The Classic Houndstooth Pattern and Its Origins

The Classic Houndstooth Pattern and Its Origins

The houndstooth pattern is a classic textile design that has been around for centuries. Known for its distinctive broken check or “zigzag” pattern, Houndstooth remains a popular choice for fashion and home décor. But where exactly did this striking pattern come from, and how did it get its quirky name?

What Is Houndstooth?

Houndstooth is a duotone textile pattern characterized by broken checks or abstract four-pointed stars. The design is created by using two different yarn colors in the weaving process to make the checks or stars.

Traditionally, Houndstooth features black and white yarns. However, modern houndstooth textiles may incorporate other color combinations as well. The pattern is often found on wool but can also be woven or printed using cotton, linen, silk, rayon, and other fibers.

Identifying Features of Houndstooth

Houndstooth has a few classic identifying features:

Broken Checks

Unlike plaid fabrics with overlapping squares, the checks in Houndstooth are “broken” into abstract shapes resembling four-pointed stars or jagged teeth. This creates a lively, vibrant pattern.

Zigzag Effect

The broken checks are arranged in such a way that they create a zigzag movement across the fabric. This adds a sense of motion and energy to houndstooth prints.

Black and White Colors

The traditional houndstooth color scheme is black and white. The high contrast helps accentuate the zigzag pattern. However, Houndstooth also comes in other color combinations.

Reversible Pattern

An exciting feature of Houndstooth is that the fabric looks the same on both sides, so the “right” and “wrong” sides are indistinguishable. This makes it very versatile to work with.

Where Did the Name “Houndstooth” Come From?

So how did Houndstooth get its unusual name? There are a few origin theories:

Resemblance to Dog’s Teeth

The most popular theory is that the jagged, four-pointed pattern is said to resemble the crooked teeth of a dog, hence “hound’s tooth.” Dobermans, pit bulls, and other breeds with pointy teeth may have served as inspiration.

Link to Dog Tooth Check Jackets

Another related theory suggests the name comes from the dogtooth check jackets historically worn by shepherds in the UK. Their jackets featured a coarse wool fabric with a broken check pattern said to look like a dog’s tooth.

Foxhunting History

Some sources claim the houndstooth pattern originated from fabrics worn by fox hunters in the early 1800s. The “teeth” pattern was supposed to resemble the footprints left by hounds during a hunt.

While the exact etymology is unclear, the “hound’s tooth” definition is most frequently cited about the pattern’s distinct zigzagging shape.

The History of Houndstooth Fabric

Houndstooth has been around for centuries, periodically revived and reinvented decade after decade. Here are some of the critical moments in houndstooth’sHoundstooth history:

Early Origins

Some sources cite houndstooth pattern origins as early as the Scottish tweed fabrics of the 19th century. The wool from native sheep breeds produced the soft, fine fabric perfect for houndstooth weaving.

The 1930s: Houndstooth Goes High Fashion

Houndstooth debuted in significant fashion in the 1930s when it was used by the famous French couturier Coco Chanel in her 1930s spring collection. She introduced a wide-wale houndstooth suit made from jersey fabric.

The eye-catching pattern quickly caught on, appearing everywhere, from more Chanel collections to editorial fashion spreads. It became a staple fabric for chic 1930sera suits and separates.

1960s Revival

After falling out of fashion in the 1940s, Houndstooth reemerged as a popular pattern in the 1960s. It was most closely associated with the mods, a British youth subculture known for their sharp tailoring and bold prints.

Mini skirts, sheath dresses, cropped trousers, and accessories in graphic houndstooth patterns became hallmarks of the mod style.

The 1980s: Power Dressing Era

No article on houndstooth’sHoundstooth history is complete without mentioning the 1980s power dressing movement. As women entered the workplace in droves, they adopted strong-shouldered, menswear-inspired attire with Houndstooth as the decade’s iconic power fabric.

Fierce skirt suits, dresses, coats, and accessories in Houndstooth exuded confidence and professionalism. Critics derided the fad as conformist, but many women proudly wore Houndstooth to symbolize their newfound status.

Houndstooth Today

From classic to contemporary, Houndstooth appears in modern fashion and home goods. Recent iterations come in fresh color schemes and blown-up-scale prints.

Luxury fashion houses like Chanel, Valentino, Stella McCartney, and others consistently revisit Houndstooth for runway collections. The heritage pattern feels right at home paired with modern pieces.

Houndstooth’s timeless appeal and versatile style make it a pattern that will only sometimes go out of fashion.

How to Wear and Style Houndstooth

Want to incorporate this iconic pattern into your wardrobe? Here are some tips for wearing Houndstooth:

Choose Classics for Work

Stick with traditional houndstooth pieces like a blazer, trousers, or a wrap dress for conservative office settings. Muted color palettes also keep the look professional.

Go Bold After-Hours

Rich colors, prominent prints, and unusual textures modernize Houndstooth for evening wear. Pair a Houndstooth mini or midi skirt with a silky cami for a chic cocktail look.

Mix and Match Patterns

Houndstooth’s graphic appeal makes it ideal for pattern mixing. Combine it with plaid, stripes, herringbone, and other statement prints for an eclectic style. Just make sure the scale of patterns complements each other.

Add Neutrals and Basics

Balance out bold houndstooth garments or accessories by pairing them with neutral staples like a white tee, classic button-down, or tan trench. This helps anchor the look.

Mind Proportion and Scale

Petite figures can quickly wear small-scale houndstooth prints without being overwhelmed. Taller builds can rock oversized houndstooth patterns to maximize impact. Adjust the scale accordingly.

Houndstooth remains a versatile wardrobe staple with endless styling possibilities across fashion eras. Follow these tips to make any houndstooth piece uniquely yours.


Houndstooth has carved out a unique place in the fashion world with its striking zigzag pattern, rich history, and timeless appeal. The origins of its quirky name may come from sheep’s wool, fox hunters, or simply the jagged way itself.

Regardless of how Houndstooth got its moniker, the iconic textile will continue appearing season after season. This classic deserves a spot in every modern wardrobe.


Q: What are the origins of the houndstooth pattern?

A: While the exact origins are unclear, most sources cite early origins dating back to coarse wool tweeds worn in 19th-century Scottish shepherding communities. The broken “tooth”-like pattern resembled the jagged teeth of sheepdogs.

Q: How did Houndstooth get its name?

A: The most popular theory is that the distinct zigzagging check pattern resembles the jagged teeth of a hound or dog. Hence the name “Hound’s Tooth” or Houndstooth.

Q: What colors are Houndstooth usually found in?

A: Traditionally, Houndstooth features a black-and-white color scheme. However, modern houndstooth fabrics also incorporate other duotone color combos like navy and white or red and white.

Q: What is houndstooth fabric typically made from?

A: Houndstooth is woven using contrasting yarns crafted from various textiles like wool, cotton, linen, silk, rayon, polyester blends, and more. Wool and cotton houndstooth are the most common.

Q: Who made Houndstooth famous in fashion?

A: Coco Chanel receives credit for debuting Houndstooth in her 1930s fashion collections, while the mod subculture of the 1960s also embraced Houndstooth as a trademark fabric. Its reputation as a professional power-dressing textile also grew in the 1980s.

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