Following on from my last article on printed shirts, I decided it’s important that we don’t neglect accessories.

With today’s high streets being filled with similar retailers and closely followed trends, separation and individualism through the use of accessories is key. Subtle accessorising can help neutralise bold colours and can also be used as a separation between specific pieces. On the other hand, printed accessories can bring a sense of boldness and confidence to a look.

With summer fast approaching, it’s also important that we stick to the idea that less is more. The summer season is a time to wear less, but adding an individual touch should be apparent all year round.

Here on FashionBeans, we’ve covered the importance of accessories and paying attention to detailing on various occasions; but today, we’re narrowing it down to specific detailing with printed accessories.

Utilising Printed Accessories

For those not comfortable with the dominant printed clothing trend we are seeing for SS12, accessories could be the perfect alternative – neckwear, bags, headwear, socks, pocket squares and even sunglasses (remember, most will already have a tortoiseshell pair) all lend themselves nicely to a good print.

A well considered printed accessory can transform a look from something quite dull to something exciting and full of life. Like printed clothing, they can be worn either as a statement or in a subtle manner.

For example: A grey toned paisley pocket square and tie can be added to a classic black suit/white shirt combination, creating a subtle touch of print. The suit will still dominate the attention you get, but the printed accessories will add a new element to the look. On the other hand, a bold coloured patterned scarf can be made the focal point of the exact same outfit by making it the top layer and draping it over your neck, drawing attention to the accessory rather than the suit.

As the ‘rules’ have relaxed slightly in menswear over recent years, there is much more room to experiment. With the widest range of prints and patterns we have ever seen available this year, there is scope to mix a variety of patterns and colours within one outfit. This is an advanced technique – and not one for the faint-hearted – but there is nothing to stop you combining a paisley pocket square with a striped tie AND some bold socks (which pick out a colour in the tie or pocket square).

The key thing to avoid here though is over accessorising. This is a dangerous path and can leave you looking like you’ve tried too hard; on the other hand, get the balance right and you will create a statement that sets you apart from the crowd – for all the right reasons.

How To Wear: Subtly

For those still unsure of prints and patterns, wearing a printed accessory subtly could be a step in new and more confident direction for your personal style. Most of us will approach new things with trepidation; by integrating something as simple as a printed pocket square or scarf into your everyday looks, over time it will become much more natural for you to integrate further printed or patterned pieces. It can be a gradual process, but the development of an individual identity will help take every outfit you create to the next level.

Subtle prints will usually incorporate muted colours, which often compliment each other. A colour palette of monochrome grey, white and black works particularly well and won’t draw too much attention, whilst if you want to integrate some colour, navy, olive green and burgundy are a refined and restrained choice.

Subtle Lookbook

Here’s some images of guys wearing printed accessories in a subtle manner:

Men's Subtle Printed Accessories Lookbook

Based on the lookbook above, I have picked out some key principles that will help you wear a printed accessory subtly:

  • You Can Neutralise Accessories: In the lookbook above, they have managed to neutralise a bold blue polka dot tie by layering a sweater over the top [top centre]. This is the same technique you would apply if you wanted to tone down a bold coloured t-shirt/shirt. Ties can be tucked under jumpers or shown slightly more under a buttoned cardigan, whilst scarves can also be tucked into blazers or shirts.
  • Colour and Pattern: The above lookbook should demonstrate that it is as much about the colour and pattern/print you choose, as it is the accessory. Even when wearing a scarf or neckerchief over the top of your outfit [top right | middle centre | bottom left], it can still be a subtle addition if you stick to deep muted shades that compliment your surrounding pieces. Using an accessory this way helps tie the whole outfit together; the accessory becomes a sum of the parts, rather than demanding attention.
  • Take Attention Away From The Accessory: This trick can be applied to any part of your outfit. If you want to draw attention away from an item that you are only just starting to integrate into your personal style, then do it by making one of your surrounding pieces the focal point instead [bottom centre]. In the lookbook above, the bold red shorts draw your eyeline naturally away from the pocket square, which comes in a muted colour but has been made prominent by the choice of fold. In the same outfit (cut off in this example), they actually utilise purple pastel coloured shoes as well, making sure your eye is fixed firmly on the bottom half.
  • Pattern Matching Can Be Subtle: I am particularly fond of the pattern matching between the blazers and pocket squares in the outfits above [middle left & right]. Even though a patterned pocket square has been utilised in both, they blend effortlessly into the checked blazers – providing only slight differentiation due to the fact the patterns are different. Just goes to show that pattern matching doesn’t have to be garish or a cry for attention.
How To Wear: Statement

Of course, you can make much more of a statement with an accessory if you desire, which can really help to separate yourself from the crowd. In this case you should be looking at prints in striking colour combinations. Bold yellows, greens, pinks and oranges will make nearly any item stand out, especially when paired with more neutral surrounding pieces.

Statement Lookbook

Here’s some images of guys wearing printed accessories as a statement:

Men's Statement Printed Accessories Lookbook

So again, let’s pick out some key points and concepts:

  • Pairing With Neutrals: Even though a couple of the outfits above try to neutralise the accessories by tucking them into blazers or shirts [top left | middle left], they are still the focal point of the look. In both cases the blazer chosen is a muted beige, which even allows navy to really contrast and stand out.
  • Opt For Rare/Unusual Patterns: A hibiscus tie [top centre] is definitely one way you can stand out in a formal environment. It is not a pattern you often see (especially on an accessory), which means it automatically stands out when compared to the multitude of striped, polka dot and check ties available.
  • Mix and Match Patterns/Prints: As long as you are considered, why couldn’t you mix a couple of patterns together within your outfit [top right]? Stripes with paisley, Aztec with polka dots – they are all fair game, and actually look better when there is a clear differential between the two styles. Stick to just 2 contrasting patterns to start with, and make sure that both accessories compliment the base colours of your outfit. In the example mentioned, red is a contrasting colour to the navy blazer, whilst the green striped tie alternates with a slightly lighter blue.
  • Bigger Accessory = Bigger Statement: Seems obvious, but larger accessories make more of a statement by their very nature. A desert scarf or backpack [middle right | bottom centre] takes up a large proportion of your outfit, and so cannot fail to draw attention – even in a muted print like camo.
  • Unusual Accessories: If you pick an accessory that is not usually associated with print, such as a hat [middle centre], they become even more of a statement. These type of accessories are obviously for the more confident amongst you, as many would struggle to wear a trilby naturally, without it comprising of a print as well. Likewise, simple accessories such as a pocket square can become the focal point of a look if you use them in unusual ways [bottom right]. Try placing a simple patterned pocket square into your shirt or denim jacket pocket, it creates a statement instantly.
Key Accessories

So we’ve touched on ways to utilise printed accessories, but what are the key styles for the upcoming season?

The obvious choices are pocket squares, neckerchiefs and lightweight scarves, but don’t limit yourself to these – nearly every other accessory you can think of is viable this year. SS12 is allowing us to put headwear to use in creating a statement; printed flat caps and trilby hats are both available on the market right now. On the flip side, you can also purchase subtler versions of these. For instance, opting for a plain trilby or fedora that has printed detailing on the band.

Socks can offer great variation to any look. Prints with lighter tones can be used to add a subtle touch of colour whereas bolder prints can be used to create more of a statement. Varying how high you cuff your trouser leg will make the world of difference to an outfit – show more of the print or less of the print depending on your comfort level.

The opportunities really are endless, and printed accessories are perfect for adding an individual touch to our summer looks. Here’s a selection accessories available, featuring some of the best prints for the current SS12 season:

Statement Printed Accessories
  • Ted Baker Floral Print Trilby BlueTed Baker Floral Print Trilby Blue
  • Black Geometric Print Beach Hat Paul Smith AccessoriesBlack Geometric Print Beach Hat Paul Smith Accessories
  • Etro Paisley Print Linen ScarfEtro Paisley Print Linen Scarf
  • Ted Baker Urcool – Paisley Print Neck ScarfTed Baker Urcool - Paisley Print Neck Scarf
  • Asos Red Ethnic NeckerchiefAsos Red Ethnic Neckerchief
  • Helen Ruth Strawberry Vine NeckerchiefHelen Ruth Strawberry Vine Neckerchief
  • River Island Aztec BeltRiver Island Aztec Belt
  • Topman Red Elastic Weave BeltTopman Red Elastic Weave Belt
  • Herschel Little America Camo BackpackHerschel Little America Camo Backpack
  • Asos Aztec BackpackAsos Aztec Backpack
  • Happy Socks Argyle SocksHappy Socks Argyle Socks
  • Paul Smith – Accessories 800e-f239 Pink SocksPaul Smith - Accessories 800e-f239 Pink Socks
Subtle Printed Accessories
  • Reiss Doulton Floral Print Pocket Square SandReiss Doulton Floral Print Pocket Square Sand
  • Christopher Kane All Over Floral Cashmere ScarfChristopher Kane All Over Floral Cashmere Scarf
  • Z Zegna Paisley Pocket Square 56777Z Zegna Paisley Pocket Square 56777
  • Reiss Lyndon Paisley Print Scarf RustReiss Lyndon Paisley Print Scarf Rust
  • Vintage Rayban Wayfarer Sunglasses 124586Vintage Rayban Wayfarer Sunglasses 124586
  • Ray-ban Lines Wayfarer 50 SunglassesRay-ban Lines Wayfarer 50 Sunglasses
  • Denim & Supply By Ralph Lauren Navajo BeltDenim & Supply By Ralph Lauren Navajo Belt
  • Paul Smith Shoes & Accessories Cotton-blend Panama HatPaul Smith Shoes & Accessories Cotton-blend Panama Hat
  • Beige Loose Weave Fedora HatBeige Loose Weave Fedora Hat
  • Topman Brown Suede Printed RucksackTopman Brown Suede Printed Rucksack
  • River Island Navajo BackpackRiver Island Navajo Backpack
  • Paul Smith Accessories Navy Polka Dot SocksPaul Smith Accessories Navy Polka Dot Socks

So there we have it! Feel free to experiment with printed accessories this season and don’t be afraid of colour. Use them to compliment your outfits, and decide whether you want to use printed accessories to create a statement or to add a subtle touch of character to a look.

What are your thoughts on printed accessories? Would you rather develop prints into your looks through clothing?

Let us know in the comments below.