Monday, March 28, 2011

Herringbone? Houndstooth? Huh?

As most of the Northern Hemisphere is in the process of transforming into spring (according to Punxsutawney Phil, anyway, liar that he is), here in good ol' California it's like we're back in the bowels of January again. So what better topic than to discuss the warm and woolly tweed prints of houndstooth and herringbone (and their kin).

What these textiles have in common is that they consist of at least two colors, or two shades of the same color. This variation adds a nice depth to them, which offsets the heaviness of the fabric. As prints, they can be on any kind of fabric, really, but traditionally these are wood textiles.

This is probably the most common of the prints mentioned today because it is the most subtle (or can be, at least). Herringbone is a vertical print where the columns are alternating diagonals (up, down, up, down), forming little Vs and upside-down Vs. Herringbone can range from super-thin lines (these are the ones that are more subtle) to super-thick (louder and more fun). Usually this is just a two-color pattern, although sometimes it can be a single tone (still has the texture).

Houndtooth is a very distinctive pattern that reads more diagonally. Most often a duotone, houndstooth looks like a checkered pattern in which every other block is a diagonal mix of both colors (it also often reads as abstract angular shapes). Much like herringbone, it is most subtle when it is small.

Glen Plaid
Glen plaid is another subtle textile that gets its name from plaid prints, but really is rather different. It is lumped along with houndstooth and herringbone because of its construction--what appear to be lines in a regular plaid pattern are actually broken. Glen plaid is often made up of more than two colors on a more neutral base.

How to tell them apart
  • Herringbone print looks like columns of fishtail braids next to each other (get it? fish? herring?).
  • Houndstooth is a little jagged, like teeth.
  • Glen Plaid has varying areas of tight print and loose print in squarish forms. Glens are narrow valleys, and the alternating tight and loose can be read like a topographic map (ok, this one is a stretch. I actually though glens were patches of trees, which would make more sense. Choose whichever method helps you best).

Which is your favorite tweedy textile? Is it one of the above or something else?


  1. I love educational posts! This one is great.

  2. Excellent post! Menswear fabrics are my weakness...I think I was an old, tweed wearing Irish man in another life...anyhoo...herringbone is probably my favorite. Although I have a soft spot for glen plaid as well. Who am I kidding...I love them all!

  3. I am all about hounds tooth all the way I did a post a long time ago about hounds tooth coats.
    My Heart Blogged

  4. Thanks for this posts b/c I DEF have been using these interchangeable and now I feel more educated on the topic. I really like posts like these! Thanks for your comment the other day, I totally laughed that your husband cuts off your blog reading. :) So thoughtful of him :)

  5. Great post! I love herringbone - especially on tights or other non-expected fabrics (I am jealous of yours - they're gorgeous!).

  6. I need these posts. As a blogger, I know next to nothing about actual fashion. Keep educating me!

  7. @ kristen - thanks!

    @ polka princess - me too! I can remember my favorite skort in junior high was a black, white, and hot pink houndstooth.

    @ alterations needed - me too! tweed is a weakness. You pull it off much better than I.

    @ my heart blogged - oh houndstooth coats are so pretty!

    @ hope - now you know! Yes, so thoughtful. ;)

    @ elizabeth - herringbone is definitely pretty. I didn't even realize how ubiquitous is was until I figured out what it was!

    @ linda - this is about all I know. I'll try to find out more for you, though. :)

  8. I am a fan of black and white houndstooth prints paired with a solid red as accent. That look is bold-professional.

    Oh, but a houndstooth suit...err.. eeks. That's too much houndstooth in one getup. So everything houndstooth except the suit. =P

  9. @ sunny - oo yikes! A houndstooth suit?! I think it would have to be something where the colors aren't too contrasting. Actually I think the houndstooth blazer I have in the top pic (center) has a matching skirt, but it's my mom's and she's tiny, so I didn't steal that one from her. It actually doesn't look too bad, though. :)

  10. I am wearing a Houndstooth skirt tomorrow! What a timely post.

  11. @ i try stuff on - nice! i would love to have a houndstooth skirt (maybe for next winter)

    @ shooting star - I think I am more a herringbone, but judging from these comments houndstooth seems to be the fave. :)

  12. I really like Houndstooth - it looks really good in the office and while incorporated into casual outfits. And there's something a little bit Parisian about it)

  13. @ triskelos - it does have a nice sophisticated look to it. Something about black and white really does look French. :)

  14. great post as usual!



Like this? Leave a comment!
Comments with emails attached will receive emailed replies; otherwise replies will be added below the original comment.