What to wear with checked trousers

Checked trousers have always been a great way to finish off a smart-casual or formal outfit, but they’ve been increasing in popularity more generally over the last few years. If you’re considering adding check to your wardrobe or you have an event coming up, here are some useful pointers to help you select the right pair and the right accessories to pull a stylish, occasion-appropriate look together.

Older man in a waistcoat and checked jacket

Choosing the right pair

If you’re new to checked trousers, it’s best to start off with a subtle pattern. A small, detailed pattern will work well with many items in your wardrobe, and can be appropriate for a range of different occasions. Unless you’re feeling particularly confident, it’s probably a good idea to avoid loud patterns like windowpane check or stripes.   

Detailed and textured checked trousers can also look very luxurious, and much more expensive than they are. This can add some extra sophistication to your look, without requiring you to spend a fortune on a new suit.   

It’s also worth spending some time finding a pair of checked trousers that fit you really well. Big, baggy trousers aren’t always very flattering, whereas a structured, tailored look will give you a neat, smart silhouette. 

Types of check pattern

Check has been around for hundreds of years, so it has a great deal of heritage and many different variations. When shopping for a new pair of checked trousers, you’re likely to come across a few different types. Here are just a handful of the most popular:   

-       Houndstooth. This is one of the most common types of check and it can be the ideal choice for someone who’s just starting out with the pattern. It’s perfect for occasions where you want a classic yet interesting look, one that’s not too loud but has plenty of style.  Houndstooth is a simple graphic pattern which creates the illusion of texture and depth.   

-       Windowpane. This is a large check pattern, looking just like windows with divided panes. You’ll often find it in tailored clothing. It has been around for a long time, but is absolutely back in fashion - partly thanks to the success of style-focused TV shows such as Mad Men. If you want to see a range of checked trousers and suits in all kinds of patterns, take a look at this popular series.   

-       Tattersall. This check is a little more complicated, involving lines of two or more different yet complementary colours. You’ll see it in combinations such as blue and black, and orange and blue, and sometimes the lines have different thicknesses and solidity.   

-       Shepherd’s Check. This is an adaptation of a rural pattern that has found its way into the modern wardrobe. It’s like gingham (another popular check pattern) but it is slightly more complex with diagonal lines intersecting the squares.   

-       Gun Club Check. This Scottish-derived pattern, very popular in American sports coats, consists of four crossing lines in black, gold, green and rust. It’s a style classic, especially when paired with a crisp white shirt and tie.   

-       Prince of Wales. Often described as the ‘nonchalant’ check, this heritage pattern is named after King Edward VII (before he was king), who used to wear it as livery for his hunts. You’ll recognise it by its distinctive red-brown colours on a white background, with a slate grey overcheck on top. 

How to wear checked trousers

The golden rule for wearing checked trousers is to keep the rest of your outfit neutral and restrained. Even if you’ve gone for a very subtle check or muted colours, it’s still a good idea to keep everything else simple and let the trousers do the talking. If you’re feeling confident however or you like to create a unique look, feel free to experiment with prints and patterns. You never know, you may discover something fantastic that really works for you.   

For everyday looks, a micro check is a great choice. If you’re stuck for what colours to wear with your new trousers, start by taking a closer look at the pattern. Go for tonal variations on the colours in the check, without matching them exactly.   

Checked trousers can be used to create contrast in an outfit. For example, check with plain fabric. It’s all about balance, adding interest and style without overdoing it. 

What shoes to wear with checked trousers

To finish off your look properly, you need a great pair of formal shoes. If you’re wearing checked trousers or a suit to a wedding, you simply can’t go wrong with a pair of classic English brogues in black.   

Or, for a more relaxed look, you can try a pair of brown loafers or even classic white trainers - it might sound wrong, but it can really work. 

Checked trousers at weddings

If you’re looking for something different to wear for a summer wedding or other formal event, checked trousers could be ideal. By introducing pattern and texture, and perhaps tonal colour too, they add a focal point and a uniqueness to your outfit. If you’re bored of your suit - which perhaps has to double up for a number of different purposes, from work to weddings - it could be time for a change.  

For weddings, you can push the boat out with a full check suit, or opt for a ‘mixer suit’ - this is where you put together jackets and trousers that can also be worn separately. A navy or black jacket worn with a pair of grey checked trousers is a brilliant look for a wedding - it’s smart yet not trying too hard. For a sharp look, pair with a formal white shirt. The best thing about this wedding outfit is that you can wear the individual components separately for other occasions. This means you aren’t stuck with a full outfit that you only wear once or twice a year, or even less frequently.

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