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 2018 which leaves the previous studies far behind in all aspects. However, 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 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 obscure, and decidedly hazy, to say the least, with conflicting accounts, as regards the cloth and attribution; the pattern may have been worn many years before it acquired its attribution, the authorities do not always make this distinction clear. One source states that Houndstooth originated in Scotland in the 1800s, it was originally worn as an outer garment of woven wool cloth by shepherds (hence the term shepherd’s check). Confusion also arises to attribution. Although the first date of creation has not been recorded, the Merriam-Webster dictionary records the term houndstooth was in use in 1936. When it was first created, the pattern was referred to as Shepherd's Check or Dogstooth. Another gives the Scottish lowlands, with various clans, of the 1920s.

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.


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?




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...






Nomenclature

A veritable minefield! The term ‘houndstooth’ (and obvious variants ‘houndstooth check’ or ‘hound's tooth’, dogstooth’, ‘dogtooth’ or ‘dog's tooth’),) is not invariably used; it masquerades under a variety of other names, such as ‘Shepherds Check’, ‘Four-in-Four Check’, ‘Guncheck’, Glen Plaid, Vichy, and Pepita. 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 (Germany), Hanenvoet and Hondetand (Dutch), Pato de Gallo (Spain), 千鳥格子 Chidorigōshi (Japan).... 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; Shepherd’s Check in the 1850s and Houndstooth 1930s, 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, Shepherds' 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.


Pepita

Of the above, Pepita is the houndstooth similar pattern, which was seemingly named after the artist Josefa de la Oliva. (Pepita is the reduction of “Pepa”, short for Josefina, also follows the pun Pepita de Oliva for “Olive-stone”). It consists of small two-colour (usually black and white) squares with diagonal connections, in contrast to the houndstooth-pattern, run in which the connections between the individual diamonds at a right angle. However, there is also another explanation, from a fruit pip, which is reflected in this pattern.


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 rerefence in Chung, and u. however, the houndstooth nature is not readily visible


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 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.




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.



1920s

Scottish clans began to use.

1930s, Vogue

Undoubtedly, the tiling first came to prominence during the 1930s, and unusually in historical matters, an exact date can be given, 15 January 1934, when it appeared in an article in the fashion magazine Vogue, titled ‘H.R.H started it’, pages 36-37. From this, it would thus appear that the appearance of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales sporting this thus sparked the interest, indeed if not mania, with in essence ‘copycat’ occurrences happening to keep up with the fashion of the day. The article can be seen in Priscilla Chung’s piece:

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

Here, the Duke of Windsor, when he was the Prince of Wales, started appearing in complete suits made of Scottish tweed. Royal tailors closely cooperated with the woollen fabric houses, constantly turning out new and exclusive patterns of suiting in the hope of meeting with his Majesty's approval. No sooner did the Duke of Windsor appear in a houndstooth than manufacturers made copies for the public. The constant production of new patterns gave a tremendous domestic and international boost to British manufacturers. At a time when keeping up with appearances meant keeping in good company, the suit patterns influenced the dress of both men and women who followed what the Duke of Windsor wore. Latterly, the houndstooth pattern was adopted by the upper class as a symbol of wealth.

Certainly, this is the first instance of attribution I have in print. But is it indeed the first? Does anyone know of an earlier appearance in any book or article? I would be interested in hearing details if so. Also, I would like to see more pictures of the day elsewhere.

 

1929? Coco Chanel

Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel (1883 – 1971) was a 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.

Said to be a favourite of Coco Chanel, the famous actor although the quote is not sourced.


1930s, Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes was filmed in the 1930s by 20th Century Fox, the hero wore coat and hat with houndstooth, or Vichy pattern. Inspired by the movie stars from Hollywood, the eye-catching black and white patterns were also popular in women's fashion.


1933, De Pinna, Men’s Shop

Founded in 1885, De Pinna was primarily a men’s shop located on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. They 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.

In an early reference to houndstooth, De Pinna, included houndstooth checks along with gun club checks and Scotch plaids as part of its 1933 spring men's suits collection.

"Gun Club Checks". The New Yorker. New Yorker Magazine, Inc. 9: 28. 1933. However,  I have not seen this article. Nor have I seen any picture. Does anyone have further details?





 

1940s, Breton Hat?

I have little detail as to the background to this advertisement, where it is titled as ‘the shepherd check’. There is as an named ‘Breton Hat’ (see links), but it does not seem to bear similarities with this here. Who, or what are ‘Breton’. Does anyone have further details?


 
 Figure 2: Breton

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.




1945, William Powell

William Horatio Powell (1892 – 1984) was an American actor. A major star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he was paired with Myrna Loy in 14 films, including the Thin Man series based on the Nick and Nora Charles characters created by Dashiell Hammett. William Powell, a USA famous Hollywood actor, in The Thin Man Goes Home, released in early 1945.


1949–1950, Porsche 356 Car
Some uncertain terminology befuddles this sighting! Be that as it may, the first recorded instance for car upholstery, of which this directly or indirectly spawned further usage, such as with the Camaro. Mike Peek, who I am indebted to for this information, discusses this more extensively:
https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/06/22/porsche-houndstooth-seats-exposed

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, Christian Dior

Christian Dior (1905 –1957) was a French fashion designer, best known as the founder of one of the world's top fashion houses. In 1959 Christian Dior used houndstooth, which was one of their favourite design motifs to design a pointed court shoe featuring the pattern, from which they then expanded its use. More than any other fashion designer, the late Christian Dior made houndstooth his own. Grand ladies in exquisitely tailored houndstooth check may have had husbands who bought them their rarefied Dior clothing, but it is only too clear who was wearing the trousers. Dior liked houndstooth so much that the bottle of his first-ever – and still very popular – fragrance, Miss Dior, was embossed with it. It's one of the original chypres, incidentally; largely perceived as quite difficult scents and certainly not recommended for shrinking violets.


 
 Figure 3: Miss Dior Perfume

1950-1959, Stylemaster Archer

A Footstool, by Stylemaster Archer. Again, little is known as to the background of the company here. Does anyone know of this?


.




1950s, Katharine Wiggle Skirt


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.



1960s?, Audrey Hepburn

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


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.

  


1965, Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant

Paul William "Bear" Bryant (1913 – 1983) was an American college football player and coach. He was best known as the head coach of the University of Alabama football team. It apparently first became popular in the US in 1965, of which this in itself has an interesting history, it appearing in a sporting context, rather than the more likely fashion sense. The first instance appears to be when a famous coach, Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, began wearing a hat bearing houndstooth given to him by Sonny Werblin, the former owner of the New York Jets, for which this became his hallmark, and subsequently a lot of Alabama men wanted to look like, or take after, Bryant. This apparently proving popular, Bryant and Werblin went into business together. The two started a company so that Bryant could manufacture his own line of houndstooth hats, according to ‘Coach: The Life of Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant’ by Keith Dunnavant. The story is told at: http://capstonereport.com/2016/03/24/the-history-of-the-alabama-houndstooth-hat/30799/


1965 +, Sonia Rykiel (1930-2016) was a French fashion designer and writer. The exact date of when her interest in houndstooth began is not known


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.

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.


Left, Advert; Right, Label


1968, Handmacher

A Handmacher design in 1968. Handmacher purchased Myron Lewis in the mid-1960s.

 

1969 Chevrolet Camaro


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.



 

1970s, Toni Todd


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 show, with Arthur Lowe in the centre.

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




1980s, Leslie Faye

 

1980's Michael Kors

First Collection Houndstooth

 

1990s, Christian Lacroix

 

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.


 

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, 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.

   
 



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.




Curiosities:

 

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.




  



Celebrity Interest

A whole host of celebrities can be seen to have sported houndstooth, of which below I show a few instances. Whether this was always purposeful or not is unclear. Certainly a few, such as Lady Gaga have seemingly made a conscious decision, dressed head to toe for a recital, with even the piano suitably adorned. Other celebrities include:

Jessica Alba, Kim Kardashian, Lena Dunham, Gwen Stefani, Nicole Scherzinger.
Lady Gaga:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ac8cAvd0rH4&feature=related

 

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 Doug 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.


Doug Blumeyer:

http://houndstoothcraft.douglasblumeyer.com/

http://houndstoothtopia.douglasblumeyer.com/

https://cmloegcmluin.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/dougstooth/

https://cmloegcmluin.wordpress.com/?s=houndstooth/ (247 pages!)

https://cmloegcmluin.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/ginghoundstootham/

https://cmloegcmluin.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/gingham-herringbone-continuum/

https://cmloegcmluin.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/derasterized-houndstooth/

The page gives links to all:

https://cmloegcmluin.wordpress.com/?s=houndstooth

  

Loe Feijs:

Papers freely available at the Bridges repository; simply put in ‘Feijs’ in the search box:

https://archive.bridgesmathart.org/search.py?search


Some Compilation Pages of Note

Aside from the above, very few people have written about houndstooth in a considered manner. Admittedly, although discussed, this is generally in a throwaway manner. As a simple statement, these discuss houndstooth in a variety of ways, sometimes na ot in particularly scholarly way, but rather from an enthusiastic or fun  viewpoint rather than scholarly approach:


Josefine Gennert Jakobsson

A very nice paper indeed, of considerable depth (81 pages), liberally illustrated with photographs with a slant towards fashion application and weaving (and more), is by Josefine Gennert Jakobsson, with a BA in fashion design, of the University of Borås The Swedish School of Textiles:

http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1237046/FULLTEXT01.pdf


Anti-Houndstooth:

‘Anti-Houndstooth’ (name unknown) although from a rather negative point of view; rather this is from a dislike of the pattern! Here he/she catalogs various ‘crimes’ by its appearance!

http://anti-houndstooth.blogspot.com/2010/

 

https://kknews.cc/fashion/33p9xba.html

In Japanese.

 

Requests

Could anyone assist with the following?

  • Its history as to its introduction remains unclear on two different counts, with it being stated as from ‘Scottish clans’, which is somewhat vague, and also just when it was introduced; can we give, or establish, a more exact date? This really needs more substantiation.

  • Was H.R.H. the Prince of Wales responsible, or was there someone else, perhaps a company promoting it in some way?

  • Accepting a Scottish provenance, how did it spread worldwide? Is the Vogue account responsible? Also generally lacking are any corroborative pictures of these early instances; any pictures appear to be modern day and even as recent as the 60s, never mind any earlier. Has anyone got ‘early’ pictures?

  • Is there any enthusiast of this tessellation with more background details, such as other instances not discussed here or indeed with anything to add to this account? I would be more than pleased to hear from you. I have only recently investigated the background to this, and so that above is subject to revision pending more authoritative accounts than I have been able to ascertain do far. However, there are very little, if at all any scholarly references. The one by Priscilla Chung is by far the best. I would like to ask Chung for more details, but have not been able to find contact details. Does anyone know of her?

Acknowledgements


 

References Print

Jones, Owen.  Grammar of Ornament. Bernard Quaritch. 1868, p. 15

Lockwood, E. H. and R. H. Macmillan. Geometric Symmetry. Cambridge University Press, 1978.


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.