Introduction

Opening up my own wardrobe is often a confusing affair. Amongst the troves of second-hand budget pieces, there are high end glimmers saved for special occasions, stalwart basics that provide sartorial backbone and every now and again, a baffling choice that I cannot explain or reason.

As a mixture of casual and smart garments, it’s hard to find a common thread (no pun intended) amongst my bursting wardrobe. Besides the glaringly obvious fact that I’m clearly a hoarder (brilliant), I often believe that great sartorial strength lies in complete versatility.

Everyone has their own style, that’s for sure, but a vast range is always needed to have an informed and reliable closet. I dress in quite a basic manner and I soon discovered that I need to branch out – enter the prints and patterns of this world.

In a quest to revise my sartorial knowledge (and by proxy, provide you guys with advice), here’s a run down of five of the most coveted and trusted menswear prints and patterns. By investing in a solid patterned piece, we’re one step closer to memorable style.

1. Kaleidoscope

Not just the sole reserve of festival acid trippers, kaleidoscope patterns are set to soar this season. With everyone from Nasir Mazhar to London Collections: MEN wonderboys Agi & Sam plugging this trend, it’s a way of incorporating a bold imprint that straddles each side of the style spectrum.

The choices are endless; real vibrancy for the statement makers or monochrome variations for a sober alternative. The traditionalists of our kind might raise an eyebrow but: do not fear. As a pattern that lies on the more casual side of menswear, kaleidoscope shirts can still be teamed with tailoring for a burst of colour and you’ll find a seamless blend of the classic and the contemporary. Ideal.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Kaleidoscope Prints Lookbook

asos ss13drykorn ss13h&m ss13victorinox ss14custommellow ss13topman x agi & sam 2013
Key Pieces
  • Topman Hype Kaleidoscope T-shirt Topman Hype Kaleidoscope T-shirt
  • Illustrated People T-shirt With Kaleidoscope PrintIllustrated People T-shirt With Kaleidoscope Print
  • Maison Martin Margiela Kaleidoscope Patchwork T-shirtMaison Martin Margiela Kaleidoscope Patchwork T-shirt
  • River Island Dark Grey Bellfield Abstract Print T-shirtRiver Island Dark Grey Bellfield Abstract Print T-shirt
  • Worland Neon Palm Tree TeeWorland Neon Palm Tree Tee
  • Topman Taxonomy Printed SweatshirtTopman Taxonomy Printed Sweatshirt
  • Acne Men’s Isherwood Marble Print ShirtAcne Men’s Isherwood Marble Print Shirt
  • Oiler & Boiler Red Kaleidoscope Surfswim Swim ShortsOiler & Boiler Red Kaleidoscope Surfswim Swim Shorts
  • Guns Germs Shelter ShortGuns Germs $teal Shelter Short
2. Houndstooth

Classic, crisp and reminiscent of more traditional menswear, houndstooth provides a bold statement without overt gaudiness. The beauty of this particular pattern is the ability to increase (or decrease – toning it down can be a good thing too) the print; large and visible houndstooth is a more contemporary slant on the original model.

A personal favourite comes in the form of a fitted, ankle-grazing brown two-piece suit from Ben Sherman but there are plenty of ways to experiment outside the realm of tailoring.

Cotton graphic tees often play with the presentation, which can propel a simple outfit into a memorable one, whilst a pair of houndstooth trousers paired with a simple polo shirt will help take a time-tested smart-casual combination to the next level.

As for the greatest strength of houndstooth? It’s a print that dandies, basic blue jeaners and experimentalists can all find common ground with.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Houndstooth Print Lookbook

marc jacobs aw13marc jacobs aw13river island aw13ami ss13balmain ss14reserved aw13river island aw13ami aw13
Key Pieces
  • Asos Stripe T-shirt With Houndstooth PatternAsos Stripe T-shirt With Houndstooth Pattern
  • River Island Blue Life Of Tailor Houndstooth ShirtRiver Island Blue Life Of Tailor Houndstooth Shirt
  • Paul Smith Exploded Houndstooth-print Sweater 163578Paul Smith Exploded Houndstooth-print Sweater 163578
  • Asos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In HoundstoothAsos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Houndstooth
  • Black Chocoolate Houndstooth TrouserBlack Chocoolate Houndstooth Trouser
  • Slowear Incotex Slim-fit Houndstooth Check Cotton JeansSlowear Incotex Slim-fit Houndstooth Check Cotton Jeans
  • Alexander Olch Grayson Houndstooth Wool TieAlexander Olch Grayson Houndstooth Wool Tie
  • Gant Houndstooth Wool ScarfGant Houndstooth Wool Scarf
  • Topman Black Houndstooth SocksTopman Black Houndstooth Socks
3. Tweed

Although it is strictly a fabric, tweed really is the ultimate in gentile patterns – evoking images of the rural gentleman complete with shotgun, hound and lusty trysts with babes on hay bales.

It’s an easy style route to sharpness. If the pattern works for me (think East Yorkshire drawl and a penchant for 04:00 A.M. kebabs – the height of northern-ness) then it most certainly will for you and all it takes is an informed purchase and a loose quiff.

Tweed works best for tailored pieces, so whether in the form of a full suit or a simple blazer, it’s a heritage move that will never go out of style. However, its only real weakness lies with more casual takes; in my humble opinion, this pattern is for smarter looks only and can easily be cheapened.

Heaven forbid I lay eyes on a tweed t-shirt but my sartorial pessimism suggests that one is being worn somewhere in the world. Avoid at all costs.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Tweed Lookbook

debenhams aw13lbm 1911 aw13zara man september 2012allsaints aw13de fursac aw13he by mango september 2012unknownbal aw13reiss aw12lbm aw12Boglioli aw12primark aw13
Key Pieces
  • Asos Slim Fit Blazer In TweedAsos Slim Fit Blazer In Tweed
  • Richard James Spirit Slim-fit Wool And Silk-blend BlazerRichard James Spirit Slim-fit Wool And Silk-blend Blazer
  • Asos Slim Fit Blazer In TweedAsos Slim Fit Blazer In Tweed
  • Reiss Harper Peak Lapel Herringbone Suit CharcoalReiss Harper Peak Lapel Herringbone Suit Charcoal
  • Topman Premium Rust Herringbone Heritage Fit Suit TrousersTopman Premium Rust Herringbone Heritage Fit Suit Trousers
  • Maison Martin Margiela 10 Men’s Cropped Chino TrousersMaison Martin Margiela 10 Men’s Cropped Chino Trousers
  • Burton Rust Slim Fit Tweed BlazerBurton Rust Slim Fit Tweed Blazer
  • Asos Waistcoat In TweedAsos Waistcoat In Tweed
  • River Island Grey Herringbone ScarfRiver Island Grey Herringbone Scarf
4. African-Inspired

After spending time travelling, I saw plenty in the way of bold African-inspired prints that would look great in either t-shirt or accent form. Surprisingly enough, upon my return all sorts of ethnic patterns popped up on the menswear scene. I’d like to say this was thanks to my own influence in the industry but as I sit eating a pack of smoky bacon crisps whilst wiping crumbs off my shirt, we’ll assume otherwise.

A casual and fun variation of traditional print, the range of patterns and colours out there is incredible and can be sourced from everywhere. If you’re lucky enough to live in South London, there are plenty of budget shops that’ll suffice.

Customise your own gear with strips of African print or go the whole hog – however, inspiration rather than imitation is key.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's African-Inspired Prints Lookbook

zara man spring 2013river island ss12h&m ss12louis vuitton pre fall 2013marc jacobs ss14asos aw12ami ss14ben sherman aw12aqua by aqua ss12
Key Pieces
  • Bukki Denim Gilet With African Print PanelBukki Denim Gilet With African Print Panel
  • Bukki Denim Jacket With African Print PanelBukki Denim Jacket With African Print Panel
  • Two Square Mercy ShirtTwo Square Mercy Shirt
  • Topman Brown Batik Print Short Sleeve ShirtTopman Brown Batik Print Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Red Ear Mens 476m 558p Slim Shirt – BlackRed Ear Mens 476m 558p Slim Shirt - Black
  • 10 Deep Short Sleeve Shirt Tribal Deco10 Deep Short Sleeve Shirt Tribal Deco
  • Bite By Dent De Man Bamboo Print TrousersBite By Dent De Man Bamboo Print Trousers
  • Topman Bite Tourbillons Printed TrousersTopman Bite Tourbillons Printed Trousers
  • River Island Navy Bellfield Tribal Print Swim ShortsRiver Island Navy Bellfield Tribal Print Swim Shorts
5. Florals

After dominating show season, the resurgence of florals proves that they’re not just for females. Whether you’re into a softer approach that involves a pastel hue or a bold, tropical number, there really is an option for every dresser.

The majority of males I know first dipped their toe into the floral pool with a pocket accent or simple collar, but now, everybody is going the full greenhouse with all-over printed shirts. It just goes to show how quickly ‘risky’ trends can take off.

Don a bird of paradise or an Acne-esque rose number and you’ll be immediately on point – whether casual or conservative, it’s one of menswear’s tried and tested motifs.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Floral Print Lookbook

river island ss13h&m ss12zara man spring 2013zara man spring 2013drykorn ss13ben sherman australia ss13scotch & soda ss13marc jacobs ss14scotch & soda ss13paul & joe ss13ami ss14ami ss14
Key Pieces
  • Minimum T-shirt With Floral PocketMinimum T-shirt With Floral Pocket
  • Raf Simons Flower-print Cotton T-shirtRaf Simons Flower-print Cotton T-shirt
  • River Island Yellow Ones Supply Co. Floral Print VestRiver Island Yellow Ones Supply Co. Floral Print Vest
  • River Island Grey Floral Contrast Trim Polo ShirtRiver Island Grey Floral Contrast Trim Polo Shirt
  • Ps By Paul Smith Slim-fit Floral-print Cotton ShirtPs By Paul Smith Slim-fit Floral-print Cotton Shirt
  • Topman Pastel Floral Print Oversized Short Sleeve ShirtTopman Pastel Floral Print Oversized Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Levis Chino Shorts Bennington Floral PrintLevis Chino Shorts Bennington Floral Print
  • Topman Green Floral Pattern ShortsTopman Green Floral Pattern Shorts
  • J.crew Floral-print Cotton Pocket SquareJ.crew Floral-print Cotton Pocket Square
Final Word

So, there’s you have my personal run down of five top menswear prints and patterns, inspired by my wardrobe and the recent show season.

We’re all aware that men’s style and grooming continues to advance by the day – don’t get left behind. Integrating more forward-thinking options into your wardrobe in the form of details, accents and fabrics can help make a real statement without appearing too ‘try hard’. Experiment with a print or pattern yourself and soon enough, you’ll be making sartorial waves everywhere you go.

So, what do you think of the prints and patterns showcased today? Any others you would add to the list? Or maybe you have an inside tip for a pattern you expect to blow up over the coming months?

Let us know in the comments section…