lengths. The plaid pattern originated in Scotland in the form of Tartan plaid.
Tartans were originally worn by Scottish soldiers who fought against England in the 1700s The name tartan was derived from the word “targe” meaning shield, while the word “plaid” comes from the Gaelic word for “blanket.”
As time went on, the use of tartan became popular among British people. In fact, tartan became so popular that the term “plaid” came into being.
In the early 1900s, plaids began appearing in everyday clothing. In today’s society, the plaid pattern is still associated with its Scottish heritage, with many Scottish clans still wearing their unique tartan kilts as ceremonial clothing. However, it is also frequently used today in fashion.
Plaids are most often seen in casual dress, but they have become increasingly popular in formal attire. Additionally, plaid patterns used to be woven into fabrics, but these days it comes cheaper because many retailers will use printed designs.
Plaid patterns are often a little more complex than checkered patterns. They usually involve lines of various colors and widths which work to create a design that appears more complex. While there is some symmetry in plaid patterns, it is very broad.
The design does repeat, but because of the varied lines, it will not repeat in the neat, uniform fashion you would see on a garment with a checkerboard pattern.
What Garments Feature The Plaid Pattern?
You can find plaids in everything from casual dresses and pants to business suits and blazers. Some common examples include:
You can even find plaid around the household, on items such as:
Popular Checkered Patterns
Over the years, the checkered pattern has evolved considerably. It is so popular that different styles have been able to emerge, and many suspect its popularity is due to the comfort its uniformity and repeating nature brings to a look or a home.
Every single checkered pattern you come across has a unique name and has a rich history. Let’s delve into some of the most popular!
The Buffalo Checkered Pattern
The buffalo checkered pattern is arguably the most popular and iconic checkered pattern out there – but did you know it is incorrectly assumed to be plaid! That’s right, when you think of a typical flannel shirt, what you’re actually thinking of is a flannel, buffalo checkered shirt – not a flannel, plaid shirt!
The buffalo checkered patterns are usually found featuring a black and red check design with repeating squares. As previously mentioned, it is most commonly found on flannel shirts.
Flannel often contains synthetic or cotton fibers, but it will often feature a soft, velvet side that can be created by brushing the fabric over and over with bristles – usually metal.
Buffalo checkered patterns, or “buffalo plaid” grew in popularity after it was decided that lumberjacks should be promoted as a sign of American independence and strength. This checkered pattern is still popular today!
The Argyle Checkered Pattern
The Argyle pattern does not follow the regular look of a checkered garment, and therefore it does not denote the typical checkered pattern. However, it is one of the most popular types of checkered patterns in the entire fashion industry as we know it.
The argyle pattern is often associated today with the preppy style and aesthetic. The term ‘preppy’ originated in the 20th century and is commonly associated with those coming from old money who were preparing for an ivy league education.
In the 1980s, a satirical guidebook titled, The Official Preppy Handbook, became extremely popular, with many people taking its ironic content as informative, and from this, the preppy style was officially taken by the masses and given new life.
The prep aesthetic can include a variety of clothing, but it primarily focuses on the use of polo shirts, oxford cloth button-down shirts, and, of course, Argyle sweaters.
Despite being heavily associated with today’s prep aesthetic, the Argyle checkered pattern actually has similar origins to plaid. It actually comes from the Clan Argyll of Scotland!
The Argyle checkered pattern involves diagonal stripes that make diamond shapes all across a garment. It is also overlaid with other lines, more narrow than the first set and in a different color, which will create another set of diamonds.
As previously mentioned, the Argyle pattern is commonly found on sweaters, but it is also seen on sweater vests and dress socks!
The Checkerboard Pattern
If you’re looking for a classic checkered pattern, then the checkerboard pattern is the way to go! This is a very simple variation of the checkered pattern, containing only two colors in contrasting squares and a checkerboard design.
Black and white squares remain the most popular colors for this pattern, but you can find garments with this pattern in various other contrasting colors. For example, in today’s fashion, this garment is popular in shades of red and gray, or green and pink.
This design will cross the line between popular and unpopular regularly, so don’t worry if you bought a checkerboard skirt that seems unfashionable now – it’ll be back before you know it!
The Windowpane Checkered Pattern
The windowpane checkered pattern looks very different from the solid squares seen in other check designs. This checkered pattern involved very thin lines that form boxes set on a solid, block color background.
It is a pattern reminiscent of the old lead inserts that were once used to hold the glass of a windowpane together, hence the name “Windowpane checkered pattern.”
This pattern is seen as more sophisticated and delicate than some of the other checkered patterns, so it is extremely popular when it comes to garments like jackets and suits.
The Ichimatsu Checkered Pattern
The Ichimatsu Moyo design, or Ichimatsu checks, is very similar to the checkerboard design. This design first originated in the Japanese kimono. The Ichimatsus are a type of traditional Japanese cotton fabric that has been used since ancient times.
They were originally made using warp threads dyed with indigo, but they eventually evolved into a woven fabric with a plain weave. To give a name to its regular pattern, this was known in Japan as the “stone pavement.”
Today, these fabrics are still produced and are known as Ichimatsu Moyo (Ichimatsu checks). These fabrics are usually made with black and white yarns, although some may contain other colors like blue, yellow, or purple.
These fabrics are typically used for making kimonos, obi sashes, and haori jackets. However, they are also available in modern-day apparel such as blouses, skirts, and pants. Because of the repeating squares, the pattern has become representative of prosperity.
Black & White Checkered Patterns
Black and white make for a classy, effortless combination, and while you will be able to find these patterns in a variety of colors, certain checkered patterns are most popular when they come in black & white. Here are some examples!
Shepherd’s Check Pattern
While this can initially look like the normal checkerboard design, given that it features squares in just two colors, the Shepherd’s check pattern is actually made from twill weave and achieves a two-toned look in its square design.
Additionally, while regular checkerboard patterns have rather large squares, the Shepherd’s check pattern usually features small squares.
This design is not as popular as some of the other checkered designs on this list, but you can still find it on various scarves, flannel shirts, and outerwear.
Houndstooth Check Pattern
This type of checkered pattern involves a series of staggered squares, which have been achieved by intersecting varied weft and warp threads of different colors in a twill weave pattern. Houndstooth gets its name from the dog’s canine teeth, which have the same shape as its staggered squares.
The houndstooth checkered pattern has been popular for an extremely long time – even Christian Dior used it in one of his early fashion shows. Today, you will be able to find this pattern in various suits, dress wear, and coats.
Tattersall Check Pattern
The Tattersall check pattern looks very similar to the aforementioned windowpane checkered pattern, but they are actually quite different! This design involves two sets of squares made from thin lines, and then one is placed on top of the other.
Additionally, there is typically no printing involved when creating the Tattersall check pattern, and the design is usually woven into the fabric.
Out of the three designs that you will usually find in black & white, the Tattersall check pattern is the one you are most likely to see in another color.
The Tattersall check pattern comes from a neighborhood in England called Tattersall. Here, there was a horse market that sold blankets made especially for horses that featured their “tattersall” designs.
The Tattersall pattern is commonly used for jackets, sweaters, and suits.
The Small Checkered Patterns
There are some check patterns that do not feature large squares, but small checks. In this category, you will be able to find graph checks, ginghams, and mini and pink checks. Here are a few more examples!
Gingham Check Pattern
Who doesn’t love gingham?! This is such an iconic, American pattern that usually comes in pastel hues of red, pink, and blue.
While gingham is considered to be a checkered design, it is actually a type of material. It normally contains material such as cotton or a cotton blend.
Traditionally, gingham is made up of many tiny squares, and that pattern remains popular today. Although, there are now many variations of gingham that you can find on a variety of garments.
Dupplin Check Pattern
The Dupplin checkered pattern can get a little complicated. It features a windowpane check pattern that has been overlaid on top of another check pattern – which could be anything from a houndstooth check to a checkerboard pattern!
The Dupplin check pattern comes in various colors, and will usually help to create casual, fun looks!
Where exactly the term “Dupplin” comes from isn’t exactly clear. Although many people suspect it actually comes from a Scottish clan, like Argyle and plaid patterns, the pattern itself comes from a form of tartan. Additionally, there is a castle in Scotland known as “Dupplin Castle.”
If you wanted to wear the Dupplin checkered pattern today, then you would be most likely to find it on cotton or flannel shirts.
Glen Check Pattern
Some people may refer to this pattern as ‘Glen plaid’ thanks to the sheer complexity of the squares in this design. In the Glen check pattern, the squares are all different types that contrast with one another. In doing so, they create a sett (typically associated with plaid) of different types of check patterns.
Glen check patterns do not typically feature many colors, and you can usually find them in black, gray, white, and muted black colors.
The Pin Check Pattern
The pin check pattern contains the smallest of small squares. These squares are so tiny they could be mistaken for the head of a sewing pin – hence, pin check.
Additionally, the pattern is so small that from a distance it looks like one solid color. The pin check pattern is made by just sewing one yarn across another.
The pin check pattern is considered to be an elegant one, so you will often find it used in suits and shirts.
The graph check pattern is simple. It is composed of smaller versions of the windowpane check pattern, consisting of small, thin lines that make squares and are set against a solid background. The graph check pattern is very reminiscent of graph paper, which is where the name comes from!
Many people consider this design to be sophisticated, so you will often find it in elegant suits. However, it also works well with a pair of jeans to create a more casual look.
This is one of the only checkered patterns to have been created from modern trends. You will be able to find it featured on many garments today, from dresses to button-downs.
The Mini Check Pattern
The mini check pattern is an umbrella term for pretty much all miniature checkered patterns. Mini checks come in either pastels or bright colors and work well with skirts and shirts because of their happy, uplifting, and casual style.
The mini check pattern can come in a variety of styles, including – houndstooth, gingham, and windowpane checks.
Popular Plaid Patterns
Plaid has been a popular pattern for many years, and you can find it in a variety of styles ranging from the traditional Scottish tartan to the various American intersecting stripe patterns. Here are a few examples!
The Madras Plaid Pattern
The Madras plaid pattern has its origins in India, where it was a form of lightweight, summery cotton that featured fun patterns. Additionally, the Madras plaid pattern was very popular in the 1800s Philippines.
Here, women would use it on their loose pants and saya skirts. The Madras plaid pattern was dyed with natural plants and vegetables which would create light and faded colors.
Today, Madras plaid features a lot more vivid squares and stripes, and you can often find it on summer shirts, canvas shorts, sandals, and beachwear!
The Glen Plaid Pattern
Often called the Glen Check as well as the Prince Of Wales plaid, Glen plaid was a huge factor in all plaid patterns being brought to the world of high fashion. The Glen plaid also includes checks too, so many people will label it as such. It features checks and overlaid squares with contrasting colors in thin lines.
This design became famous when the Countess of a castle known as “Urquhart Castle” decided to use the design in the woolen, winter uniforms for the staff. Then, Edward the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, admired their uniform so much he decided to adopt the pattern for his own clothes!
The design was finally, officially registered in 1840, by a Scottish weaver.
Often called “Burberry check” as well as Burberry plaid, this pattern consists of thin square grids that have been superimposed on a tan background.
This type of plaid originates from the Burberry clothing company in 1920 on their new, exclusive line of wool coats. By the ’90s, owning garments featuring this Burberry plaid pattern became a status symbol, and the company made a huge profit selling it on a variety of garments, from scarves to skirts.
However, these days the use of the pattern has been significantly reduced. There is no clear reason for this, but people claim that it is because the Burberry plaid pattern was heavily replicated by high street fashion retailers and sold to people outside of the small group that could afford to shop at Burberry.
Burberry allegedly wanted to ensure the pattern stayed exclusive to them, and so they reduced their use of that iconic plaid pattern. However, you can still find it in many vintage stores.
Iconic Plaid Patterns
Many types of plaid have a significant heritage or at least a loyal following. However, only a few specific plaid patterns can claim to be iconic. Here are a few examples of the most famous plaid pattern out there!
The Black Watch Tartan Pattern
This pattern was initially developed for the Scottish military of the past to use in order to set themselves apart from other Scottish clans. This would help members of the same clan recognize each other. Many Scottish people wore this Black Watch pattern for over 250 years!
You will recognize this pattern by its distinct features – the navy blue, hunter green, and black stripes of varying widths that intersect.
Today, this plaid is closely linked to its Scottish heritage but it is popular with a variety of people.
The Royal Stewart Plaid Pattern
This iconic tartan features both green and red and has long been associated with the royal house of Stewart. Of course, today it has been claimed by Queen Elizabeth II.
The Royal Stewart plaid latter was initially recorded in the 1830s and has since become one of the most popular and iconic tartan designs of all time. You will instantly recognize its red background and green stripes (often with blue and yellow stripes) of varying levels of thickness.
In the US, the Royal Stewart plaid pattern is commonly associated with Christmas.
Traditional Scottish Names For Plaid
Most of the plaid patterns you see have their origins in Scotland. Here are some examples of the traditional, Scottish names for plaid.
Tartan is a universal term for any type of woven pattern with lines (both vertical and horizontal) that intersect.
The term “clan tartan” refers to the specific tartan pattern kilts that each respective clan would wear to set themselves apart from other clans. It is widely believed that you should only wear clan-specific tartans if you’re associated with that clan.
As for the origins of the word “tartan”, it likely comes from the French word for “checks”, which is “Tartaine.”
Today, you are able to use tartan as an exclusive term for the patterns adorning the kilts that Scottish clans would wear to represent themselves, or you can use it as a way to mean any kind of plaid pattern.
This type of tartan is either comprised of black and red or a Wallace hunting design (blue and green.) Clan Wallace itself has strong ties to Scottish history, but this pattern is extremely popular today thanks to its mass marketing by designers in the 1900s. This plaid is also strongly linked to Rob Roy tartan.
While the Lindsay tartan was not recorded until around the 1800s, the clan that wore it, Clan Lindsay, actually dates all the way back to the 1300s!
The plaid that they wore on their kilt features a dark red background with blue stripes on top, which creates a variety of squares.
This type of plaid’s name originates from the British royal family’s home in Balmora, and it is allegedly representative of the streaked granite seen on Balmoral Castle! It was worn by Prince Albert in 1853 and features a bold red background with green and yellow lines and black stripes.
Fun fact: you must ask permission from the Queen of England if you want to wear Balmoral plaid today! However, if you don’t want to go through all that trouble, then we recommend finding similar designs on a variety of clothing items.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Pinstripe Patterns The Same Thing As Pin Check Patterns?
No, pinstripe patterns are not the same thing as the pin-check pattern. Pin check refers to fabric that contains squares so small they’re considered to look like a sewing pin head.
Meanwhile, pinstripe patterns refer to fabrics that contain larger checks or stripes.
Is Gingham The Same Thing As Plaid?
No. Gingham is a cotton or cotton blend cloth that is composed of checkered pattern squares. It is a symmetrical design containing only a few colors per garment.
Meanwhile, plaid has far less symmetry in its design and will contain many stripes of varying widths.
What Is The Difference Between Checkered Patterns And Plaid Patterns?
Checkered patterns are usually made up of large, square blocks of color, while plaid patterns tend to be more asymmetric in shape.
There can be crossover when it comes to plaid and checkered patterns, and some people argue that checkered patterns are a subcategory of plaid. However, checkered patterns do stand as an established pattern by itself, with many variations of the pattern to choose from.
Checkered and plaid patterns share characteristics that have led many people to confuse the two – such as their shared stripes. However, the two are actually very different, and what separates them is their differences in uniformity, symmetry, and origins.
Each type of plaid and checkered pattern have their own history and origins, and most can be found and worn with ease. Hopefully, this guide helped answer your question about the differences between checkered patterns and plaid patterns.