Houndstooth Pattern: A Brief History

Houndstooth Pattern: A Brief History

This classic Scottish pattern has adorned many a dress, shoe, tie, blazer, hat, and glove.

From Forever 21 to Haute Couture Dior, the houndstooth pattern leans on an upper-crust, clean and sophisticated vibe. But why is that and how did it come to be?

Let’s take a quick dive:

Mirriam-Webster doesn’t record the first use of the term “houndstooth” until 1936. It was in this decade of the turbulent thirties that houndstooth became a symbol of wealth by the upper class when then Prince of Wales, Edward the VII, Duke of Windsor, chose the check for his everyday wear.

There are many variations of this iconic pattern, but all are catered to wool- suitable for the stiffness, thickness and bold lines that wool produces.

Houndstooth would translate to “dog’s teeth” in our modern day, so it is also worth taking a look at its origin’s for namesake.

I mean….. If I back up and squint………

If the pattern does not seem particularly “loud” or belonging to a specific clan or culture, there is an explanation for that:

In the 1920s, Scottish clans commandeered the notably original check from the sheepherders to claim for their tartan designs. And while Scottish clans are notoriously hostile about outsiders wearing the patterns of their tartans, houndstooth is the neutral Switzerland of the tartan world. The check pattern was never officially registered by any one clan, as is the tradition when a clan chooses a tartan to represent them.

In the 1950’s French designer Christian Dior used the pattern for a lot of his signature creations- these creations then went on to become popular internationally, and the houndstooth pattern took on an identity of its own.

So there you have it- a pattern that was originally made for poor sheep herders was adopted by royalty and transformed into a status symbol that we know today.

Testament to the power of celebrity and identity politics.

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