$20 WORLDWIDE SHIPPING! PRICES IN USD$20 WORLDWIDE SHIPPING! PRICES IN USD$20 WORLDWIDE SHIPPING! PRICES IN USD$20 WORLDWIDE SHIPPING! PRICES IN USD $20 WORLDWIDE SHIPPING! PRICES IN USD$20 WORLDWIDE SHIPPING! PRICES IN USD$20 WORLDWIDE SHIPPING! PRICES IN USD

Check, Mate: Burberry Masters the Iconic Pattern

Perhaps no other pattern is an as instantly recognizable brand signature as the tartan with a tan base, black and white intersecting stripes, and narrow red accent stripes known variously as the Nova check, the Haymarket check — or simply, the Burberry check.

Burberry, the British luxury brand founded by Thomas Burberry in 1856, has long been associated with high quality outerwear. In 1879, Burberrys — as the company was known until the turn of millenium — created gabardine, the world’s first waterproof fabric. The house opened a shop in London’s West End at 30 Haymarket in 1891, offering practical coats for gentry to wear on their country estates and further afield. Burberrys outfitted Sir Edward Shackleton for his Antarctic expeditions and became the official apparel provider for British soldiers during World War I.

1897

1891

Original Images via Burberry.com

But it wasn’t until the 1920s, when the Burberry check was first used to line the brand’s iconic trench coats that the lines between fashion and functionality started to blur. Burberrys trench coats appeared in multiple Hollywood films over the next several decades, worn by Marlene Dietrich in A Foreign Affair (1948), Sofia Loren in The Key (1958), Brigitte Bardot in Babette Goes to War (1958), and, of course,  Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). The addition of check accessories to the house’s offering was a happy accident. In 1967, a buyer in the Paris store removed the check lining from a coat and used it to wrap luggage and create an umbrella cover for a display. Customers loved the look, and were soon asking for more merchandise featuring the Burberry check. The cashmere check scarf was introduced in the 1970s and has become one of the brand’s best-known accessories.


Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

By the 1980s, the Burberry check was officially a status symbol for Sloane Rangers — Britain’s answer to American Preppies. Princess Diana was an unabashed fan. At the height of logo mania in the 1990s, the Burberry check featured prominently in ready-to-wear collections, covering shirts, dresses, purses and even bikinis. Celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss embraced the heritage look.

Above Ground on the London Underground—Day 28: Sloane Rangers

Cover of the 1980’s book The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook

While the Burberry check has been offered in select seasonal colorways over the years — typically deeps reds with charcoals and grays for winter and light neutrals for spring — by and large it stands by the traditional quadfecta of tan, black, white, and red. In 1996, the house introduced the Burberry Blue label for the Japanese market, which featured playful riffs on the Burberry check such as pink accent stripes or a navy base color.

The line was created with more affordability in its price range, and even expanded to menswear shortly after. Although Burberry Blue ceased production in 2015, its fashion forward silhouettes like pleated kilts look like a certain Miu Miu mini seen everywhere in 2022, and are prime pieces to buy as vintage.