Houndstooth‎ > ‎

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous Instances
As the title suggests, a miscellaneous collection of houndstooth instances, generally of a lightweight nature, that as yet are judged not substantial enough for a dedicated page, but nonetheless remain of interest. In the fullness of time, with further research and findings, some of these may indeed be deemed worthy of a distinct page. Further, some aspects here are in the process of being expanded, such as the mathematics section, of which are placed here pending a dedicated page.


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?



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!


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.


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.


Generic Fashion Designers

Numerous instances of houndstooth, not unsurprisingly, can be found in the world of fashion designers, throughout the years, some dating back to the earliest instances. Ideally, I would indeed document these and add to the listing below, but due to a variety of reasons, I largely refrain from doing so. That said, I do include a few of the more prominent designers, such as Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Roger Vivier, Pauline Trigère, Elsa Schiaparelli, Geoffrey Beene, Yohji Yamamoto, and Alexander McQueen. The reasons for not adding others, some of equal, if not of more deserving merit to the listing include, in short, (i) a large number of designers, (ii) the research required, and (iii) the time involved. Quite simply, for any one entry, from research to then writing the finished piece, this typically takes a half day, at least, and on occasions, a little longer. As such, although undoubtedly ideal in that other designers would be included, I consider the time better spent on other substantive matters rather than on relatively lightweight fashion. That said, in the fullness of time, I may indeed add more, albeit on an ad hoc basis. This being so, some other names in the meantime to look out for, to greater or lesser degrees, in no particular order, include:

Balenciaga, Issey Miyake, Tom Ford, Jeanne Lanvin, Yves St Laurent, Donna Karan, Pierre Cardin, Versace, Hermès, Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Lacroix, Sonia Rykiel, Malcolm Charles, Jean Patou, Bonnie Cashin and Salvatore Ferragamo.

Some examples of their respective works can be seen at:

https://www.1stdibs.com/search/fashion/?q=houndstooth


Dictionary Entries as to the Date of Instigation

The entries for the date of instigation in dictionaries are quite simply shocking in their inaccuracy! Further, not all the terms have entries, with those found so far only including houndstooth and shepherd’s check.


Houndstooth

Shocking! In short, the smallest discrepancy of eleven years and the largest thirty years! I have yet to find a single one giving answer anywhere near the correct date, currently 1925.


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/houndstooth

First Known Use of houndstooth 1936...


https://www.dictionary.com/browse/houndstooth

First recorded in 1955–60


https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=houndstooth

also hound's tooth, in reference to a jagged-edged design pattern, 1936, so called for resemblance.


https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/houndstooth-check

Houndstooth is a term that first came into use in the 1930s...


Shepherd's Check

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shepherd's%20check

First Known Use of shepherd's check 1863, in the meaning defined above

Not so! The first newspaper reference is of 1831, under Shepherd's Plaid, with the exact term of Shepherd’s Check of 1838.



 Open-Ended Questions

However, despite my extensive researches particular 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.

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. Can anyone antedate this?


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.


Created February 2019

Comments