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  • Writer's pictureOlya Black


Today, I’m going to talk about a wardrobe staple, the checked shirt. These shirts came into our lives a few centuries back and have since stuck around.

Originally, checked (or plaid) shirts were only worn by jackaroos and farmers. Today we see; tradies, punks, grunge rock-musos, surfers and skateboarders all in checked shirts. And of course, their girlfriends.

Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Kylie Minogue and Ashley Olsen have all rocked the checked shirt look. It goes without saying that they are popular, but why? What does this simple and practical fashion item do?

First of all, it is about being comfortable, and a simple and natural look.

Secondly, like other fashion items borrowed from the boys; boyfriend jeans, asymmetrical leather jackets, and bomber jackets – it subtly but convincingly flatters women. The same principle is being used here with the old faithful checked shirt. When worn by a woman, the “male” article of clothing contrasts with the female softness, and enhances it.

If you want to play with having an even stronger contrast in your look – use an oversized shirt and roll up your sleeves.


Checked wool clothing such as scarves, ponchos, and coats are another hot discussion topic altogether. A topic I’m not going to touch on today though, however tempting. Check back soon.

So, now back to our humble shirt. On first glance, the checked (or plaid) print may come across as a little boring. However boring is the last thing it is: it just depends on how you wear it. If your top priority is sensible, comfortable clothing and you’re heading out hiking, then match the checked shirt with jeans, jump into a pair of sneakers or cowboy boots, and your outfit is ready to go!

Lifestyles and activities vary greatly, as do the range of checked shirts. This certainly doesn’t mean that each and every activity requires its own checked print. The beautiful simplicity of the matter is – all checked prints are all-purpose prints.

What an amazing array of choice there is; French Vichy, Indian madras, and the classic All-American red and black plaid. Learning mix-and-match techniques will help you put them together with ease. The sheer diversity of checked prints makes a range of looks possible.


Tartan, well known as being the British aristocracy’s favourite print, used to be the only exception from this “anything goes” rule, but not anymore. In the ‘70s, punks shamelessly and brazenly claimed it as their own. Today tartan’s crosshatched pattern reigns as style Queen of those with the devil-may-care attitude.

When can you wear your faithful checks? Well, it’s just so versatile; to work, on a date, while playing with the kids or hanging out with mates. While at the theatre, or even while going grocery shopping.

What kinds of styles work with wearing checks? We’re talking everything from preppy and romantic, to hipster, grunge and military chic, or a mash-up of style combinations.

Lastly, how do you wear your checks? Shirts, dresses, jackets, blazers and trenches all make clever choices for checks. The flexibility, subtlety and versatility of the checked print have made it an absolute, ever-lasting classic.

The checked shirt has inspired a range of other items; shirt-dresses, tops, lined jackets, bathrobes and neckpieces. It mustn’t be forgotten though; it was the shirt that started it all.

Have a look at my selection of inspiring shirts and new ideas of how you can best wear them.

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