I am absolutely certain that, if you are a regular FashionBeans reader, you already know prints and patterns will be THE key menswear trend for the coming season. If not, where have you been? Make sure you check out our full trend report and then meet us back here… Got it? Good.

Yesterday, Paul did a great job in breaking down two unique ways of wearing the printed shirt this spring/summer; subtly and as a statement. Today, I want to literally turn this on its head and focus on another menswear classic that is being given the printed treatment this year.

That’s right, shorts are currently being released in a wealth of prints and patterns, whilst many of the major high street brands have also been featuring them heavily within their recent lookbooks.

Printed Shorts

As mentioned above, the printed short has been dominating new releases from designers and the high street alike. There hasn’t been any major variation within men’s shorts for a few years now, which makes this particular mini-trend very intriguing and a nice break from the norm.

When we first reported the upcoming print trend, I think many of you probably scoffed at printed trousers. It is easy to see why, they are unconventional and perhaps just too much of a statement for the everyday male. However, this is not applicable to printed shorts. The pattern/print is confined to a smaller area, and many of you will have already worn some form of printed swimming/board shorts before. Personally, I think they are even easier to wear than a printed shirt.

Matt Allinson has already set out some specific guidelines to follow when purchasing men’s shorts this year – and these rules still apply. Get your basics covered first, and then you can add a printed short to your summer wardrobe in order to separate yourself from the tailored beige/navy versions you will no doubt see on many stylish males this year.

How To Wear: Printed Shorts

Unlike a printed shirt, you can’t layer anything over your shorts in order to neutralise them and reduce the effect/garishness of the print. Instead, there should be more focus on the particular type of print you opt for, and the colours/pieces you surround your shorts with.

Take a look at this example lookbook:

Wearing a printed short subtly


Here are a few key suggestions and guidelines to help you pull off a pair of printed shorts:

  • Wear Them As A Statement: If you are buying a pair of printed shorts in order to make a statement, utilise them as the focal point of your outfit. This can be done really easily by keeping the rest of your outfit stripped back and in neutral colours [middle right | bottom right]. You want to frame your shorts so that they effortlessly draw your attention, and there is no easier way to do this than by pairing with neutrals.
  • Subtle Versions: On the other end of the scale, there are some much more subtle versions on the market for you to buy. I really like the pair in the lookbook above [top centre], as they feature the print on the inside, making you cuff your shorts in order to show it off. Not particularly daring, but shows great attention to detail.
  • Print Size: Bear in mind print type and size, as it will contribute to how much of a statement your shorts make. Small checks [top left] and spots [middle left] are good options for those who don’t want to stand out too much, and so are prints that have larger spacing between them [bottom left].
  • Bold Surrounding Pieces: If you are looking to make less of a statement with your shorts, then why not draw attention to another part of your outfit? A bold statement shoe will draw the eye-line away from the shorts towards the feet [top left], whilst a bold jumper, blazer or shirt will keep eyes firmly focused on your top half [middle left].
  • Tonal Shorts: Tonal prints stand out much less [middle centre | top right] than those that contrast [bottom right & centre]. It will also allow you to hit another key trend of the season – tonal/one colour outfits. I really love how they paired blue printed shorts with a lighter blue polo and darker navy cardigan in the lookbook above [middle centre]. It is an outfit that coordinates throughout, yet contrasts enough to provide definitive segments to the look.
  • Colour Combinations: If you opt for a printed short in a similar base colour to the chinos you would normally wear – such as beige or navy – you can utilise them in much the same way. Brown/tan footwear will still look great with blue printed shorts, as will contrasting and complimentary colours such as reds and yellows. If your shorts are multi-coloured, look to pick out one of the colours within your upper half [such as blue – middle right]. Bear in mind your colour wheel, and create your outfits accordingly.
Making A Statement: Double Prints

OK, so now we have broken down the easiest ways to pull off a pair of printed shorts this year. But what if this isn’t enough? What about those that want to stand out from the crowd – after all, everyone else is going to be wearing prints too right?

Well, this section is for the more daring amongst you. It involves pairing both printed shorts AND a printed shirt/top together, in order to create a look that cannot fail to garner attention. ASOS, River Island and Urban Outfitters have all done this within their latest lookbooks, with many of the outfits being extremely wearable:

Printed Shorts With Printed Tops Lookbook


Of course, it is a difficult one to get right, and you have every chance of looking like a walking optical illusion. However, for those that want to give it a go, you should remember these guidelines:

  • Vary Your Prints: This is the key to any form of pattern matching, whether it be between your shirt and tie, shirt and suit or shorts and shirt. You MUST vary your print. A printed shorts/shirt combination is actually slightly easier this year, because the options are almost endless for both. Checks with dots, geometric patterns with stripes, Aztec with floral – it will work much better in creating a contrast and defining the sections of your outfit. Also make sure you consider size of print. Make one smaller than the other (such as a small pin dot with a larger Aztec/tribal print), as it will allow the eye to distinguish between the two more clearly.
  • Neutralise Your Top Half: It is much easier to wear two prints if you neutralise the top one. Taking on board the principles Paul set out in his printed shirts article, layer a neutral blazer/cardigan/hoody/jacket over your shirt in order to contain it and avoid ‘print overload’ [middle centre & right]. On that note, I can’t advocate ‘neutralising’ your top print with another print! [top centre.]
  • Similar Tones: Complimentary or similar tones for both your top and bottom half [bottom left & right] will always look much more subtle than those prints which contrast against each other. Try blues and greys mixed together or tonally.
Printed Shorts Picks
  • Topman Turquoise Aztec Woven ShortsTopman Turquoise Aztec Woven Shorts
  • Topman Blue Chambray Polka Dot Cinch Tailored ShortsTopman Blue Chambray Polka Dot Cinch Tailored Shorts
  • Universal Works Polka Dot Ripstop ShortsUniversal Works Polka Dot Ripstop Shorts
  • Topman Navy Chino Aztec ShortsTopman Navy Chino Aztec Shorts
  • Asos Aztec ShortsAsos Aztec Shorts
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Oriental Dragon Print ShortsPolo Ralph Lauren Oriental Dragon Print Shorts
  • Shades Of Grey By Micah Cohen Btm670 Safari ShortsShades Of Grey By Micah Cohen Btm670 Safari Shorts
  • Topman Aztec Pattern Woven ShortsTopman Aztec Pattern Woven Shorts
  • Benson Patterned Chino ShortsBenson Patterned Chino Shorts
  • Ymc Camouflage-print Cotton ShortsYmc Camouflage-print Cotton Shorts
  • Gant Bastian Watermelon ShortsGant Bastian Watermelon Shorts
  • Paul Smith Embroidered Bicycle Shorts Light ChinoPaul Smith Embroidered Bicycle Shorts Light Chino
  • Topman Navy Paisley Micro Tailored ShortsTopman Navy Paisley Micro Tailored Shorts
  • Heritage Research Saigon Crazy Black Hawaiian ShortsHeritage Research Saigon Crazy Black Hawaiian Shorts
  • Norse Projects Randoey Shorts NavyNorse Projects Randoey Shorts Navy
  • Marc By Marc Jacobs Mens Andrew Plaid ShortsMarc By Marc Jacobs Mens Andrew Plaid Shorts
  • Band Of Outsiders Mens Classic Paisley ShortsBand Of Outsiders Mens Classic Paisley Shorts
  • Lanvin Mens Patterned Silk Pocket ShortsLanvin Mens Patterned Silk Pocket Shorts
Final Word

The printed shorts trend has come as a welcome change from the traditional styles available on the market this year. The perfect addition to any true summer wardrobe, they are an effortless statement piece that can be worn in a variety of ways – with a style for every personal taste.

But what do you think?

  • Will you be investing in a pair of printed shorts?
  • Is is going to be printed shorts or a printed shirt for you?
  • Have you got the balls/stomach to try print matching this year?
  • How will you wear your printed shorts?

Let us know in the comments section below…