Revenge of the Charming Brown Plaid!

The Prince of Wales check is back, chaps

Revenge of the Charming Brown Plaid – Feature

The POW “has not been forgotten,” says Craig Beecroft, co-owner of the Virginia-based men’s clothier Beecroft & Bull. No, he’s not musing about some cryptic military incident. He’s referring to the latest purr in the fashion world—the Prince of Wales check is back.

Not that it ever went away, really. After all, this pattern has been a wardrobe mainstay with traditional men and women since the Duke and Duchess of Windsor popularized it in the 1930s. Before Edward VII became King of England in 1901, he designed the Prince of Wales check as part of his shooting uniform at Abergeldie Castle on Scotland’s Deeside. The pattern’s official colors are brick red against a white background, paired with a gray overcheck. (Don’t mistake it for the Glen Urquhart check, whose repeat runs at about half the size.)

“Classic patterns are definitely back,” Beecroft says. “It’s nice to have something timeless in your closet.” Franco Ambrogi, of Franco’s Fine Clothier in Richmond, agrees. “We sell the Prince of Wales check all the time, because, basically, we sell suits all the time.”

But this charming brown plaid isn’t just about conservative attire. Young women now buy coats (Aquascutum), slacks and jackets with the Prince of Wales pattern, and it can also be found on various accessories—including keepsake pens, Adidas and Fred Perry sneakers and Newurban golf caps.

Maybee Cayton, owner of Bygones, a vintage clothing boutique in Richmond’s Carytown district, says she’s been selling all kinds of men’s plaids—and the bulk of her customers are fashion-aware 20-somethings. She cites the Steampunk trend (a loosely Victorian fashion genre), 1970s details (sequins, feathers, velvet), and the check designs featured in such recent movies as Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland as driving the return of what she calls “the little old man look.” Old, new, conservative or cutting edge: The POW is still getting its respect.

(Originally published in the June 2010 issue.)

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