Chevrons, Zig Zags and Flame patterns. Do you know the difference?
Thanks to Missoni for Target zigzags have given the trusted, tried and true stripe new life. But not every up-and-down pattern is a zigzag. People use words like chevron and flame. Let’s clear the confusion.
A chevron is a single motif comprised of two slanting lines resembling an upright V or an inverted V. The word chevron comes from Old French and was originally used to identify what we know as a rafter, or where two beams of a roof meet at an angle. Single chevrons are common to heraldic and military insignia.
The word is sometimes mistakenly applied to running lines or bands of repeated chevrons. Running bands of chevrons may be called zigzag or flame. Let’s examine these two a little closer.
The word zigzag means having short sharp turns or angles. The letter “z” is itself a zigzag. A zigzag pattern can be described as a line or band of multiple, connected chevrons. While the exact origin of the word zigzag is unknown it is theorized that it was derived from the reduplication of the German word Zacke meaning tooth or prong.
The term “flame” to describe a decorative motif originated in the practice of needlepoint embroidery. Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery technique which employs upright flat stitches which are laid in a mathematical pattern to create motifs. It is commonly thought that the name originates from a series of chairs found in the Bargello palace in Florence, which have a “flame stitch” pattern. While a Bargello pattern may be in a wavy or zigzag pattern when gradient or multiple colors are used it is considered a flame pattern. For an interesting vintage video showing how to do a Bargello embroidery stitch on go-go boots—from a 1971 episode of Erica Wilson’s self-named TV show—check out this recent post on Retro Renovation:
Chevron, zigzag or flame – use any you like! You’ll be spot-on-trend!