When is a checked shirt not actually a checked shirt? If you answered Gingham, then what follows is not going to be much of surprise. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, then please read on.
We commonly identify Gingham as a contrasting-check shirt, but it doesn’t take much backtracking into the history of the pattern to realize that the description is not entirely accurate. Derived from the Malayan word genggang, gingham translates roughly to “striped.” And true gingham is a “dyed in the yarn” fabric, which means that the yarn is dyed before being woven. Furthermore, gingham has colored yarns, the warp and weft, that go in opposing directions. The result is a lightweight texture on both faces. It was a perfect for the humid and hot conditions in southeastern Asian countries where the technique originated. But somewhere along the way west, the fact that gingham meant “stripes” was lost in translation.
Almost 500 years old, the fabric first emerged in the western hemisphere sometime in the mid-18th century from both American and British textile mills. Gingham’s lightweight construction and bold colors translated particularly nicely as an option in the slightly less humid American South. And actually, during the course of it’s lifetime, the popularity of gingham has never waned since it was first introduced, a testament to its longevity and versatility. From Faulkner to Churchill, a wide range of people have embraced the iconic look.
And it is exactly this versatility that has made gingham such a classic. It is really difficult to find an occasion when gingham doesn’t work. It looks equally at home when paired with denim as it does under a suit jacket.
We’ve rounded up a few photographs that we came across of men wearing the fabric notably well. Dark denim with a gingham shirt and a pair of well-polished brogues, for example, is a timeless look. It’s a nice way to handle a casual Friday in the office and heading out to grab a drink. Or coordinate a navy gingham shirt with a navy blazer to achieve a more classic feel. Adding a solid knitted necktie is a smart way to add additional color and texture. Lastly for the style-advanced, treat gingham as a solid, and pair with a stripe necktie for some pattern on pattern effect. Just make sure to pull colors from other items in your outfit to lessen the visuals.