The story collection about the character AJ Raffles, The Amateur Cracksman, written by Earnest William Hornung and published in 1899, contains the following sentence in the story “The Ides of March”:

Yet it was whispered in the school that he was in the habit of parading the town at night in loud checks and a false beard.

I was wondering just what it is that loud checks refers to in that sentence.

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    Garish checkerboard-patterned clothing.
    – deadrat
    Sep 24, 2016 at 16:56
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    In the UK, this can also be found as 'chequered' as in 'chequered shirt' (also 'checkered').
    – Nobilis
    Sep 24, 2016 at 22:17
  • @Nobilis No doubt the wearer of a "chequered" shirt had a checkered career in bouncing cheques up and down the local High Street - or should that be checks and Main Street? Anyway, the late "Bouncing Czech" himself had a very checkered career. Sep 25, 2016 at 5:10

3 Answers 3


"he was in the habit of parading the town at night in loud checks and a false beard".

It must be "a gaudy check shirt".

check -A garment or fabric with a pattern of small squares. ‘on Wednesdays he wore the small check’

loud, in this case, means "gaudy" - (very bright in a way that does not show good taste)

a check shirt (loud, in my opinion)

enter image description here

  • 1
    Exactly! Think tablecloths. See also check n.² in Oxford Dictionaries Online sense 1.1 ‘garment or fabric with a pattern of small squares’ and also the Wikipedia article on Check Patterns. People outside the garment industry use the term check for a variety of patterns broader than those within may use it, including for plaids and argyle, not just for basic gingham and the like. The sense of loud meaning gaudy or garish may also be confusing to the asker.
    – tchrist
    Sep 24, 2016 at 17:20
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    @PeterPoint That's why the guy who wore it in 1999 was the laughing stock of his school.
    – Centaurus
    Sep 24, 2016 at 23:49
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    @Centaurus - Only because I wore it first in 1963, and it was starting to look pretty threadbare by 1999.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 25, 2016 at 0:56
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    @Centaurus - Heck no. Wore it every day. (It was starting to smell a bit by the end of the year.)
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 25, 2016 at 1:22
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    In the UK, many comedians used to tell a joke after they worked for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). "My shirt was a BBC tartan; small check". Of course, given the differences in spelling "check" and "cheque" in British English, 'tis a joke best spoken. Sep 25, 2016 at 1:25

May I venture to suggest that that "loud checks' has to be imagined in the context of the OP's late 19th century (1899) and the milieu of Raffles. This more than likely refers to a 2-piece (jacket & trousers/pants) or 3-piece suit (jacket, trousers/pants & waistcoat/vest) made from cloth with a bold check-pattern. The landed gentry would wear this kind of attire in London on a Friday, just prior to departing for a weekend in the country where, in season, they would enjoy a few days of field sports, changing into hunting pinks, Plus Fours and the like.

A suit with a very loud check-pattern was something of a "statement" when worn by urban bounders and cads of the day. The pattern was more likely to be at the far end of the loud spectrum. The OP's context would suggest an urban bounder in a very loud check suit rather than a bespoke Savile Row suit as worn by a toff.

EDIT: See GRENVILLE, Richard Plantagenet, Duke Buckingham depicted loud check

  • I feel you are right, but maybe need some references to overtake the more modern interpretation. Also, at that time, I'd be surprised if anyone owning a shirt would walk about town at night without a jacket covering it. Sep 25, 2016 at 10:35
  • @SeanHoulihane Quite so. I do need to cite references but my researches thus far have not been fruitful. I shall continue my efforts. Stay tuned. Sep 25, 2016 at 11:13
  • @SeanHoulihane I have now cited a Punch cartoon of 1884 depicting the Duke of Buckingham in "loud check suit" - looks like a Dog Tooth check to me. Sep 25, 2016 at 12:45

Chequered or checked clothing. Think table cloth in an Italian restaurant in colors other than red and white or blue and white or green or black and white....

  • It's important to read what other users have posted before you offer your own response. This answer doesn't add anything to the other contributions, it simply repeats what's already provided. Sep 28, 2016 at 8:20

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