Five Ways To Wear Pattern

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Five Ways To Wear Pattern

Words by Mr Tom M Ford | Photography by Mr Brendan Freeman | Styling by Mr Scott Stephenson

19 August 2015

Do you shy away from stripes or wilt at the thought of florals? Here we show how any man can tame prints this fall.

Originally used to describe artists living in 19th-century France, the word Bohemian has become synonymous with a certain type of icon we admire. The likes of Messrs Jack Kerouac, Serge Gainsbourg or Nick Cave immediately spring to mind: unconventional, creative men on the fringes of society (with a wardrobe to match). We often wish we could emulate them – but wearing a suit to your senior banking job never quite says “free artistic thinker”, does it?

Brands frequently tap into our desire to be the Bohemian we are not. In his FW15 Burberry collection, Mr Christopher Bailey captured the enigma of writer Mr Bruce Chatwin by riffing on the bucket hats he wore on his travels to Patagonia and beyond. Last June, Missoni’s SS16 show sold us a striking visual definition of the word “wanderlust” with Persian rugs, Madras checks and Gujarati weaves. Molto Bohemien. Colombian designer Mr Haider Ackermann – who has cornered the market in rock’n’roll elegance with his use of pattern and print – used Mr Keith Richards as the leading reference for his collection in Paris earlier this year.

Let’s face it, though. All those late nights. The unfinished projects. The restless, tortured mind. Being a true Bohemian is just not practical. But, like the designers, we can steal some of their style cues to infuse a little irreverence into our lives – even if it is just for the morning commute. Using all manner of pattern, here’s how to do it (without overdoing it).

Are you a man of tradition? There’s a good chance there are fabrics you already appreciate that can add an extra dimension to your appearance. If you want heritage, herringbone has been around for quite a while. We say “quite a while” – it was used to make the Turin Shroud – but medieval relics aside, it’s a fine way to wear pattern. Invest in Bottega Veneta’s double-breasted jacket and slip Paul Smith’s polka-dot pocket square into your top pocket for a modern update. Don’t worry about it getting a little busy – it contrasts sufficiently with the herringbone so as not to compete. Finish off what we see as an effortless evening look with tapered wool trousers from Berluti and the failsafe Common Projects Achilles sneakers (one of MR PORTER’s most popular sneakers).

In his FW13 collection, Mr Dries van Noten wanted his man to dress in “clothes for a quick exit”. Translation: so stylish and carefree are you that, despite having woken up at midday, you can hastily chuck a few things on and look better than the fresh-faced friend you’re meeting for brunch. Indeed, the designer is a master at the thrown-together, Bohemian look – all wide trousers, gargantuan scarves and, the thing we’re dealing with here, mixed patterns. If you’re going to execute this (think Marrakech Bedouin dweller visits the metropolis), go the whole hog with some Derek Rose pyjama bottoms, but match them with a slightly more conventional cut and pattern in the form of this shirt by Paul Smith. And, most importantly, break things up, the Oliver Spencer denim jacket will work wonders. This is one of the few occasions where sandals are the obvious choice, so wear them without fear (but with a tidy-up).

When wearing a suit – whether it’s for work or the weekend – introducing a bit of pattern is an easy way to signal that, although you appreciate the more traditional aspects of men’s style, you’re also not averse to a little bit of fun. Gucci riffs on the luxury rock star look as well as anyone, and this silk scarf tucked under the jacket is a subtle way of stealing a bit of Mr Keith Richards’ swag (albeit in a more stately fashion). It takes a brave man to experiment with pattern on tailoring – so keep things business-like in a pinstripe, single-breasted suit from MR PORTER’s very own Kingsman brand. Here, we’ve kept things relaxed with a cashmere polo, but you can easily swap it for a shirt if you need to be a little smarter.

Using an accessory is the easiest way to inject some pattern into your outfit – especially if you’re a little more reserved than our friend above. You may well have shopped this scarf on MR PORTER (which is from Burberry’s FW15 Classically Bohemian collection), but if it’s authenticity you crave then you can just as easily tell your friends you picked it up on your recent travels in Goa. With such a bold statement, think about tempering the rest of your look. Especially if you plan on wearing this to the office (should your line of work allow such outlandish dress) – you don’t want people thinking you were brainwashed by a “guru” while you were on said vacation. Simple, yet smart textural pieces such as the rumpled Oliver Spencer jacket and Folk trousers will keep things conservative rather than kooky.

The braver, fashion-forward dresser is unlikely to shy away from throwing on a striking pattern or two – but that gung-ho attitude may just produce some questionable results. The “lost a fight in a fabric shop” look isn’t a strong one. So here is how to wear not one, but two pattern pieces from offbeat brand Marni – without giving your friends a migraine. Why does it work? The main pattern on the shirt is soft, painterly and floral (no Mr Elvis Presley in Hawaii impressions here) and the T-shirt beneath is earthy and subtle. Quite simply, they don’t clash. And as long as you don plainer trousers with a differing texture – such as this lovely wool pair from Sacai – you can continue the fun with your sneakers.