The term “herringbone” is used to refer to a distinctive pattern which appears in masonry, clothing design, and parquetry. The pattern has been used for hundreds of years, especially in Europe. It can be difficult to make the elements of a herringbone pattern line up. As a result, creating things with a herringbone pattern is usually limited to skilled craftsmen if the pattern has to be created entirely by hand. The advent of modular systems for things like brickwork and flooring has made herringbone easier, and therefore more common.
The pattern consists of very short rows of slanted parallel lines. The rows are oriented in opposition to each other, causing the slanted lines to form a dense pattern of chevrons, with each slant meeting up at the end with a slant going in the opposite direction. The pattern is named for the herring fish, which is famous for being rather densely bony. Depending on personal taste, a herringbone pattern may be made with different colors or textures to make the lines stand out, or it may be left subtle and simple.
Clothing produced with a herringbone pattern is usually intended for use as an outer layer. Tweed, a fabric well known in England, is often produced with a herringbone pattern. Tweed is a coarse woolen cloth which is worn as an outer layer. The wool makes tweed highly insulating, and also resists water so that the garment can be worn outdoors for activities like hunting and shooting. Twill fabric is also produced with a herringbone pattern, in which the alternating lines are often ribbed, creating a raised pattern.
In parquetry, more casually known as flooring, herringbone patterns can be accomplished in wood, brick, and tile. Subtle alternating colors may be used to create a distinctive floor pattern, or the materials used may be the same, causing the floor to look uniform from a distance. Laying a herringbone floor is very challenging, since the multitude of small rows must be made to line up smoothly, which can be difficult in a room which is not perfectly plumb. Small mistakes in a herringbone floor can be rather glaring because of the way the pattern lines up, so care must be taken.
Masonry also utilizes herringbone, often as an accent pattern on the sides of buildings and other structures. A floor or outdoor walkway made from stone or brick may be made entirely from herringbone, or herringbone stripes may be integrated into other patterns. Just like with flooring, the rows must be carefully aligned to maintain the integrity of the pattern.