Houndstooth

Houndstooth – An Investigation as to its History, Popularity and Underlying Mathematics

 

 

 

Contents

Introduction

1. History

2. Popularity

3. Mathematics

4. Requests

5. References/Links


Introduction

Doubtless readers of this page will be familiar with what is known as the ‘Houndstooth’ tessellation, seen worldwide, as used on a multiplicity of garments and man-made objects. You name it and it’s there; coats, blazers, dresses and skirts and other outdoor wear, and also and indeed, on numerous other artefacts too; Chevrolet upholstered its Camaro, and novelties, such as pet dog bowls, to name but a few other instances. Indeed, it’s so popular that no other tessellation can come anywhere near it in terms of frequency of usage, and so hence the subtitle; any other tessellation used on garments and man-made objects pales in comparison. Typical of female fashion (although indeed wore by men), it seems to have had peaks and troughs, with intermittent returns, popular in the 1930s and again in the 1960s, 1970s, and indeed, of the present day, which has aroused my interest in this, having seen this frequently in my everyday life on the streets of Grimsby, UK, in 2010-2011 (or so as I recall). In the modern day, it’s most popular in tweed and wool fabrics, which is why it’s often used for heavier-weight garments like blazers, close-cut skirts and overcoats. Also, it was originally the preserve of menswear and not women. The page is an investigation into its history, popularity, and later, with it underlying mathematics. Arguably, each discussion would be better served by having its own page, but for now at least I will discuss on a single page.

Simply stated, there is so much material, especially from the 1970s onwards, that it is impractical to show ‘all’, even as a outline or concept. Indeed it is overwhelming! Therefore, this should be bone in mind when reading. Many other worthwhile instances are omitted arbitrary. My main interest is in the historical aspects, arbitrarily defined as the 1960s and earlier (the earlier the better). This at least permits a modicum of thoroughness, although even here, even for the 1960s, 1950s and 1940s even, there is still an abundance of material to survey. Again, this is not claimed to be all-exhaustive, but is at least more thorough nature than of the latter-day instances.

An open question is as to how and why this pattern has come to the fore – what explains its undoubted position as the world’s most popular, in terms of usage, tessellation, of which this essay attempts to answer, amongst other concerns. As such, there is no simple answer! In itself, the tessellation is nothing special in terms of its aesthetics, there are other ‘simple’ instances, such as the Cairo tiling, which is far superior. As such, it seems to have gained a foothold with the royal connection, from which it is used subsequently by default.

As such, although the investigation is indeed thorough, this is very much a work still in progress. The full story is still to be told. I return to the topic intermittently, with previous studies of 2012 and 2015, and late 2018-early 2019 which leaves the previous studies far behind in all aspects. The latest update, although building on this, is a notable advance in depth. Suggestions and corrections are welcome. In contrast to previous updates separated by many years, I intend to return to the study more frequently, as time permits.


 

History 1 - Select, Landmark Usage

This essay thus examines background details, its beginning, and subsequent developments. However, note that there is very little original research on my part here (at least so far); all documentation that follows is taken from books, articles, and websites, with facts, especially from the latter largely taken on trust, and personal correspondence.

Origins

The origins are decidedly obscure, and hazy, to say the least, with conflicting accounts! It seems almost de rigueur not to mention sources. First, one must be clear as to definitions; the term houndstooth is used so casually to describe a whole series of geometric black and white designs that almost anything goes! Further, as an aid in such matters, early (however so defined) pictures are lacking. Precision is needed, of which I will attempt to address here. In short, it would appear that the commonly accepted design began as weave (followed by, at an unclear date, the alternative straight-lined version, without the jaggedness of the weave). Technically, this is described as a 2/2 twill, two over/two under the warp, advancing one thread each pass, typically with black and white threads. Note that the weave is not shown as tessellation as such, but rather as a frieze.


Houndstooth Weave in Detail


As such, the design appears to arise ‘naturally’ as a result of the basic weaving process, and so is thus common (in contrast to other jagged geometric designs of a tessellation nature).



Basic Types of Weave


It is generally stated that houndstooth originated in Scotland (of which there are two clear distinctions, the lowlands and highlands) specifically in the lowlands (Southern and East Scotland, although I have also seen highlands mentioned, in the North), in the 1800s, it being originally worn as an outer garment of woven wool cloth by shepherds. However, this would appear to be referencing the related shepherd’s check design. Although close in nature, there are indeed subtle differences, of which for the sake of exactness should be preserved. That said, likely houndstooth evolved from the shepherd’s check. I now propose to separate the two. Now, as I show in my newspaper researches, houndstooth, as a strict term, was introduced, in the fabric context much later, of 1925 (of an Australian newspaper). Again, pictures are lacking. Whether these accounts are indeed of the now commonly accepted weave are unclear.

Confusion also arises to attribution, from supposedly authoritative sources, which are just plain wrong. For instance, the Merriam-Webster dictionary records the term houndstooth was first in use in 1936, which is just risible.

Also see the related page ‘definitions’, where for each houndstooth-related term (such as shepherd’s check, dogtooth, Prince of Wales Check, and many others, I show the distinctions.

Variations of Motif

Also, to add more fuel to the fire of uncertainty, the pattern has variations in the tessellation. Sometimes it is shown as a strict tessellation, whereas in other instances it has an ‘adjustment’, described as cursive, rather than as individual tiles. Also, the term is applied to other tessellations not strictly pertinent to the ‘standard model’! Indeed, at times any generic black and white tiling with jagged or steps to it is appended with ‘houndstooth’. Loe Feijs succinctly describes this as best regarded as not as single pattern, but rather a family, and of which has much merit.


Why Titled Houndstooth or Chicken's Foot?
An open question, to me at least, is quite why the pattern is titled as it is, namely houndstooth or chicken's foot, with obvious animal connotations. No one has seemingly looked at this in any detail, with the term used without consideration as to a canine or chicken source. To this end, I now thus examine both:
Houndstooth - I have looked at a picture of canine teeth, with the (French) illustration below seemingly ideal for such purposes, with a full dentition of canine teeth, along with the root. Further, it is an open question if there even is an allusion to the tooth root in the title; should this be included or not? No matter, I thus include the possibility. As can be seen, there are a variety of shapes here, simply described as jagged and curved. Which, if any of these, most resemble the standard houndstooth? Strictly, I struggle to identify any here, with or without the inclusion of the root. An (obvious) observation is that some are more jagged than others, which more closely resembles the standard houndstooth pattern. In general, the term more closely resembles the molars. Certainly, the canines and incisors can be ruled out. In particular, that of the precarnassières (premolars) perhaps bear the best resemblance, although the correlation is very far from exact.  From the picture, it would thus appear to include the root in the description, rather than the teeth showing above the gum. Overall, therefore, the association is likely with the jagged appearance of the (molar) tooth broadly resembling the jaggedness of the pattern, rather than a strict one-to-one correspondence. However, I am open to debate on this.

Dog Dentition


Chicken's Foot - Another name given to the design is that of ‘chicken’s foot’ (and variants on the theme), and of which I again struggle to see. However, there is another possibility, not of the foot itself, but of the footmarks made by the chicken. The Australian paper The Mail (Adelaide, SA) of Saturday 12 August 1933 states:

There are also blouses of plaid taffeta and of a new material called chicken's foot, in which the pattern somewhat resembles the footmarks made by a chicken in soft soil. At a little distance it looks like a checked fabric.
However, I still fail to see any clear, or indeed vague association here. The only vague resemblance, in my eyes at least, is of a jagged nature.

Indeed, one would perhaps think that the titles given (teeth and foot) would bear at least some resemblance, even if heavily stylised to each other, but I do not see this. Has anyone any thoughts on this?


Chicken Feet, left, Chicken Footprints, right

Quackgrass
And there is yet more vagaries! The plant Quackgrass, with the Latin name Cynodon dactylon, with a dog root to it (see below), is known as ‘dog’s tooth grass’, and yet despite the name bears the plant bears no obvious tooth resemblance but more properly appears to resemble a chicken’s foot! Now for the science bit… The genus name Cynodon was derived from the Greek kuon, dog, and odous, a tooth. The specific epithet dactylon is derived from the Greek daktulos, a finger, and refers to the inflorescence which is digitate (arranged like fingers on the hand). Eight species of Cynodon are found in southern Africa. The plot thickens...

Quackgrass

Nomenclature

A veritable minefield! The term ‘houndstooth’ and obvious variants such as ‘houndstooth check’ or ‘hound's tooth’, and synonyms dogstooth’, ‘dogtooth’ or ‘dog's tooth’, is not invariably used; it masquerades under a variety of other names, such as Crows Feet, Goose Feet, Shepherds Check, Four-in-Four Check, Guncheck, Glen Plaid, Vichy, and Pepita, all to greater or lesser degrees. And there is still yet more! The smaller version of this print is referred to as ‘puppy's tooth’. The ‘Four in Four check’ term arose as a result of its creation, with a twill weave created by alternating groups of four black and four white threads together. The old fabric makers created the stair-step appearance by forwarding one thread per column. Further, it is seen not just in the UK and USA, but rather worldwide, albeit to differing degrees. It is titled differently in foreign countries, with notably Pied-de-Poule (France) (which translates as ‘Chicken’s Foot’, Hahnentritt/Hahnentrittmuster (Germany), Hanenvoet and Hondetand (Dutch), Pato/Pata de Gallo (Spain), 千鳥格子 Chidorigōshi (Japan) and Pepitka (Poland). In short, the terms are handled inconsistently, partly synonymous, and sometimes used contradictory! Certainly, ‘houndstooth’ has become the de facto generic description. As a result of such vagaries, imprecision rules. This essay is an attempt, probably futile, to at least bring a modicum of order.


Houndstooth/Shepherd’s Check Confusion and Uncertainty

As alluded to above, despite being of a different, albeit related, nature, in the literature houndstooth and shepherd’s check is interwoven (excuse the pun!). Indeed, so much so that in a discussion on houndstooth it simply must run in parallel, or otherwise confusion would ensue. The situation is confusion personified! Simply stated, each is of a distinct entity, although this is typically not made clear, despite the different designs. Further, each term came into use at quite different periods nearly a century apart; Shepherd’s Check in the 1829 and Houndstooth 1925, and so would thus expect a clear distinction being made between them. But not so! Confusingly, houndstooth and shepherd’s check are terms that are often casually used interchangeably that without a clear definition one is often at a loss as to what the author is referring to. Not only that, but both terms have a variety of additional names to add yet more fuel to the fire of uncertainty. And don't you just know it, there is much uncertainty here too! Shepherd’s Check is also known as Border Tartan, Northumbrian Tartan, Falkirk Tartan, Shepherd's Plaid, Border Drab, or Border Check, albeit in every day use decidedly less so. Houndstooth is also commonly known as Dogtooth, Chicken’s Foot and Pied le Poule. And all with hyphens, word gaps and apostrophes too. And there is still yet more! The smaller version of this print is sometimes referred to as ‘Puppy's Tooth’. Yet other variations are found, with ‘Four-in-Four check’, ‘Guncheck’, ‘Glen Plaid’, Vichy, and ‘Pepita’. And then we have checks and tartans per se! And then by extension, given its black and white nature, by less discerning authorities, just about any black and white tiling is sometimes referred to houndstooth/shepherd’s check, call it what you will! It can hardly be less clear! Therefore, in the history discussion, I thus include shepherd’s check too, as without it the story is only partial, with much of its background otherwise omitted to its detriment.


Weave to Steps to Straight Lines

An open question is to exactly when the design made the leap from weaving to a printed instance, and furthermore, from the stepped nature to straight sides (the latter ignores the Hawaii instance above, being outside the context of its rise to popularity of the 1900s). As such, the earliest instance I have is of Christian Dior’s perfume flacon of the 1950s. However, this is still of the stepped type. As such, I have not yet found an ‘early’ picture of the straight side instance. Can anyone predate the Dior instance, or give a early instance (1900s) of the straight sides?

 

Colouring

The traditional houndstooth colours are black and white, but sometimes brown and white are used and, occasionally, other colours are substituted.

History

A rough, potted history, largely in chronological order by decades, and subject to much revision; the investigation is still, after many years, ongoing:

 

360 and 100 BC, Gerum Cloak

The oldest known occurrence of houndstooth is the so-called ‘Gerum Cloak’, a garment uncovered in a Swedish peat bog in 1920, named after the nearest town, and is dated to between 360 and 100 BC. The story is told over four pages (see links). Of course, the term houndstooth is applied here retrospectively. However, to my eye at least, the houndstooth pattern is not obvious, but as this has been analysed by fabric experts (in terms of the twill) it would indeed appear to be so.

http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/pressreleases/sveriges-aeldsta-klaedesplagg-en-2000-aar-gammal-pepitarutig-mantel-97263


Third Century AD

Spin-patterned wool till from Donbaek, north Jutland, Denmark. From a reference in Chung. However, the houndstooth nature is not readily visible.


5AD Thorsberg Cloak

A perhaps somewhat less than certain connection to houndstooth is that of what is titled the Thorsberg Cloak from 5CE, from Germany, and was discovered in a peat bog in the 1860s. This is described as of a check pattern. Reading up on this, there seem to be many other checked fabric findings of this period, and later years too. Likely this is just one of the relatively many checks of the time, not necessarily a shepherd's check, but I’ll include for the sake of thoroughness. I must admit, it’s all very convoluted and requires far more time to unravel than I am prepared to devote to the task. A good site for such historic check matters is:

http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/blog-my-journey/viking-textiles-a-deeper-look-at-plaids-stripes-and-checks


Thorsberg Cloak


C. 16th Century tea jar, after Sen no Rikyu

A purported houndstooth design is of a famous 16th century tea jar from Japan, the rikyu-kando (houndstooth), said to have been named after the famous tea master, Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), the tea master that perfected the austere tea practice known as wabi-cha that continues to this day. The Japanese tea ceremony is also called the Way of Tea, is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha (抹茶), powdered green tea. The jar is registered to National Treasure, important cultural assets at Nezu museum in Tokyo. However, the image I have from the museum in not entirely satisfactory, in that a houndstooth design is. for me at least, this is not definitive. Indeed, far from it. However, this sighting was brought to my attention by Yoshiaki Araki, who found it catalogued as such, as well as another reference below I have found which seemingly confirms a houndstooth nature. As such, with reservation, I will thus take this at face value as a houndstooth design.

References:

https://www.entoten.com/product/rikyus-houndstooth-%E5%90%8D%E7%89%A9%E5%88%A9%E4%BC%91%E9%96%93%E9%81%93kitamura-tokusai/

http://www.nezu-muse.or.jp/en/collection/detail.php?id=40091


1800s?

It is often said, with generally no attribution, that houndstooth checks may have appeared in the Scottish lowlands of the 1800s: First created in the 1800s in the Scottish lowlands (not sourced)

Wikipedia gives the following quote and source, albeit not dated (not seen): … houndstooth checks may have originated in woven wool cloth of the Scottish Lowlands, but are now used in many other materials. Dunbar, John Telfer. The Costume of Scotland, London: Batsford, 1984.

This is apparently the only definitive reference, or would appear to be so. In general, similar designs, such as shepherd’s check, may instead being referred to.

Jonny Beardsall is more exact as to the place, although his quote is not sourced:

http://www.jonnybeardsall.com/?product=swinsty-cap

Houndstooth originated in the wool cloth of the Scottish lowlands and this was woven in Hawick in the Borders.

Beardsall is a hat designer, from England, and so it is doubtful if this is his own research.

It is said, although the source is unclear:

In the 1920s, Scottish clans commandeered the notably original check from the sheepherders [sic] to claim for their tartan designs. And while Scottish clans are notoriously hostile about outsiders wearing the patterns of their tartans, houndstooth is the neutral Switzerland of the tartan world. The check pattern was never officially registered by any one clan, as is the tradition when a clan chooses a tartan to represent them.

The whole situation is infuriatingly vague in the extreme. Frequently, the above Wikipedia quote is given by others without the all important proviso word ‘may’, as if its appearance is for certain. Does anyone know more on all this in general? As alluded to elsewhere, without exact pictures, with so many variations, this is not exactly ideal.

For what is worth, below I show a painting by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer 1802–1873 , ‘A Highland Shepherd’ (not dated), which is sometimes associated with houndstooth claims of this period. It is said that Landseer first visited the Scottish Highlands in 1824, returning many times. However, it is clearly not houndstooth.


A Highland Shepherd by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer


1812, Shepherd’s Plaid (Shepherd's Check)

Caledonian Mercury Monday 30 March 1812 Ad and notice p. 3 (*shepherd’s plaid)
The first reference to Shepherd's Plaid in print.


c. 1813 Shepherd’s Plaid, from Heriot-Watt University Textile Collection

A 200-year-old shepherd's plaid from the Heriot-Watt University Textile Collection, Edinburgh, Scotland. Of note (and indeed initial concern!) is the near new-like condition, but this is misleading; it is indeed 200-years-old! These shawls were originally worn by shepherds in the Scottish Borders, and the traditional black and white check design was the original inspiration for tweed.

Shepherd's Plaid from the Heriot-Watt University Textile Collection


1829, Shepherd’s Check

Northern Whig Saturday 23 September 1837 p. 3 Article (*shepherds’ check)

The first reference to Shepherd's Check in print.


1834, Charles Dickens in The Boarding House

He wore shepherd's-plaid inexpressibles, and used to look under all the ladies' bonnets as he walked along the streets. His manners and appearance reminded one of Orson.

‘Inexpressibles’ here is an archaic term for trousers, of which in Dickens’ time were not talked about in polite company! More exactly, these were very tight, usually knitted of silk, trousers - almost like today’s women’s leggings, designed to show off a gentleman’s muscular legs to best advantage.


1835, Shepherd’s Tartan

Inverness Courier Wednesday 29 April 1835 Article p. 3 (*shepherd tartan)
The first reference to Shepherd's Tartan in print.


1839, Border Tartan (Shepherd's Check)

Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware's Whitehaven Advertiser Tuesday 7 May 1839 Article p. 3

The first reference to Border Tartan in print.

Terminology here is confusing.


1851, Border Check (Shepherds Check)

Illustrated London News Saturday 11 October 1851 Article p. 22
The first reference to Border Check in print.


C. 1861-1865 Carte de Visite

A most interesting historical instance of houndstooth is shown on a carte de visite, dated from the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), albeit the reference is not sourced, and is simply titled on Linda Powell’s Pinterest page (not on the photo itself, which seemingly bears no inscription) ‘Civil war era houndstooth’. The carte de visite, a French term, is a visiting card, abbreviated CdV, and was a type of small photograph which spread throughout Europe and then quickly to America and the rest of the world. Of course, at the time it was not known as houndstooth (it only becoming so titled in 1925). Does anyone know more as to the background? Were such suits a rarity or relatively common? It is likely the former, as this is the only known instance. Or indeed any other informed comment.

Speculating, possibly the photo was taken in Baltimore. Another photo, seemingly showing the same man, but with a moustache and wearing other clothes is described:

‘A Civil War era portait (sic) of a man wearing riding boots and holding a broad brimmed hat, taken by Fischer & Bro. of Baltimore, Maryland. He is, unfortunately, unidentified, but his boots have some distinctive markings, the most visible of which are two five pointed stars (at left) - I'm not sure what, if anything, it is that these may signify.’

The image is one of many such pictures from the genre. It is most unlikely that the picture originates with her (and furthermore it appears elsewhere on the web, and so she may, in turn, have borrowed it), but has been taken from some specialised CdV page. Upon contacting her from more details, she did not respond.


'Civil War Era'


1864, Prince of Wales Check

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.) Monday 11 January 1864 p. 2 Advert

The first reference to Prince of Wales Check in print.


1868, Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, p. 15.

Plaited Straw from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). Note that the diagram is not indicative of a plaited straw, being of a line diagram drawing. Does anyone know more on this? Is there an actual photo of a plaited straw instance? I have not been able to find one, of the period, or subsequently. As an aside, curious about how the islands acquired the somewhat odd name, I see that Wikipedia gives ‘John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich. He lived from 1718 to 1792 and was First Lord of the Admiralty. Captain James Cook discovered a group of islands in the Pacific and named them after him. The Sandwich Islands belong to Hawaii today’.

Note that Lockwood and Macmillan almost certainly also briefly (two lines) refer to this instance although their illustration, in stark black and white ink, they give does not correspond to that of Jones, being proportionally different, although interesting in its own right, not seen before.


Plaited Straw


1869, Glen Urquhart Check

London Echo Monday, April 5, 1869.

The first reference to Glen Urquhart Check in print.


C. 1880s, Victorian Brown Mohair Houndstooth Wool Winter Sport Ice Skating Coat and Cape

A most interesting, one-off finding is of what is described as a 1880s houndstooth ice skating coat and cape. However, matters of provenance here are taken at face value, from the description alone, on eBay, although this would appear indeed to be so from the nature of the seller, of vintage era clothing. Further, I am not entirely convinced that this is indeed houndstooth. As detailed above, the term houndstooth is applied most liberally at times! Whatever, were such checked coats and capes popular of the day?


Three views of coat and cape, left, and cape detail, right

References:

http://vi.vipr.ebaydesc.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItemDescV4&item=311703195283&t=0&tid=10&category=175783&seller=1860-1960&excSoj=1&excTrk=1&lsite=0&ittenable=false&domain=ebay.com&descgauge=1&cspheader=1&oneClk=1&secureDesc=0


1884, Gun Club Check

Western Daily Press Wednesday 17 December 1884 p. 3

The first reference to Gun Club Check in print.


1893, Chicken’s Foot

Western Mail (Perth, WA) Saturday 5 August 1893 p. 49 Article

The first reference to chicken's foot in print.


1894, Pied de Poule

Le Journal 16 June 1894

The first reference to Pied de Poule in print.


1907, Dog Tooth

Examiner (Launceston, Tas.) Saturday 29 June 1907 p. 9 Advert

The first reference to dogtooth in print.


1920s

Said to be when Scottish clans began to use. Source?


1925, Houndstooth

The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.) Saturday 9 May 1925 p. 16 Article (*hound’s tooth)

The first reference to houndstooth in print, in an Australian newspaper, albeit of an English story...


1926, Inuk Man in a Houndstooth Parka (January 2019)

Details of this sighting, from the Canada Library and Archives, as most sparse indeed, with written in white pencil below the photograph, ‘Native type’ and is simply captioned ‘Inuk man in a houndstooth parka. July, 1926’. Other detail given is that the photo was taken at Chesterfield Inlet (Igluligaarjuk), Nunavut. Still, at least we have a definitive date and place.

With such a lack of detail, and being unaware if the term parka was both appropriate and correctly attributed/dated, I investigated further. From Wikipedia:

A parka or anorak is a type of coat with a hood, often lined with fur or faux fur. The Caribou Inuit invented this kind of garment, originally made from caribou or seal skin, for hunting and kayaking in the frigid Arctic. Some Inuit anoraks require regular coating with fish oil to retain their water resistance.
The words anorak and parka have been used interchangeably, but they are somewhat different garments. Strictly speaking, an anorak is a waterproof, hooded, pull-over jacket without a front opening, and sometimes drawstrings at the waist and cuffs, and a parka is a hip-length cold-weather coat, typically stuffed with down or very warm synthetic fiber, and with a fur-lined hood.

The word anorak comes from the Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) word annoraaq. It did not appear in English until 1924; an early definition is "a beaded item worn by Greenland women or brides in the 1930s". In the early 1950s it was made from nylon, but changed to poplin by 1959, when it was featured in Vogue magazine as a fashion item. In 1984, The Observer used the term to refer to the type of people who wore it and subsequently, in the United Kingdom, it is sometimes used as a mildly derogatory term.
The word parka is derived from the Nenets language. In the Aleutian Islands the word simply means "animal skin".  It first entered the English written record in a 1625 work by Samuel Purchas.
Not unnaturally, I am a layman in terms of Inuk and parkas. From what I can make out, this is the only patterned instance of the genre. Does anyone know more as to the background? Were such houndstooth parkas a rarity or relatively common? It is likely the former, as this is the only known instance. Or indeed any other informed comment.

Credit: L.T. Burwash / Dept. of Indian and Northern Affairs collection / Library and Archives Canada / e006609539

 

1929 Coco Chanel

Gabrielle Bonheur ‘Coco’ Chanel (1883 – 1971) was a top French fashion designer and a business woman. She was the founder and namesake of the Chanel brand. Chanel was credited in the post-World War I era with liberating women from the constraints of the 'corseted silhouette' and popularizing a sporty, casual chic as the feminine standard of style. Houndstooth is said to be a favourite of Chanel, although the quote is not sourced. At an uncertain date, Chanel produced houndstooth suits.

Chanel, pictured, in a houndstooth jacket, in Vogue, at Fauborg, St Honore, Paris. Photo by Alex Stewart ‘Sasha’ 1929.

https://pleasurephotoroom.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/gabrielle-chanel-coco-1929-photo-by-photo-alex-stewart-sasha/


Coco Chanel


1932, Northumberland Tartan (Shepherd's Check)

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer Friday 6 April 1923 Article p. 7

The first reference to Northumberland Tartan in print.


1933, De Pinna, Men’s Shop

In an seemingly early reference to houndstooth, De Pinna, primarily a men’s shop located on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, US included houndstooth checks along with gun club checks and Scotch plaids as part of its 1933 spring men's suits collection. However, as detailed elsewhere, I have concerns about the date from The New Yorker references from Google Books, and so this is thus with reservation. Further,  I have not seen this article. Nor have I seen any picture. Does anyone have further details?

Some background details on De Pinna: Founded in 1885, De Pinna also sold menswear-inspired clothing for women that was finely tailored. In the early 1950s De Pinna was bought by the Washington, DC store Julius Garfinckle & Co. The stores closed in 1969.

Clipping from The New Yorker, 1933?


1933, Swagger Suits and Coats

In Australia, ‘swagger’ suits and coats with the chicken's foot design became all the rage, especially seen at the races, before then quickly disappearing into obscurity by the end of the decade. The term was also known in the US.


1934, Vogue

Of interest is an article titled ‘H.R.H started it’ in the well-known fashion magazine Vogue, January 15, 1934, pp. 16-17, and 72, although nowhere in the article is houndstooth mentioned! Rather, this concerns the H.R.H. Prince of Wales sporting and hence made popular the houndstooth-related Gun Club Check and Glen Urquhart Check. However, the entire article is not the easiest to analyse! As such, it is not widely available, that is not unless you want to spend an amazing $1575 accessing the Vogue archive! However, it is partly reproduced in Priscilla Chung’s informative (all round) piece (the article seemingly continues on p. 72, but this is not shown) :

https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/3800979/houndstooth-imprint-nyc

See pp. 10-11.

However, even this has drawbacks, in that one has to use the enlargement facility to readily read the text and view the images and then scroll, which in itself has inconveniences. Be all as it may, at least the main gist of the story is presumed apparent. Broadly, it's a piece on the Duke of Windsor, and his fashion design favouring. Of note is that Glen Urquhart check and Gun Club check are stated in the accompanying picture captions (although not in the text itself):

‘H.R.H makes Gun-Club Checks (illegible)’

‘Glen Urquhart Plaid (illegible. Dunhill?)’

Note that both terms are not in any sense ‘new’. Gun club check came into being in 1874, and Glen Urquhart in 1869, so both were already established.  Accompanying the article are numerous images. As such, this is one of the more informative and interesting articles. In general, such discussions are perhaps, surprisingly, few and far between. Certainly, this must the one, if not the, first such substantial treatments in relative terms, even of just three pages. As an aside on this, does anyone know of other earlier such pieces?

'H.R.H Started It', Vogue Article


1937/39, Christian Dior, Café Anglais design (a houndstooth wool dress)

For once, with a plethora of print sources, the famed fashion designer Christian Dior’s references can confidently be asserted as more accurate than most here. Simply stated, there are two distinct dates of significance concerning Dior and houndstooth, of 1937/39 (of a houndstooth wool dress) and 1950 (where houndstooth was used on the Miss Dior perfume flacon).  For the sake of clarity, I thus discuss under separate entries.

Christian Dior (1905 –1957) was a French fashion designer, best known as the founder of one of the world's top fashion houses. Before becoming world famous, Dior was employed by couturier Robert Piguet as a ‘modeliste’ along with Pierre Balmain. His ‘Café Anglais’ design (a houndstooth wool dress with a tight-fitting top and full skirt) catches the attention of the fashion press including Carmel Snow, editor of Harper’s Bazaar in the US. However, I have not been able to find a picture of the dress. Does anyone know of one?

As an aside, Christian Dior’s first visit to London, in 1927, set the tone for his lifelong love affair with Britain. Ostensibly in the capital to improve his English, the then 21-year-old Dior really took that trip in to catch the first night of a ballet, designed and composed by two of his bohemian friends. More importantly, he fell for England in a big way, forever enjoying ‘the same sensations of happiness and personal liberty I experienced on that first trip. I adore the English, dressed not only in the tweeds, but also…’.  Likely from this visit he saw houndstooth somewhere as clothing, and finding favour with it later used this extensively throughout his life.

Further to this initial reference, also see extensive entries for 1950, of Dior’s Miss Dior perfume, and 1959, a Roger Vivier shoe.


1939, Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles

A notable use of houndstooth in popular culture was in film by Basil Rathbone (1892-1967) in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional Sherlock Holmes stories, released between 1939 and 1946, the first being The Hound of the Baskervilles, in which he wore a houndstooth deerstalker cap (and a related glen Urquhart cape?) Rathbone wore the deerstalker in his first two films, which were by Fox and set in the Victorian Era. Universal made the rest of the series, made them contemporary and dropped the deerstalker.
The deerstalker’s main features are a pair of semicircular bills or visors worn in front and rear. These are usually stiffened with pasteboard, as well as having unstiffened cloth earflaps attached to either side of the cap.

Because of the cap's popular association with Sherlock Holmes, it has become stereotypical headgear for a detective, especially in comical drawings or cartoons along with farcical plays and films. However, there is a most interesting back story to all this; Holmes is never actually described as wearing a deerstalker by name in Arthur Conan Doyle's stories! However, most notably in ‘The Adventure of Silver Blaze’, the narrator, Doctor Watson, describes him as wearing ‘his ear-flapped travelling cap’, and in ‘The Boscombe Valley Mystery’, as wearing a ‘close-fitting cloth cap’. As the deerstalker is the most typical cap of the period matching both descriptions, it is not surprising that the original illustrations for the stories by Sidney Paget in Great Britain, and Frederic Dorr Steele in the United States, along with other illustrators of the period, depicted Holmes as a ‘deerstalker man’, which then became the popular perception of him. In fact, Paget last drew the deerstalker in 1903. Holmes would not wear such a cap in the pages of The Strand for eighteen years, when Frank Wiles drew three such pictures for the final story, 'Shoscombe Old Place'. But ask what hat Sherlock Holmes should wear, and the answer is ‘a deerstalker’. We owe that to Sidney Paget. Steele based his concept of Holmes mainly on photographs of the actor William Gillette, who had become hugely popular as a portrayer of Holmes during the first third of the 20th century. Gillette had worn a deerstalker in his stage play which first ran in 1899. It was left to Steele's influential drawings to popularise Holmes as wearing a deerstalker so that the cap became synonymous with the detective.


Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes with a deerstalker cap

References and web pages of interest:

http://www.sherlockian-sherlock.com/sherlock-holmes-deerstalker-hat.php

https://decider.com/2015/09/06/the-essential-sherlock-holmes-on-streaming/

https://www.blackgate.com/2015/06/01/the-public-life-of-sherlock-holmes-magnifying-glass-pipe-and-deerstalker/


1940s, Dorothy Draper
Dorothy Draper (1889-1969), of the USA, has been called the original Martha Stewart. Not only did she start the first interior design company in the United States, but she was also a celebrity in her own right - her name was synonymous with all things interior design in the 1940s and 1950s.

Here, although credited as a houndstooth, this is a variety type.


Dorothy Draper


1949–1950+?, Porsche 356 Car
As such, there are various complications surrounding the use of houndstooth in the famed Porsche cars. Porsche are a German automobile manufacturer specializing in high-performance sports cars, SUVs and sedans since 1948. Specifically here, this is of car seat inserts and upholstery, of which, due to such complexities, at least of this (February 2019) sitting, I am not prepared to unravel. First, there is the problem of nomenclature. Being of a German brand, the favoured German term ‘pepita’ is typically used rather than houndstooth. And then people's interpretation of what is pepita and houndstooth varies. In short, a veritable minefield (which is par for the course by now…). Second, there are very many models, throughout the years, with various series numbers, and then with lettered appendages, so much so that I lack the desire to fully investigate. Related to this is that such car intricacies are not my thing…. Consequently, what follows should be borne with all this in mind, although naturally, I am indeed my natural thorough self, but not to the point of an all-exhaustive study. Pleasingly, for research purposes, there is also a Porsche archive, albeit it is not available online, of which on occasion relevant images can be seen arising from this.

https://www.porsche.com/museum/en/archiv/

On occasion, Porsche enthusiasts have indeed written on this, and in some detail too, using images from the archive, of which the following is based. That said, some are hopelessly confused as to the correct terminology….

Jeff Peek, of the US, writing on the forum of the Hagerty.com site, ‘for people who love cars’ wrote an extensive (seemingly original) piece, and gives an excellent history. However, matters are confused as to what he considers pepita/houndstooth to be, with other alternative terms used. Here, he uses, and illustrates, the term ‘Vichy’, which is simply wrong. Then another alternative offered is ‘Shepherd’s Check’. Possibly some of this confusion arises from a quote taken by the Recaro automotive seat company, but if so I cannot find it on their website…. It’s simply impractical to unravel all this muddle. Be all as it may, the following quote is interesting:

Although many assume that Porsche first used Houndstooth on the seats of the 1949–50 Porsche 356, that upholstery pattern was, in fact, another design entirely. “In colloquial English, the word ‘Houndstooth’ might be used regularly when ‘Pepita’ would actually be the right description of the pattern,” says Ulrich Andree, Director Global Communications at Adient Communications, which includes Recaro. “The actual Houndstooth pattern was never used in an official Porsche seat or a Recaro seat made for Porsche.” According to Recaro, when Reutter (Stuttgarter Karosseriewerk Reutter) started production of the Porsche 356 seats, it offered a number of optional seat covers, including one that carried a black-and-white pattern. The design was neither Houndstooth nor Pepita but a unique cloth design, and the fabric was made of nylon. Recaro, founded in 1963 by the Reutter family, first produced Pepita pattern for customers in December of that same year. The first Porsches to use the Pepita design were late 356C models. They were followed by the Porsche 901/911 and Porsche 912.

This at least gives the earliest usage, namely that of 1949 (one year after the founding), of the generally accepted design of pepita/houndstooth, call it what you will. https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/06/22/porsche-houndstooth-seats-exposed

There is also a most interesting posting on ‘Rennlist’, described as ‘The Porsche Enthusiast Site’, from the Porsche ‘000 magazine no. 1’ as regards pepita:

https://rennlist.com/forums/991-gt3-gt3rs-and-911r/1046814-houndstooth-pepita-factoid-2.html

The magazine background, from their website:

“This is the magazine I’ve always wanted to build,” says Editor Pete Stout, who teamed with fellow car fanatic/editor Alex Palevsky and designer Justin Page to create 000 Magazine, a quarterly journal focused on Porsche. Its unusual name—spoken as “Triple Zero”—is a reference to Porsche’s three-digit model type numerology. It’s also a promise to explore the marque from its origins forward, without skimping on pages or possibilities.

To muddy the waters even more (but are you surprised?) Lakewell.com (a Belgium concern), of classic car interiors, gives a much later (rightly or wrongly) history. Perhaps earlier instances were disregarded; who knows?

https://www.lakewell.com/en/general/fabrics/porsche-pepita-houndstooth-fabrics
The Porsche Pepita fabric was used in Porsche 911, 912, 914 and even the 356C interiors from 1963 through 1973. It was also known as “Hounds tooth” or “Pied de poule”. Be all as it may, this the first known recorded instance for car upholstery.

Make of all this muddle what you will….


000 Magazine, left, and sample from original swatch book, right

C. 1950s, Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Konrad Adenauer (1876 – 1967) who served as the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) from 1949 to 1963 very much made houndstooth a trademark of his (seemingly like Bear Bryant years later). Upon following a trend in post-war Germany in the early 1950s, where houndstooth became particularly popular on suits, hats, ties and costumes, Adenauer sported it himself on a hat mainly on Italy holidays on Lake Como, particularly when playing bocchia (boccia is a precision ball sport, similar to bocce, and related to bowls and pétanque).

Later, having in effect popularised it so, in 1961 a song by the Hazy Osterwald Sextett was dedicated to him and the hat, see below of 1961.


Konrad Adenauer with hat, left, playing bochia, right

1950, 'Patons 61', Knitwear Hat Design

Although details here are decidedly sketchy, with the context still not fully unravelled, this photo was published in an wool and yarn context, in Patons 61, Hats by Beehive of January 1950, with instructions as to how to knit:
https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/shepherd-check-breton

Note that another account gives this as the 1940s, but this appears to be in error. Investigating further, Patons (and Baldwins) was a leading British manufacturer of knitting yarn. The business began as two separate companies, in 1814 and the 1770s respectively. The two companies merged in 1920 and diversified into producing wool for home knitters, as well as publishing knitting patterns under the ‘Patons Rose’ and ‘Baldwins Beehive’ trademarks. The Patons trademark is still in use today, albeit closed in 1999.
Further, a Breton (or Bretonne) is a woman's hat with a round crown and a deep brim that is turned upwards all the way round, exposing the face. Sometimes the hat has a domed crown. Typically it is worn tilted to the back of the head.

Patons 61

1950, Christian Dior, Miss Dior Perfume

First, there are various misattributions as to the date of the Miss Dior perfumery instigation of houndstooth. I have seen entries for 1930s and 1947 in particular, when Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ took the world by storm. However, although the Miss Dior range was indeed introduced in 1947, this was not contemporary with the use of houndstooth, as it was not until 1950 that this appeared. As to the naming, Dior took advantage of the launch of his first collection to introduce the new fragrance. But until that time it had no name yet. That’s when the couturier’s sister Catherine Dior walked into the Dior Couture boutique, and, as she came down the stairs, Dior’s muse Mitzah Bricard exclaimed: ‘Here’s Miss Dior!’. Of a sudden, Christian Dior replied: ‘Miss Dior! That’s my perfume!’. He imagined Miss Dior as the very soul of his dresses. This iconic bottle, like any emblematic flacon, holds many key elements. Houndstooth, bow tie and ribbon, and the English typography: these are codes that have dressed Miss Dior perfume since its creation.

Pleasingly, some concept sketches have been preserved, in which the French term for houndstooth,  pied de poule, is used. As can be seen, houndstooth was used for both the flacon, as an engraving, and packaging. Subsequently, Dior then used houndstooth extensively in fashion products consistently throughout the years up to the present day.

Further to this reference, also see extensive entries for 1937/39, of a Dior Café Anglais dress design, and 1959, a Dior Roger Vivier shoe.


   
Miss Dior Perfume by Christian Dior, left, and Miss Dior Perfume concept sketch, right

1951, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

References are made to houndstooth in the famed book The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, of 1951.

At the beginning of Chapter 6, Holden says of Stradlater, who has just returned from his date with Jane Gallagher:
All he did was thank me for letting him wear my hound's-tooth.
Towards the end of Chapter 4, Holden calls the hound's-tooth by its full name.
He put on my hound's-tooth jacket.
A brief background: The Catcher in the Rye is a story by J. D. Salinger, partially published in serial form in 1945–1946 and as a novel in 1951. A classic novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation. It has been translated into almost all of the world's major language. Around 1 million copies are sold each year, with total sales of more than 65 million books.


1959, Roger Vivier, Stiletto Shoe for Christian Dior
Roger Henri Vivier (1903 - 1998) was a French fashion designer who specialized in shoes. His best-known creation was the stiletto heel. Vivier has been called the "Fragonard of the shoe" and his shoes "the Fabergé of Footwear" by numbers of critics. He designed extravagant, richly decorated shoes that he described as sculptures. He is credited with the design of the first stiletto heel in 1954. Stiletto heels, the very thin high heel, were certainly around in the late 19th century, as numerous fetish drawings attest, but Vivier is known for reviving and developing this opulent style by using a thin rod of steel. Vivier designed shoes for Christian Dior from 1953 to 1963, with in particular a houndstooth design in 1959.
Further to this reference, for more on Dior, also see extensive entries for 1937/39, of a Café Anglais dress design, and 1950, Miss Dior Perfume.


Roger Vivier Dior shoe, believed to be 1959

 

Late 1950s?, Pauline Trigère

Pauline Trigère (1908 – 2002) was a Franco-American couturière. Her award-winning styles reached their height of popularity in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. As an interesting aside, in 1961, she was the first major designer to ever send an African American model - Beverly Valdes - down the runway. Unafraid of antagonizing patrons, Trigère said: “[w]e only lost one customer, in Birmingham, Alabama. We didn’t miss her.”

Aside from her work in fashion, she was commissioned to design a special edition trim package for a car, now known as the “Houndstooth” Cougar; see the entry under 1970.


Pauline Trigère, left, jackets, middle, jacket, right label

C. 1960s, Silk Scarf by Elsa Schiaparelli
A houndstooth design lightweight silk scarf, measuring 26½” by 27½”, by the famed Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. It is difficult to date precisely, but probably dates to the 1960s or early 1970s; many other, non-houndstooth silk scarves by Schiaparelli are dated of this period. Further to the usage here, Schiaparelli seems to have favoured the design; this was also used on other occasions, beginning at least 1936-1937 of the Fall-Winter collection with a tweed jacket.
Background: Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) was an Italian fashion designer. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars. Whilst in Paris, Schiaparelli - ‘Schiap’ to her friends - began making her own clothes. Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli's designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau. Her clients included the heiress Daisy Fellowes and actress Mae West. Time magazine put her on their cover in 1934 because of the importance of her style on American fashion. Schiaparelli did not adapt to the changes in fashion following World War II and her couture house closed in 1954 but continued to design accessories, such as shoes, hats, handbags, jewelry, and scarves, this scarf being an example. She wrote her memoirs Shocking Life, published in 1954. She died in her sleep in 1973.

Elsa Schiaparelli silk scarf, left, Signature, right.


1960s?, Audrey Hepburn

Said to be a favourite of Audrey Hepburn, below, the famous actor, although the quote is not sourced.


Audrey Hepburn


1961, Hazy Osterwald Sextett

In 1961 the Hazy Osterwald Sextett released the song ‘Der Herr Mit Dem Pepita Hut’ (The Man in the Pepita Hat) in reference to the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s adopting of it on his vacation in Italy where he enjoyed playing boccia (see above). As can be seen, the cover reflects this, focusing on Adenauer’s pepita hat, along with his boccia playing.

The song can be heard at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2TFXNbZ7Jc

Some background on the Sextett:

Hazy Osterwald born Rolf Erich Osterwalder (1922 - 2012 ) was a Swiss *schlager singer and orchestra leader and met with great success in the genre. As a student, Hazy Osterwald discovered jazz in the 1930s. He played the piano, trumpet and vibes in Swiss bands. In 1949 he founded the ‘Hazy Osterwald Sextett’. At the height of his career in 1970, Osterwald had his own record publishing company and a number of nightclubs (Hazyland) in Switzerland, which he had to dispose of with the rise of discotheques. They became the official band at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich and the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck but also in numerous TV broadcasts. He toured until 1979 under the name Hazy Osterwald Jetset. Until 1984 he then took a break and then acted as ‘Hazy Osterwald and the Entertainers’ in the jazz genre.

* For those unaware of what a schlager music is (as I was upon finding this instance of an application to houndstooth/pepita), Schlager music is a style of popular music which is generally a catchy instrumental accompaniment to vocal pieces of pop music with simple, happy-go-lucky, and often sentimental lyrics. It is prevalent in Central and Northern Europe, and Southeast Europe (in particular Germany). In the United States, it is also known as 'entertainer music' or 'German hit mix'.


Record Cover


c. 1963, David Jones
The Australian upmarket clothing chain store David Jones (colloquially known as DJs), founded in 1838 (and is claimed to be the oldest continuously operating department store in the world still trading under its original name), first used a houndstooth pattern c. 1963 as part of its corporate logo (and has done so for subsequent years, to the present day) although the story behind its instigation is disputed. Following research by Helen O’Neill, in a book celebrating the 175th anniversary, she discovered that the origins of the pattern could stretch back to the 1950s, when David and Charles Jones, the two great-grandsons of the store’s eponymous founder, pondered a suitable paper to wrap up the retailer’s products. Charles would claim the brainwave struck one morning as he walked into his mother’s dressing room and spotted Christian Dior’s Miss Dior perfume. The packing of that scent bottle combined the Dior logo over a houndstooth pattern. Charles asked a designer to enlarge the graphics background, with the pattern making its store debut in around 1963.  (The earliest documented instance I have found is of 1965). However, there is a rival claim, by Geoffrey Lee, a photographer who spent many years snapping the retailer’s models has claimed he submitted a houndstooth design, in response to a request by DJs for new logo ideas. The jury is out…. Be all as it may, the branding — a black-on-white houndstooth pattern — is one of the most recognized corporate identities in Australia, and is widely used; every Australian is familiar with it (but not to non-natives; I must admit I’d never heard of the store before researching this!). A government-sponsored panel judged it in 2006 as one of Australia's top ten favourite trademarks. The origin of this motif is due to the store founder's intention not to use the name on its packaging; the store would be so well known that everyone should recognize it simply by this motif. Oddly, though, it is not mentioned on the company's ‘Story of David Jones page’! Further, the design is not just used as a logo but on a whole host of its in-store goods and has featured on everything from the bags to the garments draped over supermodels like Jessica Gomes and Megan Gale.

Outside Frontage
Label

1965, Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, US Football Coach

Paul William "Bear" Bryant (1913 – 1983) was an famed American college football player and head coach of the University of Alabama football team from 1958-1982 (colloquially referred to as the Crimson Tide, in relation to their team colour), which met with great success in his day. Subsequently, in c. 1965, he became well-known for sporting a houndstooth hat at games, hence this inclusion. After a distinguished career, in 1988, he was honored with a museum in his name, the Paul W. Bryant Museum. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, there is next to no discussion on the houndstooth hat there!

At some point, albeit exactly when is not entirely clear with conflicting stories, Bryant became associated with houndstooth in the form of a fedora hat. Further controversy is caused by if this indeed strictly houndstooth, or a variant, such as shepherd’s check, or indeed other check pattern. And yet more controversy, with terminology, of plaid, and the lack of knowledge as to specifics, with casual commentators using other terms incorrectly, such as Gingham. And then if houndstooth is a type of plaid… and what US call plaid is different to the UK… Simply stated, it is confusion personified, more so than most here!

I’ll begin with the date he first wore the hat. As alluded to above, the earliest possible date is 1958, when he joined Alabama, but seemingly the wearing of the houndstooth hat, however so defined, came much later. Before the houndstooth associated days, he had always worn a fedora on the sidelines previously [*] so it wasn't anything new for him to sport a hat. But again, it's not that straightforward to determine. Bryant wore a variety of hats, and so therefore both of the accounts may indeed be true. It is not clear cut, as it depends a great deal as to terminology and interpretation. Cases of both for and against can be made.

1. Concerning Bear Bryant and his houndstooth hat: Bear Bryant never wore a houndstooth hat until after 1965. When Joe Namath signed with the Jets, Sonny Warbler, the owner of the Jets, gave Bear Bryant his first houndstooth hat.

 

2. According to the Paul W. Bryant Museum, New York Jets owner Sonny Werblin gave Bryant his first houndstooth hat as a goodwill gesture when the Jets made Alabama's Joe Willie Namath the No. 1 pick in the 1965 American Football League draft. As the story has been passed down through the years, others say it was Jets coach Weeb Ewbank who gave Bryant the hat. In the first place, the hat Weeb gave him wasn't houndstooth. It was checked. There's a difference. He gave him a green-and-white checked hat. And it was a sport hat. But it was the Jets' colors. He wore it a couple of times, but he liked that black-and-white hat."


For now at least, I will give a date of 1965 as to the instigation here.


Disappointedly, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the Paul W. Bryant museum on their website does not mention the houndstooth connection at all! In the context of houndstooth all there is is a video of Bryant asking for hats!


So what can be drawn from all this? Did Bear Bryant indeed wear houndstooth or not? Simply stated, it is not clear cut one way or the other, as it depends a great deal as to terminology and interpretation!  Cases of both for and against can be made. A few observations: Bryant undoubtedly wore not just one but a variety of houndstooth-related hats, whether of the standard woven model, or shepherd’s check, or plaid. Certainly he tended to favour the shepherd’s check type over the standard houndstooth model. Indeed, there are very few pictures of the standard model.

 

Latterly, around 1980, Bryant and Werblin went into business together. The two started a company so that Bryant could manufacture his own line of houndstooth hats, as related by Keith Dunnavant in Coach: The Life of Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant [*].  


Since the Bryant days houndstooth has been a sort of unofficial symbol of UA and, to a point, Tuscaloosa, albeit the wearing of houndstooth by Alabama fans was relatively uncommon until the 2000s. No official university logos, seals, symbols, designs, service marks or trademarks contained houndstooth. However, since then, interest has mushroomed and indeed, marketed on a whole range of products, and it remains popular to the present day.


Further to the colours, The University of Alabama has two colors, crimson and white. As soon as that famous hat was donned by Coach Bryant, many have considered houndstooth to have become the third, and unofficial, colour of the legendary football team. This can be used to show how much this hat means to its team and fans. A whole culture has now developed around it. Fans now dress with houndstooth.


Latterly, 2008, there has been controversy with attempts by UA to patent houndstooth! [*] The university has fought to assert its rights with the houndstooth design when used in conjunction with certain words, elephants or phrases. The fight has played out in two lawsuits even though none of Alabama's trademarks, service marks, trade names, designs, logos, seals and symbols include a houndstooth pattern.

References:

Web

http://capstonereport.com/2016/03/24/the-history-of-the-alabama-houndstooth-hat/30799/

https://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2012/02/bear_bryant_and_his_houndstoot.html

https://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Houndstooth_hat

https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/2016/03/trademark_board_tosses_houndst.html

http://bryantmuseum.com/


Books

Bryant, Paul W. and John Underwood. Bear: The Hard Life and Good Times of Alabama’s Coach Bryant.  Little, Brown, first edition 1975. NOT SEEN

Dunnavant, Keith. Coach: The Life of Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant. Simon & Schuster, First edition 1996


Museum

Gaddy, Ken. Director of Paul W. Bryant Museum


Paul 'Bear' Bryant, with one of his many houndstooth related hats


1966+ ‘Les Pieds de Poule’ a French band

‘Les Pieds de Poule’ a French band of the jazz swing genre, perhaps not unsurprisingly dressed up with the pied de poule design and commonly given versions thereof, released a series of records at least of 1966, with the last seemingly of 1970. Details of the band, beyond basics, were not forthcoming. At least for the 1966 lineup, these include Banjo – Serge Saro, Bass – Georges Lemire Clarinet – Claude Ghes, Drums – Roland Sirletti, Horn – Alain Bouchet, Piano – Gilbert Grell, Trombone – Charlie Léandre.

A video of the group and one of their songs is at:

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xfdzf1

The video zooms in to the group, upon which it is then possible to see their pied de poule trousers. Does anyone no more as to the background here?


   

Les Pieds de Poule, left, record cover 1966, right, record cover 1969


1966, Jean Shrimpton

Jean Rosemary Shrimpton (1942 - ) is an English model and actress. She was an icon of Swinging London and is considered to be one of the world's first supermodels. She appeared on numerous magazine covers including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Elle, Ladies' Home Journal, Newsweek, and Time. In 2009, Shrimpton was named by Harper's Bazaar as one of the 26 best models of all time and in 2012, by Time as one of the 100 most influential fashion icons of all time.


Jean Shrimpton, left, and right, Jean Shrimpton in a coat by Sylvia Mills, Vogue, September 1966.


1966, Geoffrey Beene

Geoffrey Beene (born Samuel Albert Bozeman Jr., 1927 – 2004) was an American fashion designer. Beene was one of New York's most famous fashion designers, recognized for his artistic and technical skills and for creating simple, comfortable and dressy women's wear.

In 1966 the pattern revived during Ann Klein's menswear line and the New York designer Geoffrey Beene combined the pattern with lace, rejuvenating the motif by printing it on dresses inset with undulating bands of lace. Beene described the line entitled Country Squire as intended for the woman who ‘walks, drives, stays at home, or flies off to Rome’. The classic houndstooth-checks were no longer settled in plain black and white. Beene introduced the motifs in colours of subtle lavender paired with charcoal blonde and bottle green or caramel and black, softly gathered on skirts balanced with a short jacket.


Geoffrey Beene, left, advert; right, label


1970, Car,  Mercury Cougar Trim by Pauline Trigère

Pauline Trigère (1908 – 2002) was a Franco-American couturière. See the earlier entry of ‘late 1950s’ for more background detail of her. In c. 1970 she was commissioned to design a special edition trim package, now known as the “Houndstooth” Cougar. Just how many were built with the matching vinyl roof and interior is a question for the researchers and the Cougar statisticians. It is stated that only 488 XR7's were sold in 1970 with the fabled houndstooth roof.  A total of 7,544 Cougars, both Standard and XR7 were produced with either the black houndstooth or the medium brown houndstooth interior.


Advert for Mercury Cougar

 

1971, Morecambe and Wise, with Arthur Lowe

Three icons of British television comedy, all perhaps lesser known outside of the UK, in a 1971 sketch on the Morecambe and Wise show, with, left to right, Eric Morecambe, Arthur Lowe (guest), and Ernie Wise.

For those unaware of their popularity, Eric Morecambe (1926 – 1984) and Ernie Wise (1925 – 1999), known as Morecambe and Wise (also Eric and Ernie), were an iconic English comic double act, working in variety, radio, film and most successfully in television. Their partnership lasted from 1941 until Morecambe's death in 1984. The show was a significant part of British popular culture, and they have been described as "the most illustrious, and the best-loved, double-act that Britain has ever produced". Arthur Lowe (1915 – 1982) was an English actor. His career spanned over thirty years, including starring roles in numerous theatre and television productions. He played Captain Mainwaring in the well loved British sitcom Dad's Army from 1968 until 1977, and became one of the most recognised faces on television




1988, Falkirk Tartan (Shepherd's Check)

Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday 12 April 1988 Illustrated p. 21

The first reference to Falkirk Tartan in print, in Scotland.

 

2003, Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto (born 1943) is a Japanese fashion designer based in Tokyo and Paris. Considered a master tailor alongside those such as Madeleine Vionnet, he is known for his avant-garde tailoring featuring Japanese design aesthetics.

In more recent times, it wasn’t until the new millennium that the pattern made a real comeback in the fashion world, and how I might add! Indeed, it has never been so popular. Again, the fashion houses have used this extensively. In autumn 2003, the Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto came up with an entire collection in houndstooth check – from signature over-sized coats with equally over-sized fringed edges to chiffon ball-gowns. Louis Vuitton, Moschino and Armani all used houndstooth in their 2005 ready-to-wear collections, and the pattern trickled down into fewer couture lines throughout the next year.


Yohji Yamamoto, left, label, right, cardigan


2008, Olympus E-3 Digital Camera

Mostly, use of houndstooth is entirely decorative, but on occasion, there is (or is stated to be) practical applications. Specifically, this refers to sensors in digital cameras, where, in the Olympus E-3, they are arranged in a houndstooth pattern. From Popular Photography July 2008 p. 71:

‘Olympus E-3 uses twin cross sensors arranged in a dense houndstooth pattern that brings in twice as much information to the AF system’.

Interesting, to say the least! Why use houndstooth, and not some other (presumed) geometrical tessellating shape? I refuse to believe that there is something that unique to the houndstooth pattern that only this can provide! Looking further, this site (pp. 6-7) provides a photo and a diagram:

https://www.popphoto.com/gear/2008/12/hands-olympus-e-3-digital-slr#page-7

From this, despite the word pattern, implying a repeat nature, all I can see is a jagged nature of a hound’s tooth, and so it would appear that this does not refer to houndstooth as a tiling as such. However, I note that Olympus does indeed use houndstooth as a pattern for a camera grip, probably coincidentally. Make of it all what you will….


2009, Lee Alexander McQueen

Lee Alexander McQueen, CBE (1969 – 2010) was a British fashion designer and couturier. He worked as chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001, and founded his own Alexander McQueen label in 1992.

http://beautyshallsavetheworld.com/2013/08/where-its-at-houndstooth/


2015, H
oundstooth/pepita exhibition at LVR-Industriemuseum 'The Pepita-Virus' in Euskirchen, Germany.
A major houndstooth/pepita exhibition at LVR-Industriemuseum 'The Pepita-Virus' in Euskirchen, Germany. The exhibition was conceived by Tuchmacher Museum, Bramsche, north west of Münster. There, a large collection of everyday, but also surprising objects from six decades was compiled for the presentation. At Tuchfabrik Müller, the exhibition can now be seen expanded to around 500 square meters. Historical clothing and photographs, magazines, graphics and sample books from the LVR Industrial Museum's collection, as well as many private loans, take the visitors into the dazzling Pepita world. The production of pepita samples on handloom looms as well as museum educational models illustrate the complicated weaving process. On fixed dates, hand weavers watch over their shoulders as they trickly cross black and white threads.
Some background details of the museum: The LVR Industriemuseum Tuchfabrik Müller is a museum site of the decentralized LVR industrial museum in Euskirchen - Kuchenheim. The museum displays a fully preserved full-cloth factory with a machine park from the early 20th century. Significant production steps are shown with the historical machines in demonstration operation.

2015, 2017, and 2018,  Starbucks Coffee

Starbucks, the well-known American coffee company and coffeehouse chain founded in Seattle, Washington in 1971, have in more recent times included the design in their product. First, of a black and white Double Wall Traveler, 2015, second, a tumbler, 2017 and third their annual holiday cup of 2018 (first introduced in 1997, annually featuring Christmas designs), one of four of the premise, in red and white ‘loose’ houndstooth. Starbucks says it looked to the past for inspiration this year, delivering cup designs that celebrate ‘the spirit of yesteryear, with a modern twist’. Starbucks used it on this cup to represent its Christmas Blend Espresso Roast because it has an ‘intense flavour and caramelly sweetness’, which was interpreted into a red and white flame copycat houndstooth said to be inspired by the flames that roast the coffee.

With three instances, there is obviously someone at Starbucks who lies this design, although, the exact circumstance of who seemingly introduced houndstooth to the product went unresolved.


   
Starbucks Coffee Cups


2016? Lesser & Pavey, Leonardo Collection

Lesser & Pavey, established in 1971 by chairman and co-founder Ronnie Pavey, Lesser & Pavey have become a leading UK trade supplier of giftware and homewares. Stating that they pride themselves on fantastic quality at great value for money, the brand ‘The Leonardo Collection’ has become renowned worldwide.

A set of four houndstooth fine china gift mugs, from the said Leonardo Collection. What is especially interesting here is that although houndstooth appears (as it does on a multitude of other items, as outlined) on generic cups and mugs and so is nothing at face value out of the ordinary, rather here, this is different, in that the four main types (as outlined by Douglas Blumeyer), appears as a set of four cups. This thus suggests some prior knowledge of the conditions.



Other Miscellaneous Instances:

 

Chef wear:

 

It is on occasion said to be the wear of chefs, with pants:

Back in the days when chefs were uniformly attired, the dress would be: white jacket, white toque, tour de cou (neckerchief), sturdy and polished black shoes, and houndstooth slacks. The houndstooth was supposedly adopted because it was effective in camouflaging food and grease stains.

Is this indeed so, and if so, when? Typically, I find chefs clothing simply small black and white squares. Although indeed advertised as houndstooth for chefs, such instances are relatively rare. The main supplier appears to be the USA company, Dickies. The company background:

Since its beginning in 1922, the Dickies brand has stood for the quality, toughness and pride that embody the spirit of the American worker. Dickies Chef continues that work wear heritage in apparel made for the restaurant and hospitality industry that emphasizes comfort, durability and exceptional functionality. The distinctive "look and feel" of the Dickies brand is built into every Dickies Chef garment, all designed to meet the demands of the busiest kitchen.

It is also to be found in headwear, with the toque and pill box.




  
Chef Wear

Celebrity Interest

Whilst a whole host of celebrities can be seen to have sported houndstooth, whether this was always purposeful or not is unclear, given that houndstooth is so pervasive. Just as with members of the public, the celebrity may merely have worn a coat or skirt or jacket without this being a signifier as to a ‘promotion’ of houndstooth per se. Certainly a few, such as Lady Gaga, have indeed seemingly made a conscious decision, as on the US show ‘The View’ in 2011, where she dressed head to toe in a Salvatore Ferragmo ensemble for a recital, with even the microphone and piano suitably adorned!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ac8cAvd0rH4&feature=related

Note that on account of such pervasiveness, such celebrities are not shown in the main listing above, first as it is unclear as to the intent, and second the sheer number; seemingly at some point, from whatever era, every celebrity will have worn houndstooth! There's Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Paul McCartney just to name a few. It would simply be too an invidious task to include some and not others.

YouTube Video


 

Journal Covers

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, especially so it the fashion world, it has graced the covers of numerous journals. The earliest instance I have found is a Sports Illustrated, with Bear Bryant; does anyone know of an earlier instance? In more recent times, the design has proliferated, so much so that modern day covers are not unusual; by far the more interest is in earlier times. Does anyone know of 1940-1950s covers? Or indeed, anything ‘unusual’ in terms of the magazine?


2. Popularity

However, the above does not really explain the reasons as to why it is so popular, as alluded to in the title of this piece. As alluded to above, it initially began with the Prince of Wales, but would this initial surge interest be sufficient to generate such usage in a seemingly one of many possible like, or indeed unlike geometric tilings ever since? With the passing of time, people would be unfamiliar as to its source (as indeed I was pending this research). Perhaps it just becomes so established that it’s chosen as a pattern by default?  As such, this aspect remains mysterious to me, the tessellation, of a geometric nature, is, to me at least, nothing ‘special’ per se. It’s also not particularly reminiscent of anything lifelike in outline to me (despite its supposed houndstooth appearance), of which any other like geometric type tessellation could be said to be a candidate for such popular usage. An open question to readers of this page – what do you find so attractive about this? Email me!

3. Mathematics

Somewhat surprisingly, given its popularity as a tiling or tessellating motif, and so of interest to mathematicians, as far as I am aware of, no mathematician has yet to write about this, at least in book form. Indeed, even in such an exhaustive account of the subject as Tilings and Patterns, by Branko Grünbaum and G. C. Shepherd, of 700 pages, it doesn’t even get a single mention! Admittedly, the book is indeed aimed at tilings per se (rather than as decorative aspects with the houndstooth), and indeed generally at an advanced level, and so perhaps one can overlook this, although the book does indeed begin with actual applications where it conceivably could have been given a mention. Indeed, offhand I don’t recall is any maths book; has anyone seen this tiling discussed in any maths book? Or indeed, any art book; I don’t recall seeing this discussed in any either. However, in more recent times, it has been discussed mathematically by two people, independently, namely Douglas Blumeyer and Loe M.G. Feijs (1954-), in a series of blog postings and annual Bridges Conference papers, from 2012 respectively. Perhaps surprisingly given their obvious knowledge, their field is not mathematics specifically, but rather in Film and Media (Blumeyer) and Industrial Design (Feijs). However, both interestingly have an interest in Computer Science. Be that as it may, both are fine mathematicians in their own right who are both are interested in houndstooth in different ways, Blumeyer with variants and Feijs with fashion and fractals (both put simply). Both authors writings are highly recommended. Of a later posting, I will indeed add my own mathematical viewpoint on this.

  

Open-Ended Questions
However, despite my extensive researches particlary of late 2019-early 2019, which left previous researches far behind, much remains of an open-ended nature. Open questions abound:

1. The holy grail of my research remains: who coined the term ‘houndstooth’ (or its many variant spellings)?


2. When did it came into being? This is uncertain. The earliest reference (not from the commonly given UK and Scotland) is from an Australian newspaper, of 1925:

The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.) Saturday 9 May 1925 p. 16 of a fashion article, by Fonthill Beckford, with:

I have also seen some delightful reproductions of Glenurquhart, hound's tooth, and shepherd's checks, but all very small and neat.


The Herald excerpt


Taken at face value, thus would thus appear to be the country of origin. However, this would appear to have been a syndicated report, possibly from the UK paper the Daily Mail. Unfortunately, I am unable to check this as this archive is unavailable to me.


3. The order of terminology. The general impression is that the pattern was referred to initially as houndstooth (from Scotland), from which related and non-related variants then emerged, such as dogtooth, the French term pied de poule and chicken foot, and to a lesser extent puppytooth and pepita. However, my researches show that this is not so. Dogtooth, pied de poule, chicken foot (and even amazingly pepita) all predate houndstooth, some by more than two decades! Yet how can this be so? It doesn’t make sense. Possibly, there is indeed earlier newspaper references to houndstooth, yet if so, I cannot find it.


4. What is the country of origin? Frequently quoted is Scotland, but this is shown not to be so! The earliest Scotland reference is as late as 1932! Amazingly, there is even a Netherlands reference, 1931, that predates this!


5. How did it spread worldwide? Again, with uncertainty as to origin it is difficult to determine. The earliest reference, of 1894, namely pied de poule, is not from the UK, but rather from France! The general impression, or of a logical assumption, would be from Scotland, to England and then to France. However, there is no evidence for such a dispersion. Further, with the UK links to Australia, it arrived there by such means.

As ever, I am open to further information to shed new light on these open questions.

Acknowledgements

Yoshiaki Araki, for details of the 16th century tea vessel.


 

Created 17 May 2012. Updated 19 November 2015. Major update 6 November 2018, with a wholesale rewrite and more picture additions from the previous three.