Know Your Terms: Nailhead

Because dropping the lingo is half the fun of dressing well.

Oftentimes, style terms that seem like they should have a pretty simple explanation, well… they don’t. (Foxing, for example, has pretty much zero to do with foxes.) There are those lucky instances, though, where the name and the reasoning behind it are pretty easy to trace. Take nailhead, a grid-like weave marked by a series of repeated squares or other shapes that can most readily be defined as tiny, modified T’s or L’s. It’s remarkably similar to birdseye—for which it’s often confused—but doesn’t share the diagonal orientation or the signature center dots of the other popular suiting pattern. It does, however, share birdseye’s etymological rationale, in that it’s named for a visual similarity to a physical object. Instead of avian peepers, it’s nail heads. (Yeah… pretty obvious.)

Of course, you might not recognize that connection from looking at the pattern after a trip to your local hardware store, seeing as the squared-off geometric motif doesn’t bear much resemblance to the heads of any nails you’re likely to come across. But then, times change. The now-standard wire nail—and its rounded top—didn’t come into being until 1910, when the mechanical process for creating it was perfected. Before that, nails were (you guessed it!) square, hence the moniker. And here you were thinking that the history of construction fasteners had nothing to do with menswear. Tut, tut.

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