Shirt Department: The History of the Country Check Shirt by Editor-in-Chief of British GQ

Discover our guest blog by Dylan Jones, Editor-In-Chief of British GQ and Chairman of London Fashion Week Men’s, to tell the story of the check shirt as we celebrate the AW17 Barbour Shirt Department.

September 13th 2017
If you want to see just how pervasive the country check shirt has become, just visit Shoreditch or Columbia Road, London on a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon.
Whether you're sitting in the lobby of the Ace Hotel, hanging out in Shoreditch House or simply slowly mooching around Brick Lane, you will see an abundance of both old and young sporting a beard (obviously), a backpack, and will probably be wearing some John Lennon glasses. He'll have a freshly scrubbed French Bulldog on a nice new lead, a pair of brand new worker boots or carefully scuffed plimsoles on his feet, and under his denim work jacket he will be wearing a beautiful country check shirt.
Of course the country check shirt has a long legacy, one born long ago in the Scottish highlands, in those days when plaid wasn't just for kilts, but for everything else too. As a functional piece of clothing the shirt became ridiculously popular in the US just before the Civil War, becoming a North American staple as well as a British one. And since then it has popped up all over the place, and has become a defining look for everyone from lumberjacks and cowboys to grunge rockers and hipsters themselves.
You only have to look at the iconography of the pop world in the Sixties to see how ubiquitous the country check shirt became, being worn by everyone from the Beach Boys (the band making the plaid shirt famous by wearing them en mass on the cover of their Surfer Girl album), to the likes of the Band, who disappeared to Woodstock with Bob Dylan at the end of the decade, to get their heads together and live upcountry (while trying to look as downhome as possible).
Since then it's been everywhere, and has started to be seen as one of those hardy perennials that crop up every season in bi-annual fashion magazines, either worn with a purpose, or perhaps slightly ironically. Either way it is a fashion staple that will never die. And certainly not on the streets of Shoreditch. Or Williamsburg come to that. In Brooklyn's famous hipster borough, you will probably find more country check shirts than in any other place outside a mall. Every barman wears one, every cyclist, every waiter, every cruising rock star looking for some gentrified cool. The last time I visited, some three summers ago, I lost count of the number of country check shirts I saw in both high end fashion stores and thrift shops, proving once and for all that a country check shirt never goes out of fashion.
After all, when you're worn by truckers and rappers, and by landed gentry and young hipsters, your demographic bases are well and truly covered. As, obviously, are your backs.
Discover the Barbour Shirt Department and read Every Gentleman Should Own a Country Check shirt by Dylan Jones here.