Is the chevron the new stripe, an enduring classic or the most overdone look of the decade? Here’s how the zigzag won our hearts.

WL0913.chevron1As a child I felt a deep connection to the chevron-sporting Charlie Brown. Supremely unhip at the age of 11, I had home haircuts and my bedroom walls were plastered with posters of basset hounds (clearly, I was a sucker for pathos); what I didn’t have was a T-shirt like Charlie’s. It never occured to me that a canary yellow golf shirt with a wide chevron pattern around the belly might not up my chances of fitting in. Eventually, when my parents bought what I’d asked for, they inevitably got it wrong: a shirt featuring a picture of Charlie Brown. They no doubt saved me from sartorial suicide, but I wonder now if they just didn’t take chevron seriously.WL0913.chevron11Depending on who you ask, chevron is either the new stripe, an enduring classic or the most overdone look of the decade. In a perfect case of form following meaning, chevron has a fittingly wavering status in the design world.While Charlie Brown was a relatively early adopter of the serial inverted “v” pattern, archeologists have found examples of chevroned Minoan pottery going back to 1800 BC, and the design has been a mainstay of French and British heraldry for centuries. It wasn’t until the 1970s, however, that the Italian designer Ottavio Missoni made chevron fashionable with his and wife Rosita’s jubilant line of knitwear.WL0913.chevron8Since then the pattern—which moonlights, in a stacked form, as a sign of military rank and as the logo of a major oil company—has gone through a few incarnations, perhaps my least favourite being the soft-focus ikat chevron popular in the 1980s. (I recently found a “vintage southwestern ikat Navajo boho chevron Indian jumper dress shorts romper” on eBay; despite the current rebirth of such prints in haute couture, this little number had no bids on last check.) Long before Missoni signed its 2011 deal with Target to sell a low-cost take on zigzagged sweaters, dinnerware and patio sets under its label, the popular shelter site Design Sponge had published a black-and-white chevron DIY rug project and moved on.WL0913.chevron12Still, the chevron abides. According to Victoria-based designer Heather Draper, who this summer opened her flagship store The Heather Company in Calgary, “chevron really is the new stripe.” She says that thanks to the pattern’s versatility, its popularity is on the rise. “Chevrons generally play well with other patterns,” she explains. “There’s enough movement in the print to allow it to stand on its own and it’s simple enough to work with florals.” To Draper, chevron is “at its best in strong colours for a modern interior.” She points to a juicy raspberry, tangerine and cherry fabric she named “Charlie Peashoot” (Chuck’s cheerful alter ego?) as a vibrant example of how to lighten up a stark family room or bedroom. In more subtle terms, her line of fabric includes a sand and cream print called “Chevron Natural,” and she recently oversaw the installation of a white zigzag-tiled shower stall.WL0913.chevron6WL0913.chevron9Calgary designer Martine Ast of Paul Lavoie Interior Design is an equally unabashed chevron fan who frequently layers the look with other prints. “It’s a dynamic pattern and it has lots of movement,” says Ast, who recently covered a vintage settee in a narrow, black-and-white chevron. Rather than seeing it as a passing fad with a slippery grip, Ast perceives chevron as a definite classic akin to herringbone, a finer, broken zigzag pattern with a long, sophisticated history of Harris tweed and parquet flooring. If anything, says Ast, the chevron is making more lasting inroads in design as it moves from fashion and fabric to more permanent features such as tile and flooring.Indeed, Vancouver designer Denise Ashmore—somewhat lukewarm on modern chevron-patterned fabrics—was recently impressed by the modern installation of a zigzagged, shades-of-rose floor at Stella McCartney’s Milano store; this summer she snapped a photo of a stunning, black-and-white chevron floor in a cheese shop in Aix-en-Provence, France. (Ashmore hasn’t yet convinced a Vancouver client to go all in for zigzag flooring but vows to keep trying.)WL0913.chevron2Meanwhile, I might save up for Missoni’s new Thunderbolt dress. It has wide, diagonal, purple and blue chevron stripes masquerading as jagged bolts of lightning. It’s edgier, more feminine and certainly more flattering than the shirt I coveted three decades ago. Too bold for Charlie Brown, but Lucy could have pulled it off. wl