Tartan, sometimes called plaid or checks, is one family of fashion patterns that is as common as it is misunderstood. Many of us have worn it in one form or another, but we don't always do it right because we don't give it the thought it deserves. As a child, I used to love argyle patterns and fantasised about living in a castle in Scotland. The classic pattern still evokes a warm and fuzzy feeling. Then, of course, there is the Burberry check, a fashion classic that will always have a place in my heart. I also remember when flannel was big and everyone was wearing it. Although I was never really that into grunge music, the style inspiration it brought has influenced me. One night in Manhattan's East Village in the early 1990s, I was on my way to a favourite Alphabet City bar when I saw a guy - possibly in his early 20s - who epitomised the ultimate street style of the time: that perfectly dishevelled blond hair, flannel plaid shirt, straight-cut jeans and beat-up Docs, sitting on the sidewalk with his black mongrel. His entire outfit probably cost less than US$150, but it was an invaluable fashion lesson: it's the attitude that makes it work. Browsing this season's Louis Vuitton lookbook, I spotted an ensemble of a poplin cotton plaid shirt and a pair of plaid cargo shorts (but in different densities of checks), with a blue blazer, sandals and a tote. Initially, it looked like a banker sleepwalking but then I thought: it could probably work with a Nicholas Tse attitude. In the earlier days of his stardom, the Canto-pop singer-cum-film-star once turned up at a press event in a designer blazer and shirt and a pair of boxer shorts. He was doing it in protest against something - he was always annoyed about something or other - but he actually looked better than most of the other, more decently covered, men around. Again, it was the attitude that made the look work. Displays at fashion shows are often conceptual, of course, and you are not supposed to follow all of them. How many men can pull off those Givenchy keffiyeh-print sarouel pants? (2) Maybe a rugged man with tousled hair who leads the carefree life of an artist? As for myself, my life isn't so carefree so I'd probably opt for a loose-fitting T-shirt with a trompe l'oeil drape on the shoulders. It would go well with my black embroidered trousers for a night of cocktailing on the terrace of Cafe Gray at the Upper House in Pacific Place, Admiralty. Also catching my eye this season is Nicole Farhi's use of plaid in her Farhi by Nicole Farhi collection. The Thomas check shirt in bold blue plaid accented with green has a feeling of calm and confidence, but the purple plaid also makes for a shape combo with the summer nylon cobalt blouson. It is for the man who is young - or young at heart - and yet worldly. I used to think of plaid shorts as somewhat naff, but in recent years I have revised my opinion. When worn appropriately, plaid shorts are a respectable fashion item that add a whimsical air to a masculine casual look. The classic and understated Japanese brand D'urban has an ensemble that proves my case: a two-sided white jacket with buttoned-up Nehru collar, cotton sweater and purple-plaid shorts. It is the perfect spring/summer casual look for the man who spends his weekends between boating and hanging out at the country club. Another brand that successfully melds playfulness with classic masculine looks is Ted Baker Two of the label's items this season are the sharp orange-and-blue flannel shirt and blue-green-and-white bold-check shirt, topped with a lavender track suit jacket (1). The former exudes the charm of a sunny and outdoors-loving man, while the latter is much more for the city boy who just wants to look pretty. If you have a cowboy attitude - and very nice biceps - the classic country-style short-sleeved red plaid shirt by Evisu (3) could make you look truly stunning with a pair of raw denim jeans. I am more into Wooyoungmi's blue country plaid shirt when escaping the drama of the city for one day, maybe dining by the beach at Stoep on Lantau. Shopping list Burberry, Alexandra House, Central, tel: 2868 3511. D'urban, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2735 2178. Evisu, D-mop, 8 Kingston Street, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay, tel: 2203 4130. Farhi by Nicole Farhi and Wooyoungmi, Seibu, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2971 3888. Givenchy, Lane Crawford, IFC Mall, Central, tel: 2118 3388. Louis Vuitton, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, tel: 8100 1182. Ted Baker, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2736 6323.