Houndstooth menswear bites back

Modern riffs on the old-world elegance of houndstooth add sartorial bite, says Tom Stubbs

From left: Ralph Lauren Purple Label wool suit, £2,750, cashmere shirt, £565, and cashmere tie, £170. Cifonelli wool and suede jacket, £2,600, and matching trousers, £450. Canali wool/cashmere jacket, £1,010
From left: Ralph Lauren Purple Label wool suit, £2,750, cashmere shirt, £565, and cashmere tie, £170. Cifonelli wool and suede jacket, £2,600, and matching trousers, £450. Canali wool/cashmere jacket, £1,010

Two winters ago, I felt that houndstooth, with its acute angles, jagged teeth and bold graphic qualities, would deliver some bite to my wardrobe. But I found a toothless pack in the ready-to-wear collections. This season, however, the landscape has shifted, and both niche marques and major brands are offering compelling takes on the pattern.

Zegna wool and mohair jacket, £880
Zegna wool and mohair jacket, £880

Yasuto Kamoshita and Massimo Piombo, for example, have developed nuanced checks, which are clever melds of vintage, classic and modern designs. “Houndstooth check is a favourite of mine,” Piombo, a genius with fabric, tells me. “I like geometric designs and tooth check is relaxed and not too overpowering.” He has two pure virgin wool houndstooths that stand out this autumn. The first, which he uses for a three-button (one on the roll) unstructured jacket (£880), is a sophisticated check blending vintage influences and graphic boldness, with fine cross-hatching to create soft texture. For the other, Piombo chose sepia and parchment hues for a grid over-check that gives equal weight to both light and dark shades. The resulting double-breasted coat (£980) evokes old-world elegance realised with modern confidence.

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And at Camoshita, the houndstooth Bal Collar great coat (£1,500), with its large check, is designed to “catch the attention”, says Kamoshita, the brand’s director, while the superfine puppytooth check of the raglan sleeve windcheater Drizzler jacket (£700) is more restrained, creating a “modern ambience with retro mood”.

MP Massimo Piombo wool coat, £980
MP Massimo Piombo wool coat, £980

Cifonelli’s juxtaposition of bold Johnstons of Elgin checks with leather shoulder patches also creates a modern riff – on aristocratic shooting style, in this case. The fawn and caramel suit (jacket, £2,600, and trousers, £450), with its symmetrical shoulder and matching elbow patches, keeps things classic, while a grey/black jacket (£2,600) has a patch on just one shoulder – giving the country sports look some urban edge.

Louis Vuitton wool raincoat, £3,100
Louis Vuitton wool raincoat, £3,100

Massimo Alba’s notable sports jacket for the season is the Traveller, a relaxed unstructured jacket (£597) in a punchy mustard and brown English Shetland houndstooth. The piece is washed and garment-dyed to make it soft and loose hanging. “It follows the movement of the body, like a sweater,” says Alba.

From left: Mackintosh wool overcoat, £745. Camoshita wool Bal Collar great coat, £1,500
From left: Mackintosh wool overcoat, £745. Camoshita wool Bal Collar great coat, £1,500

Layering check upon check, Ralph Lauren Purple Label takes houndstooth styling to the next level. At the brand’s Gatsby-chic palazzo in Milan earlier this year, Lauren presented a pack of check-decked guys wearing fabrics woven exclusively by ancient English mill Joshua Ellis. The black/cream herringbone Hadley wool sport coat (£1,950) was styled to great effect with a hounds Glenn-check shirt (£480) and herringbone tie (£170); and a Glenn-plaid houndstooth coat (£2,550) looked splendid over a houndstooth wool two-piece suit (£2,750). Typically, these fabrics have a special finish that eliminates shine while creating a luxurious brushed feel.

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Slightly more subdued approaches can be found at Z Zegna, where a black and white wool macro tweed quilted raglan coat (price on request) is an urbane take on a topcoat, and a houndstooth wool and mohair stretch macro tweed double-breasted jacket (£880) with wider pleat trousers (£385) has youthful swagger. And at Canali, the wool/cashmere houndstooth one-button jacket (£1,010) is a charcoal/green take on two-tone, the overall effect being an anthracite mouliné of black, white and green threads, giving it an almost 3D feel. And super low-key is Margaret Howell’s charcoal/black fine puppytooth wool blazer (£765) and matching trousers (£395).

Louis Vuitton’s grey/green houndstooth wool coat (£3,100) feels understated and classic, until you realise it has a fashion-forward zip-off raincoat built in. And for an on-trend oversized take, see Mackintosh’s reimagined classic overcoat (£745) in houndstooth wool bonded to cotton and rubberised. It comes in two colourways, but fine black and white houndstooth is coolest.

I myself will be wearing the Anderson & Sheppard suit in fabric from Fox Brothers & Co’s mill that I had made in frustration those two winters ago. For inspiration, the Fox Brothers team produced from the archive not only a whole set of Blue Note houndstooth thought to have been made for jazz musician Duke Ellington, but also gorgeous soft-toothed repetitions and 1920s fractured patterns. I commissioned a soft-shouldered double-breasted suit in a 12oz custom flannel with a fractured cappuccino/mocca houndstooth print, cut with high, double-pleat wide trousers and drapey coat.

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