The History of The Prince of Wales Check Pattern and How to Wear it

prince of wales check pattern
The History of The Prince of Wales Check PatternMichael Stillwell - Getty Images

There are not many patterns that boast the level of sophistication the way the Prince of Wales check does. Characterized by a woven design of small and large checks that create a crossing pattern, the Prince of Wales check offers a fashionable statement without sacrificing an ounce of elegance. Also known as the Glen check, Glen plaid, and Glen
Glen Urquhart plaid, the pattern has been seen throughout notable figureheads and celebrities both recently and not-so-recently: King Charles, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, Daniel Craig, and members of The Beatles are just a few names that have donned the pattern. The pattern is so desirable that even high-fashion brands like Saint Laurent, Gucci, and Prada consistently utilize the pattern within their own collections.

But, as it goes for all beautiful things, the Prince of Wales check pattern is backed by a rich history. Below, we further explore the fabric’s lore, prominent figures who popularized it, and how to incorporate it into one’s own wardrobe.

london, united kingdom may 03 princess diana at paddington station, london photo by tim graham photo library via getty images
Princess Diana sports the Prince of Wales check at Paddington Station in London. Tim Graham

The Hunting Days in Scotland

In the 19th-century, within the valley of Glenurquhart in Inverness-shire Scotland, the New Zealand-born Countess of Seafield needed to outfit her ground staff. With brutal weather plaguing the region, her staff needed to be dressed in a fabric that was durable, warm, and practical. The countess took notice of the fabric from the locals and adopted it for her staff.

Then came along Edward VII, who frequented the land for hunting purposes. He, like the countess, quickly became fond of the fabric and eventually incorporated it into his own wardrobe. This is where the name, “Prince of Wales check” originates.

The Royal Dandy Made it Fashionable

While it was Edward VII who adopted it first, it was his son, Edward VIII, who truly popularized the pattern. Aside from his controversial legacy, the Duke of Windsor was also known to have a penchant for food, tobacco, and fashion. As a major dandy, Edward VIII's choice to don the Prince of Wales check catapulted it into fashionable society. But, could it be that King Charles III, too, further pushed the Prince of Wales Check into popularity today? Alongside his efforts with the Prince's Trust, wildlife conservation, and the preservation of historic architecture, King Charles III is also quite the attentive dresser. His wardrobe is filled with finely tailored double-breasted suits and a collection of ties that effortlessly pair well with them. The Prince of Wales check frequents his jackets and the king has been seen sporting it throughout his lifetime.

king edward viii, of united kingdom, portrait, 1936 photo by universal history archiveuniversal images group via getty images
Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, catapulted the Prince of Wales check into fashionable society. Universal History Archive

How to Wear the Prince of Wales Check Pattern

While still chic for the outdoors (just as the countess of Seafield intended), the Prince of Wales check boasts versatility. When one is need of a break from the traditional black and navy, it offers elegant visual treat.

For the more formal occasions, take note from both Edward VIII and King Charles III. Both knew how to accessorize properly, which is the key to pulling off the pattern well. When wearing a jacket in the Prince of Wales pattern, consider contrasting the light or dark gray with a pop of color, either from a tie or a pocket square. Be a bit daring and contrast with a light blue shirt.

But, what if you're in the mood to dress down a bit? Do not fret. A jacket in the Prince of Wales check pattern may pair well with a t-shirt and denim pant for a casual and smart look. Need a vibe? Think Princess Diana "off-duty" outfits to start. You can't go wrong.

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