It’s a smart move to dial down your colours when the sun spends less time in the sky than the Wright brothers’ plane. And with brights muted, prints are your seasonal way to stand out from the shadows. This winter, that means picking up on key patterns like paisley, ikat or the swathe of all-over motifs ushered in by the rise of affordable digital printing.
Be warned that these prints need to be deployed with care; overindulge, and you’ll get people straining to perceive the magic eye picture hidden in your knitwear. But worn well, patterns can either pull outfits together or subtly clash, the softly-softly way to make a statement. Here’s how to get it right.
In The Office
Gucci’s all-over printed, pussy bow blouse may raise eyebrows at your annual appraisal, but a subtle touch of pattern can inject life into sober office ensembles.
As a rule of thumb, your job’s creativity is in direct proportion to the size of print you can rock. Law partners are best with micropatterned shirts, accentuated by plain backgrounds; self-facilitating media nodes should feel free to dabble in Christopher Shannon’s intarsia knitwear (or even the aforementioned blouses, if you’re feeling self-assured).
To stay the right side of HR, limit yourself to two colours and ground the pattern by keeping the rest of your outfit demure, then echoing a colour from the print to pull your look together.
Accessories let you dip a toe, if you’re unsure quite how pattern-savvy your boss is. “Feel free to use bolder colours for your pocket square or socks,” says Carl Thompson, founder of luxury shirtmakers Hawkins & Shepherd. Just not that puce and cyan tie you got for Christmas.
On The Streets
Restrictions can be a safety rail when you’re traversing something with as many pitfalls as prints. But away from the office’s constraints, there’s the temptation to embrace intricacy so hard you spark migraines across a room. Blunt that impact by sticking to one printed piece, but opening up to more abstract patterns, like Christopher Kane’s 3D cubes or Jaded London’s monochrome tapestries.
“Printed legwear is also a great and unexpected way to add individuality to your look,” says Luke McCarthy, style editor at The Idle Man. “But make sure you’re keeping everything else simple to let the trousers take centre stage.”
Use fabrics to keep coruscating prints in check; the wilder the style, the more matte its canvas should be. Shiny and acid-tinged is the shortcut to a bad trip.
In The Gym
Alexander Wang-clad street ninjas may dissent, but gym kit needn’t be all-black – even if yours is only ever deployed athleisure style, with with an oversized overcoat, not a dumbbell.
Perhaps inspired by this year’s trip to Rio, sportswear’s become busier, from block-colours in life vest hues, à la Christopher Raeburn, to the intricate embellishments on Tiger of Sweden’s loungey tracksuits.
Activewear’s inherent energy means you can be more laissez-faire with what rubs up together. “Make a statement by clashing print and pattern,” says stylist Anna Palmieri. To create a spark, not a friction burn, note the officewear rules above and simplify both pattern and colour. Use hue to bridge opposing patterns by repeating at least one colour from the busier piece in its partner, to pull both together. It’s uniform dressing that breaks ranks.