Accidentally spilling chilli sauce all over your favourite shirt isn’t the only way to spice up an outfit. In fact, it’s probably best avoided.
As we menfolk become more confident in our style choices, and as the warmer weather prompts a break away from the plain greys and blacks of winter, a window (heck, even a windowpane) opens up in the wardrobe for more lively prints and patterns.
And while you don’t need a stylist’s eye to know which ones do (and which ones categorically do not) suit you, a sixth sense for spotting the subtle changes in each from season-to-season is a little harder to come by.
For this reason, we thought now would be a good time to walk you through SS17’s essential prints and patterns, and how to wear them.
To avoid coming off predictable, it was tempting to exclude florals from this list. But then again, nothing screams “everyone back to mine for a BBQ and several crates of strong lager,” quite like a Hawaiian shirt.
Florals will continue to bloom in SS17, used across everything from Cuban collared shirts and tailored shorts to denim jackets and tailoring accessories. Better yet, having fully shaken off their feminine connotations, the breadth of designs on show – ranging from dark, repeat-pattern hibiscus palms to more vivid botanical motifs – makes them a solid choice for both smart and casual occasions.
For an everyday look, Tom Courcey, deputy editor of online menswear retailer The Idle Man, suggests pairing a floral shirt with other summer staples. “Take a short-sleeved floral shirt and wear it open over a neutral T-shirt with a light-coloured chino – think beige or even white,” he says. “If you really want to keep the outfit on trend, opt for a raw hem pair of jeans.”
Alternatively, match a colour from a micro-printed floral shirt to that of a suit for the perfect wedding attire.
You’d have to have been living in a cave for quite a while not to know that camouflage came back and, well, stayed back some years ago.
Because the military print is now less of a trend and more a permanent wardrobe fixture, designers at the high-end and on the high street have to work hard to reinvent the look with new colourways and styles each season. Whichever you enlist, the task remains to pull it off without looking like Action Man, or worse, a washed-out casualty of the 1990s jungle scene.
“Wearing camo doesn’t have to mean being draped in it from head to toe while dragging yourself through the mud,” explains Imogen Ashby, a stylist at men’s personal shopping website Enclothed. “Limited to one piece, the print looks extremely cool and is a great style move [for summer].”
Ashby’s advice for SS17 is to call up camo print in the form of a lightweight jacket or overshirt to throw on during crisper nights in the trenches (read: pub garden).
Japonism (Japanese influences on Western culture) has been a fashion buzzword ever since Ryan Gosling slipped into a silk souvenir jacket for his turn in Drive, making it an instant icon.
However, for SS17 things are hopping across the border, where Chinese-inspired symbols, exotic bird motifs and even more embroidery are joining the fold. While it’s not quite time to ditch the cherry blossoms, beware of dragons breathing fire nearby.
Fortunately, the rules remain the same. “Personally, with such a bold print, I would only wear one piece, and then keep the rest of the look neutral,” The Idle Man’s Courcey explains. “Take a souvenir jacket and team it with a plain T-shirt, tailored trousers or dark jeans, and throw on a simple white sneaker to tie the look together.”
Windowpane & Plaid Checks
Checks are always in style, especially where tailoring is concerned. After all, there’s a check motif for every occasion.
Two of the biggest players for the months ahead are windowpane and plaid checks, and they’re extending to all areas of the wardrobe – including shirts, T-shirts, trousers, jackets and shorts.
While on the surface a season of squares sounds hard to navigate, they can be worn in a variety of fuss-free ways including as matching sets (in the form of a two-piece suit), close pairs (such as a strong, dark check worn with a subtle, light example) or as separates (as with a check shirt and solid shorts).
“Windowpanes are a great alternative to pinstripes for the slimmer guy, as they have the addition of horizontal lines, which creates the illusion of width,” says Elin Mai, founder of long-running personal styling service Style Doctors.
“[When wearing as a suit] match the colour of the lines in the jacket to a shirt or sweater from the same colour family. This will help draw out the lines and make the ensemble look complete.”
Polka dots have provided men with an easy entry into the world of print for countless seasons. But make SS17 the one to move up a level from dotty ties and pocket squares to snappy after-hours shirts and sportswear staples with a difference.
Regardless of what some people may have told you, size matters. Although, in this case, it’s the smaller the better. Bigger dots make a statement, but all-over micro versions allow the print to work for a range of occasions.
“The size of the dots dictates how standout the outfit is,” explains Luke McDonald, a stylist at men’s personal shopping service Thread. “[Small prints] work very well for layering in the spring. Try them on a hoody under a jacket, or on a T-shirt under a dress shirt, with just a bit of the pattern showing.”
In time-honoured summer tradition, men are required to earn their stripes once again this season. The main difference for 2017 is that, to quote the TV theme song, the only way is up.
Vertical stripes dominated several collections at the SS17 men’s shows, with contrasting widths (such as wider stripe trousers with a thinner striped top) proving to be a popular theme.
That’s not to say it’s time to banish horizontal lines from your wardrobe, because let’s face it, an unstructured navy blazer worn with a Breton T-shirt underneath is always going to be a great look.
“Stripes are a classic print that can be worn by anyone,” says Ashby of Enclothed. “Regardless of age or style, they work across the board.”
To keep them relevant for SS17, Ashby suggests teaming a vertically striped short-sleeve shirt with jeans and a light jacket. The perfect on-trend outfit to take you seamlessly from spring into summer.