Hounds have to be my favourite dog breed hands down. Their droopy ears? *collapses with mush* So obviously, when my fashion professors started to lecture our class about houndstooth (the fabric), it took me some minutes to make sense of what was happening. So today, let’s teach you a thing or two about fashion as well. As per Wikipedia, houndstooth is a duotone textile pattern (clearly not a dog breed) and is characterised by broken checks or abstract four-pointed shapes, traditionally in black and white and similar contrasting patterns.
It was originally woven from white sheep wool for the lighter checks and darker wool for the contrast black checks, usually from a black sheep or a naturally coloured wool weaving. The alternating bands of four dark and four light threads in the warp and weft are what give the weave its name. The pattern was also referred to as the ‘shepherd’s check,’ and ‘puppytooth’ because of the ambiguous four-pointed design. Interesting, isn’t it?
It was initially discovered on a piece of cloth found in a Swedish peat bog in 1920 and dates from between 360 and 100 BC, making it one of the oldest patterns ever discovered by humans. The Gerum Cloak’s weave, which used two different colours of wool to produce a pattern, was actually an identical replica of the houndstooth weave. It was woven by shepherds in the Scottish Lowlands in more recent times but was mostly unknown until the 1930s, when Edward VII, the then Prince of Wales, commandeered the royal tailors to make beautiful garments from the material for his casual wear. Its popularity increased year after year after this point and the rest is history.
In Today’s Fashion
Sported by big design houses, with Chanel being the flag bearer, the houndstooth weave enjoys a celebrity status owing to its opulent and luxe connotation, strengthened by designers’ proclivity to pair it with tweed.
Chanel Fall 2019 Ready-to-Wear
In a top-to-toe achromatic and layered number for Chanel, Cara Delevigne was lensed strutting the runway in an elaborate houndstooth ensemble for the French maison.
Versace Fall Winter 2022
Versace put a punk spin to the mundane by injecting pink into the game alongside red repeats over the usual serving of black. The latex burgundy tights? We’re in love!
Dior Houndstooth Tote
You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. A staple amongst the tote lovers in the fashion community, the infamous Dior houndstooth tote is a widely favoured accessory across the world and its appeal refuses to die down.
In Popular Culture
PS: This one’s a print, not a weave. Donned by preppy icon Blair Waldorf, this iconic Gossip Girl moment lent a contemporary edge to the pattern by repurposing it as a graphic print.
The British royals are obsessed, I repeat obsessed with houndstooth. Worn often during public engagements and charity outings, Kate Middleton is known to frequent the contrasting pattern, in all its indigenous royal glory.
With ELLECyclopedia, we aim to demystify terms from the world of fashion, beauty and pop culture. If such deep dives pique your interest, stay tuned as we’re exploring the origins of many such interesting words. In the meantime, you can also read about the ‘seersucker’. Ever heard of it in a fashion context? Tap here to read all about it.