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A Gentleman’s Guide

How To Make Pattern Work For You

We attempt to convince you, through the illustrative use of some fine examples, to take a walk on the wild side this season

  • Photograph by Thousand Yard Style

Nothing says, “Look at me” quite like a profusion of print. Actually, that’s not quite true. You could wear a magenta onesie with the words LOOK AT ME embroidered on the back. Or a dress made out of raw meat. Or nothing at all. Let’s just settle for saying that, within certain boundaries – namely, what is considered appropriate attire for a man on the street – there are few things as unapologetically extrovert as print.

The upshot of this is that it tends to be rather divisive. An intrepid minority will embrace it – perhaps a little too enthusiastically – while the rest will shun it altogether for fear of looking, well… a little bit silly. More’s the pity, we say. Properly and prudently applied, print isn’t silly at all. It’s a great way of injecting a pop of colour – and a point of difference – into your outfit.

And if that’s not quite enough to convince you, then what if we told you that it’s also – though we shudder slightly at the term – exceedingly on-trend? The current spring collections are awash with a vibrant array of prints and patterns, from florals and leopard print to camo and planets. What a time to be alive.

If you’ve been tempted by print before, but didn’t feel confident enough to try it, now is the time to act. If, on the other hand, you’re perfectly content to dress in the same old shades of black, navy and grey as everybody else, we advise you to read no further. While we’ve gone to great lengths to make the following pointers as accessible as possible, some of the looks we’ve chosen to illustrate them are not for the faint of heart.


  • Photograph by Ms Alexandra Chalaud/

Any discussion on pattern and print must invariably begin here. Before we even get onto the practical considerations of how to wear the stuff, it’s worth remembering that style is at least nine-tenths confidence. You’ll simply never look good in something you don’t feel comfortable wearing. Take Exhibit A, above, which depicts a young man attending a fashion show in a matching shirt and shorts combo that most men would give a wide berth. It’s eye-catching for all the right reasons, though, and this has a great deal to do with the confidence with which he’s wearing it. (As for practical considerations, notice the clever way that he’s broken up the matching pattern with a plain white tee, thus avoiding looking like a streetwear Mrs Doubtfire.)

Try these

  • Rhude Camp-Collar Printed Voile Shirt

  • Gitman Vintage Camp-Collar Printed Cotton-Poplin Shirt


  • Photograph by Mr Lee Oliveira/Trunk Archive

Perhaps the most striking thing about this photograph isn’t what our Mr George Harrison lookalike is wearing, but what he’s holding. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s indulging in the traditional street-style pastime of tip-tip-tapping away on his smartphone – perhaps he’s checking the latest arrivals on MR PORTER – you could easily conclude that it was taken 40 years ago. (That is, until you realise it’s Mr Ben Cobb, editor-in-chief of AnOther Man.) Such is the power of the resurgent 1970s look, which caught on a few seasons ago and is showing no signs of abating. A geometric-pattern shirt, as seen here, is a great way to channel the look. Avoid veering into pastiche territory by keeping the rest of your outfit contemporary. Flares are not strictly recommended, and moustache and untamed Laurel Canyon locks not obligatory.

Try these

  • Gucci Camp-Collar Printed Silk-Twill Shirt

  • Dries Van Noten Grandad-Collar Printed Ramie Shirt


  • Photograph by Mr Tommy Ton/Trunk Archive

One of the biggest trends for the coming season is the pyjama-like spread collar, as seen here on the bowling shirt of Mr Alex Badia, men’s fashion director at WWD. We recommend you snap up something like this as soon as possible (the shirt, that is, not the fashion director). Not only does it look great at the weekend, it’s the easiest way of incorporating some print into your wardrobe. Yes, it looks a little bit 1980s Hawaii – think Mr Tom Selleck in Magnum PI – but that’s no bad thing. Just use the vibrancy to add a focal point to an otherwise subdued outfit of dark greens and blues, as demonstrated here.

Try these

  • Sandro Camp-Collar Printed Satin Shirt

  • J.Crew Camp-Collar Printed Slub Cotton Shirt


  • Photograph by Frenchy Style/

The Japanese word boro translates as ragged or tattered, but don’t let that put you off. This traditional patchwork fabric, created by sewing together scraps of indigo-dyed cotton, has been boro’ed – sorry, borrowed – by a number of Japan’s most exciting menswear brands, among them Junya Watanabe, Visvim and Kapital. We love the higgledy-piggledy mixture of shades and patterns, and the way this gentleman has added yet another layer of textural contrast with that blue marled woollen hat. Everything else about the look says casual. The trick here, and for print in general, is not to overdo it.

Try these

  • Lanvin Patchwork Checked Cotton-Blend Shirt

  • Junya Watanabe Slim-Fit Patchwork Striped Cotton-Poplin Shirt


  • Photograph by Thousand Yard Style

This photograph shows Mr Konstantin Spachis of Germany’s MADAME Magazine wearing a silk Prada bomber jacket with a pair of petrol-blue trousers, which is more or less exactly how it was styled on the runway. How’s that for a piece of sartorial derring-do? There’s an East-meets-West dissonance to the printed silk bomber. Its silhouette says US military, but its colour and fabric suggest something far more exotic. Mr Spachis’ tailored trousers add yet more contrast; a formal note in an otherwise relatively informal outfit. Who cares if it’s straight off the runway? It works.

Try these

  • Gucci Slim-Fit Appliquéd Velvet and Paisley-Print Jersey Bomber Jacket

  • Saint Laurent Reversible Ikat Cotton and Silk-Blend Jacquard Bomber Jacket


  • Photograph by THEURBANSPOTTER/

What can we take from the current popularity of print among the world’s best-dressed men? Certainly, it hints at a new confidence and a willingness to step outside our comfort zone. But there’s more to it than that. Print is the antithesis of formality, to the blacks, greys and navy blues we associate with being smartly dressed. Print is fun. Print is sportif. And we can see in its increased acceptance a general shift towards a more casual, relaxed way of dressing. This is how it’s worn best, and why the artfully dishevelled look, above, works so well. Don’t believe us? Try wandering around the fashion shows in a half-untucked plain white shirt and see how many street-style photographers bother you for your time.

Try these

  • Stella McCartney Camp-Collar Printed Cotton Shirt

  • Officine Generale Don Camp-Collar Cotton-Poplin Shirt