A lot of men turn their noses up at the notion of prints and patterns, but chances are those same men wouldn’t think twice about donning a plaid shirt. This checked garment is probably the most accessible ‘statement’ piece there is, adding a splash of colour and character to outfits without ever overstepping into garish territory. No wonder it’s now firmly established as one of modern menswear’s shirting staples.
Plaid has its roots in Scotland. Essentially, it’s tartan, but where certain tartans belong to particular clans, plaid is just a pattern for pattern’s sake. It’s checked, consisting of multiple vertical and horizontal lines of varying colours, and can be woven into anything from flannel to oxford cloth.
There’s a degree of confusion about plaid and flannel. The terms are often used interchangeably but what you need to know is that flannel is the fabric and plaid is the pattern. Therefore, not all flannel shirts are plaid and not all plaid shirts are flannel. Of course, some are both.
Shopping for a new plaid shirt? Read on to find out more about one of our favourite casual garments, including how to wear it and which brands are doing it best.
Plaid Shirt Buying Considerations
Every man should have at least one plaid shirt hanging proudly in his wardrobe, that much is clear. However, before you dash off and start trawling the web, there are a few things to consider in order to ensure you end up with the perfect one.
Fabric plays a huge role in how your plaid shirt will look, feel and how suitable it will be for different times of the year. Think about when you’ll be wearing it and what sort of garments you want to pair it with before making your decision.
Heavy fabrics like flannel and wool are best suited to the colder months as they’re thick and provide good insulation, whereas something lighter, like poplin or oxford cloth, will work better in the summer.
Pattern & Colour
There are countless colour combinations when it comes to plaid. Options range from eye catching reds and blues to subtle greys and browns. When deciding what to go for, think about whether you want something bold that will give your outfits a nice pop of colour, or something a bit more understated that will blend in with a range of different looks.
Think smart or casual too. Brighter colours are most at home in informal settings, whereas opting for something a little darker will allow you to style your shirt with anything from tailoring to your weekend jeans and sneakers.
It doesn’t matter what your shirt is made from or what pattern is on it, if it doesn’t fit properly then it’s all meaningless. Again, think about how you intend to wear your shirt when assessing how you want it to fit.
If you’re planning to use it as an overshirt, you’ll want a slightly oversized fit. This way, you’ll be able to layer it over a T-shirt or even some knitwear or a hoodie without it restricting blood flow. Conversely, if you want to wear it with nothing underneath, aim for a classic casual fit, i.e. seams line up with the shoulders, hem falls a couple of inches below the beltline, and body is slim without feeling restrictive.
How To Wear A Plaid Shirt
The best thing about a plaid shirt is how easy it is to style. Even so, there are a few things to think about depending on whether you’re wearing it as part of a smart or casual look. A plaid shirt is one of those rare garments that can be worn either way, so here’s what you need to know.
Thinking of teaming a plaid shirt with tailoring? Good idea. It can be a great way to introduce pattern to your tailored looks and give your outfit a focal point. Get clever with your colours and you can use it to create contrast and even accentuate details like your tie or pocket square.
For smart looks, we’d suggest sticking to subtle colours like navy, grey or neutrals depending on the colour of your jacket and trousers. Try not to pair like with like. For example, if you’re wearing a navy suit, don’t pick a navy plaid shirt. Instead, go for something that offers a bit of contrast, like a light grey or even an off white. That said, you could pick a pattern that has bits of navy in it, as this will help to tie everything together.
It couldn’t be easier to style a plaid shirt as part of a casual look – that’s one of the reasons why it’s such a popular garment. Anything goes really. Just make sure the fit is spot on, steer clear of ugly colour combinations and you’re good to go.
If you’re in need of inspiration, try wearing a plaid shirt with cuffed regular-fit jeans, a plain white tee and a pair of suede chukka boots or sneakers for an everyday look that’s highly unlikely to date any time soon.
The Best Plaid Shirt Brands
It’s impossible to think of a menswear brand that hasn’t sold its own spin on the plaid shirt over the years, but some just have the knack for it. In our opinion, these are the best brands for plaid shirts in the world today, ranging from affordable to high-end.
London’s Percival creates timeless, versatile pieces with its own unique spin. One of its strongest areas is thick, winter-ready workshirts, and it just so happens to make them in some rather enticing plaid options.
These shirts are crafted from heavyweight wool-blend fabric, making them perfect for layering up in the cold weather. Team them with workwear classics like raw denim, sturdy leather boots and a cuffed beanie.
Wax London is a brand that’s been firmly on our radar for a good while now, mainly due to its stunning London-made overshirts. The label also has a great range of shirting, which includes some excellent plaid options in a variety of nice subtle shades. They feature a relaxed, boxy fit, making them ideal for layering and well suited to fluctuating temperatures.
Corridor is an emerging independent label that we’re big fans of here at Ape. It has already found its way onto the shelves of some of the most exclusive, trend-setting retailers in the world and just so happens to make some excellent plaid shirts.
There are some lovely off-kilter takes on this classic garment in the label’s shirting range, including heavily textured options like the Acid Plaid shirt, which would make a solid addition to any winter wardrobe.
Uniqlo has a well-deserved reputation for doing certain things particularly well, shirting being one of the most talked about. The retailer’s plaid flannels are some of the best in the game where value for money is concerned, offering a great fit, surprisingly pleasant hand feel and a price that really can’t be argued with.
Workwear, but make it premium. That’s what heritage Seattle-based brand Filson is all about. The American label has been doing its thing for well over a century now and still makes some of the best gear in the game, including heavyweight shirting that looks great and is built to take a battering.
Todd Snyder’s stylish take on menswear’s classics has made fashion more accessible to the everyday man. The brand’s premium essentials, stylish casualwear and slick tailoring have made it one of the most reliable names in menswear and a solid choice for your next plaid shirt.
If there’s one brand that’s famous for its own trademark take on plaid, it’s Burberry. The British brand’s iconic check has had its ups and downs over the years, but with Ricardo Tisci at the helm, Burberry really seems to have come into its own lately – it’s range of eye-catching plaid shirts is further evidence of that.
In a classic case of ‘does what it says on the tin’, Portuguese Flannel is a Portugal-born brand specialising in handcrafted shirting. The label offers various fits, colours and patterns, but all shirts are handcrafted in Portugal using traditional methods and that really shows in the quality of the garments.
For winter, we’d suggest taking a look at the heavyweight flannel collection, which has loads of good options for spicing up your layering game.
Plaid shirts are undeniably preppy, so it stands to reason that the king of collegiate cool Ralph Lauren would make some of the best. Polo Ralph Lauren’s plaid shirts come in flattering cuts and an assortment of colours and patterns, featuring classic details like button-down colours as well as iconic polo-player branding to the chest.
Plaid shirts were a staple of the grunge scene of the late 80s and early 90s, a movement from which Saint Laurent is well known for drawing inspiration. As such, the Parisian label makes some fantastic premium options for anyone looking for a plaid shirt with some real high-fashion clout.