Spot The Difference

Sitting on a spotted chair at a spotted table and staring straight into the camera, George Clooney’s face and hands are the only things that are clearly visible.

The recent December ‘Art’ issue of W Magazine saw Clooney made over by famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama – best known for all those colourfully spotted Louis Vuitton handbags. Peppered with black and white polka dots, the camouflaged Clooney resembles a living and breathing version of one of those colour blind tests we were forced to do at school.

While we’re not advocating taking things to this extreme, it certainly is worth getting a little dotty about spots this season. A timeless print, polka dots go through peaks and troughs on the men’s catwalks, falling in and out of vogue when the mood takes designers and brands.

This summer was a high, though, with spots being seen at all the global fashion weeks, in collections as diverse as Burberry Prorsum, Acne, Marni, Canali and Kris Van Assche.

The great thing about polka dots is there are as many variations as there are dots. From large filled circles to tiny pin-dot motifs, there isn’t one defining look – which means we can all put our own individual stamp on the trend.

This is also a print that hasn’t been ‘owned’ by any particular brand or label – unlike, say, zig-zag stripes (Missoni) or small floral prints (Liberty) – so from high street to designer, they work on any budget. This year’s democratic print of choice, you might say.

On The Runways

As far as the high fashion designers went, Christopher Bailey at Burberry Prorsum returned to a favourite muse, David Hockney, in a collection full of bold hues and contrasting patterns, most notably large colourful polka dots.

This is the artistic side of the trend, delivering colour and interest in equal measure: a balanced dot to background ratio.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kris Van Assche and Canali stuck to neutral tones, with many pieces featuring tightly packed circles. This more structured, geometric approach is perfect for those who want the pattern but not the colour: more dot than background.

Men's Polka Dots on SS14 Runways at Burberry Prorsum, Canali and Kris Van Assche

Burberry ProrsumcanaliKris Van Assche
How To Wear: Polka Dots SS14

These days, you will occasionally come across suits with micro-dot patterning; Jigsaw is stocking a couple this season. The print is usually in a jacquard (embroidered into the fabric) and extremely subtle.

This understated approach helps add depth and structure to lighter, warmer weather items. I would never advise wearing a head-to-toe polka dot route, but if these suits appeal to you, look for one in navy and keep the cut slim and sharp.

However, the easiest way to wear polka dots is to decide which half you’re going to apply them to, top or bottom, and then team with complementary colours or neutrals…

Top Half

We will split this into two camps: work and play. For work, opt for micro dots applied to shirting.

Savile Row tailor Richard James is famed for his sky blue dots on a white base and while some guys may think this is a little too much for the office, it shows confidence and is only really noticeable on closer inspection. These shirts look particularly great when set against grey flannel or navy wool tailoring.

If this is your first foray into polka dots, stick to white backgrounds as it works to neutralise the pattern slightly and will seamlessly slot into your current nine-to-five wardrobe.

Ted Baker, ASOS and Reiss are good places to look for spotted work shirts:

  • Reiss Nottingham Slim Fit Polka Dot ShirtReiss Nottingham Slim Fit Polka Dot Shirt
  • Nn.07 Clay Polka Dot-print Cotton Oxford ShirtNn.07 Clay Polka Dot-print Cotton Oxford Shirt
  • Asos Smart Shirt In Long Sleeve With Polka DotsAsos Smart Shirt In Long Sleeve With Polka Dots
  • Richard James White Swiss Dot Print Cotton-poplin ShirtRichard James White Swiss Dot Print Cotton-poplin Shirt
  • Ted Baker Flodot Spot Printed ShirtTed Baker Flodot Spot Printed Shirt
  • Ben Sherman Polka Dot Print Penny Collar Slim Fit ShirtBen Sherman Polka Dot Print Penny Collar Slim Fit Shirt
  • Paul Smith London Swiss Dot-print Cotton ShirtPaul Smith London Swiss Dot-print Cotton Shirt
  • Slim Fit Polka Dot ShirtSlim Fit Polka Dot Shirt
  • Paul Smith London Swiss Dot-print Cotton ShirtPaul Smith London Swiss Dot-print Cotton Shirt

For play, go for something big and bold – this is where you can really have fun with colour.

Team polka dot tees and shirts with casual trousers/jeans and layer underneath cardigans, blazers or lightweight outerwear.

This will again minimise the effect of the print slightly, ensuring it doesn’t overpower your look. Sometimes it’s nice just to see a slight pattern peeping out at the collar or cuffs, glimpsed underneath a jacket or crew neck jumper.

River Island, ASOS, Paul Smith Jeans and YMC are producing some fun and affordable options this season:

  • Paul Smith Jeans Sweat In Polka DotPaul Smith Jeans Sweat In Polka Dot
  • Universal Works T-shirt With Polka Dot PrintUniversal Works T-shirt With Polka Dot Print
  • Asos Polka Dot Shirt In Long SleeveAsos Polka Dot Shirt In Long Sleeve
  • Paul Smith Jeans T-shirt In Polka Dot Regular FitPaul Smith Jeans T-shirt In Polka Dot Regular Fit
  • Ymc Sweatshirt With Polka Dot PrintYmc Sweatshirt With Polka Dot Print
  • Levi’s Laser Print Denim Shirt In Dot PrintLevi’s Laser Print Denim Shirt In Dot Print
  • River Island Dark Green Polka Dot Short Sleeve ShirtRiver Island Dark Green Polka Dot Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Topman Peter Werth Ritchie Polka Dot Polo Shirt Topman Peter Werth Ritchie Polka Dot Polo Shirt
  • Acne Studios College Dot Printed Cotton-jersey SweatshirtAcne Studios College Dot Printed Cotton-jersey Sweatshirt
  • Ymc Polka-dot Print T-shirt 191748Ymc Polka-dot Print T-shirt 191748
  • Burberry Prorsum Large Polka Dot T-shirtBurberry Prorsum Large Polka Dot T-shirt
  • River Island Navy Polka Dot Contrast Collar Polo ShirtRiver Island Navy Polka Dot Contrast Collar Polo Shirt
Bottom Half

This is more difficult, like most patterned trousers. Jigsaw produced a pair of micro dot white on navy trousers last summer, which completely sold out, and the brand has decided to release them again for SS14. From a distance they look like navy chinos and are perfect for warmer days.

If you want to make a statement with a pair of polka dot trousers, it’s important you keep the shape slim and tapered otherwise they can quickly creep into pyjama bottoms territory.

If patterned trousers aren’t your thing, polka dots are easier to wear on shorts. The shorter length breaks up the pattern and offers a chance to introduce more colour. Tailored versions are perfect for holidaying while statement motifs work really well when applied to swim shorts:

  • River Island Navy Polka Dot Skinny Smart TrousersRiver Island Navy Polka Dot Skinny Smart Trousers
  • Jigsaw Jigsaw Polka Dot Print TrousersJigsaw Jigsaw Polka Dot Print Trousers
  • Sand Polka Dot Cotton TrousersSand Polka Dot Cotton Trousers
  • 7 Stanton Short In Pindot Chambray7 Stanton Short In Pindot Chambray
  • Ymc Polka-dot Print Cotton Shorts 191814Ymc Polka-dot Print Cotton Shorts 191814
  • Topman Villain Dot Print Shorts Topman Villain Dot Print Shorts
  • Oiler & Boiler Mens Classic Swim Shorts – Blue Polka DotOiler & Boiler Mens Classic Swim Shorts - Blue Polka Dot
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Swim ShortsPolo Ralph Lauren Swim Shorts
  • River Island Black Polka Dot Short Swim ShortsRiver Island Black Polka Dot Short Swim Shorts
Polka Dot Clothing Lookbook

We have identified both the brand and the polka dot garment within the lookbook images below (hover over to view), because many pieces are extremely subtle and the dots can appear solid from a distance:

Men's Polka Dot Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Jacket - jigsaw ss14Trousers - zara man ss13Shirt - 7 diamonds aw13T-Shirt - ti for men ss14Shirt & Tie - ben sherman australia ss13Shirt - ted baker ss14Jumper - ben sherman australia aw14Shirt - river island high summer 2014Shorts - asos 2014Polo Shirt - David Mayer Naman ss14Shirt - Eleven Paris ss14Shirt - ti for men ss13
Accessories

This is where, traditionally, polka dots have resided in menswear. Be it ties, scarves, pocket squares or socks, they add a laissez-faire attitude to any look.

The polka dot neck tie is a timeless classic that is available in every conceivable variation and colour. Go for something with a matte finish, no shiny versions, and look for shantung silk or wool construction.

Stick to traditional masculine colour ways of navy, maroon and chocolate brown with white dots and you can’t go wrong. Drakes and Reiss have some lovely ones in stock this season.

Spotted socks are a youthful and quirky option that will inject a touch of personality into any ensemble. Welsh brand Corgi make some of the best polka dot socks on the market, but they can be found anywhere on the high street, from Topman and River Island to Zara and Reiss.

Opt for a contrasting colour combination and have some fun with your outfits.

Polka Dot Accessories Lookbook

Men's Polka Dot Accessories Lookbook

boomerang ss14ravazzolo aw13pal zileri ss14eton ss14ted baker ss14ted baker aw13happy socks aw12ben sherman australia aw14ti for man ss14ti for men ss14ted baker ss14
Key Pieces
  • Reiss POLKA DOT JACQUARD SILK TIEReiss POLKA DOT JACQUARD SILK TIE
  • Reiss Garbo Silk Polka Dot Pocket Square BurgundyReiss Garbo Silk Polka Dot Pocket Square Burgundy
  • Herschel Settlement Backpack In Polka DotHerschel Settlement Backpack In Polka Dot
  • Drake Spotted TieDrake Spotted Tie
  • Hugo Boss Polka Dot Linen-silk TieHugo Boss Polka Dot Linen-silk Tie
  • Paul Smith Polka Dot Cotton Pocket SquarePaul Smith Polka Dot Cotton Pocket Square
  • Corgi Spotted Cotton-blend SocksCorgi Spotted Cotton-blend Socks
  • Paul Smith Shoes & Accessories Multi-dot Cotton Socks 185826Paul Smith Shoes & Accessories Multi-dot Cotton Socks 185826
  • River Island Mixed Polka Dot Ankle Socks PackRiver Island Mixed Polka Dot Ankle Socks Pack
  • W10 By Julien Macdonald – Polka Dot Bow Tie WhiteW10 By Julien Macdonald - Polka Dot Bow Tie White
  • Burberry Prorsum Polka-dot Snood 188463Burberry Prorsum Polka-dot Snood 188463
  • He By Mango Linen-blend ScarfHe By Mango Linen-blend Scarf
Final Word

SS14’s polka dot trend can be as individual as you are with a limitless choice of patterns, colours and scales.

Think of it like the DPI – dots per inch – of a computer screen or a Lichtenstein cartoon painting: the higher the DPI, the smaller the dots. The dots can be uniform and perfectly spaced or random and haphazard, like a human Dalmatian.

There’s something very approachable and likeable about a guy in polka dots. If you’re still not convinced, try a pair of swimming shorts on holiday or start with a simple t-shirt. For those of you worried about resembling a male Minnie Mouse, remember, polka dots are as masculine as you are.

So, what do you make of the polka dot trend? Let us know in the comments section below…