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The art of taming the checked shirt

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If the archeology of fashion recognizes the tile's millennia-old existence, it is towards Scotland that we must turn to address its recent history.

From the 19th century, the famous “tartan” fabrics made it possible to recognize different families , in a society which was then based on the clan model.

In this context, the color and size of the tiles facilitated their identification and functioned as a true symbol of belonging.

We find most of them in the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Tartan, published in 2004 by Iain Zaczek and Charles Phillips.

Colorful fabrics with intersecting lines, tartans competed in inventiveness to offer authentic works of art in warp and weft. Singular motifs which probably inspired the Englishman John Rich when, freshly arrived in the United States, he opened his first woolen mill in 1830: Woolrich Woolen Mills.

Son of a British carder, it is anything but surprising to find an obvious tartan inspiration in John Rich's masterpiece: the black and red "Buffalo check" shirt.

On the labels of these iconic shirts we can read: “In 1830, John Rich opened his first woolen mill in Plum Run, Pennsylvania. Twenty years later, in 1850, the iconic “buffalo check” shirt was produced for the first time by Woolrich. Legend has it that its name echoes the herd of buffalo owned by John Rich, who felt the name "buffalo check" fit well with the shirt's rugged design. A simple story for an iconic motif.” Credits: Arcane supply

Heavy, warm and indestructible, it immediately appealed to cowboys, loggers and farmers. In the midst of the conquest of the West, she also accompanied the pioneers, to the point of becoming in a few years the symbol of a hardworking and conquering America.

Moreover, it is no coincidence that the allegorical figure of the United States, played by the legendary Paul Bunyan, is dressed in such a checked shirt.

Statue of Paul Bunyan at the entrance to Bangor in the state of Maine. Credits: Dennis Jarvis.

While remaining faithful to the workwear wardrobe, from the 1920s it began a shift towards the wardrobe of city dwellers. Well helped by music and cinema, she is emulated in the city and soon conforms to the urban lifestyle.

From Marilyn Monroe's flannel plaid shirt to Kurt Cobain's at the London Astoria in 1990, via James Dean's gingham shirt in "East of Eden" and the Beach Boys quartet, the second half of the 20th century gave pride of place to the checked shirt. And it's not over.

The Checked Shirt at Hast

Since 2012, the shirt has been the beating heart of the Hast wardrobe. It is around it that our entire wardrobe is built, respecting the principles of accuracy and honesty which have governed their development for more than 10 years.

Alongside the inevitable white shirt , the no less famous blue shirt and the essential striped shirt , the checked shirt quickly seemed essential to us.

Faithful to the ambition of creating exceptional clothing suitable for everyday life , we have imagined simple and timeless shirts, worked in natural materials in collaboration with the best European workshops.

In accordance with the four categories usually used in the textile world, you will find on our hangers:

  • windowpane shirts . Geometrically, it is the simplest tile. To the eye, it is also the most obvious. On the weaving side, horizontal and vertical lines intersect perpendicularly to form this perfect grid. Austere for some, fundamental for others. Radical and particularly graphic, it constitutes a strong bias.

  • gingham shirts. More expressive, the gingham pattern is built around a two-tone plain weave whose tangle of threads forms a fairly straightforward grid. Associated with the French spa town where it was long made, it is appreciated for its consistency and its ability to flesh out a too-smooth outfit.

  • tartan shirts. Ancestor of the previous two, tartan is (very) far the most creative of tiles. Inherited from Celtic culture, it multiplies vertical and horizontal stripes to offer diverse and varied patterns, each more delicious than the other. Back then, each clan had its own, and it was time Hast did the same.

  • houndstooth shirts. Without being a tile strictly speaking, this pattern evokes a grid due to its chessboard layout. Like its small and large variants (respectively “pied de flea” and “pied de coq”), it offers a nicely unstructured checkerboard that combines rigor and originality.

To further expand the field of possibilities, we worked each of its tiles in different sizes and different colors, but also on different fabrics.

For example, you will find the windowpane on a formal shirt in double-twisted twill as well as on a casual shirt in cotton flannel . In the same way, gingham will dress up a textured casual shirt as well as an elegant fitted poplin shirt . The same goes for tartan and houndstooth, which you will see in a relaxed register as well as on a more formal oxford shirt .

And why not display an overshirt ?

The subtle art of combining tiles

As pretty as it is, the tile is a strong pattern. Very visually charged, it does not tolerate overbidding, which is why we recommend that you surround it soberly.

If you opt for a checked shirt, it would be happy to accompany it with plain pieces , preferably in tones close to the shirt in question.

Above all, be careful to avoid overlapping patterns. Like stripes, tiles have difficulty living together. At the risk of overloading your composition, we therefore do not recommend combining a houndstooth shirt and a Prince of Wales jacket, or windowpane pants and a tartan overshirt.

You know the saying: tiles + tiles = Toto's head.

A word about the rest of our wardrobe

If the shirt is the star around which our wardrobe revolves, we must not forget the rest of our stars. Among them, many of our creations are adorned with the tile pattern to assert their character, which will allow you to tame this pattern in different ways.

This is the case for certain boxer shorts , upcycled from fabric scraps from our shirts .

This is also the case for our scarves , made in the United Kingdom in the legendary Moon workshops, some of which combine the softness of merino wool with the beauty of checks.

The same goes for our ties , on the front of which you will in some cases see a pretty Prince of Wales pattern. An extremely elegant variation of tartan, this pattern is a little wonder to bring a note of discreet sophistication to your formal outfits.

The final word

A wonderful alternative to plain, the check pattern is a real style statement. Intimidating at first, it hides prodigious potential that it's up to you to unlock.

Sometimes formal in its reduced and discreet format; sometimes relaxed in its imposing and ostentatious form; it allows for dressy or casual , extravagant or all-purpose combinations.

By strolling on our new website or in the aisles of our stores , you will discover the homage paid by us to the prince of patterns... and perhaps consider doing the same.