Stuarts London Guide – How to wear prints and patterns

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Whether you’re a fan of bold, bright prints or prefer to keep your style fairly muted, chances are you’ve found
yourself worrying if you’re breaking one of the many men’s style rules.

When it comes to patterns and prints, it can often seem like a minefield trying to work out what goes with what. We’ve been taught to stay away from horizontal stripes if we’re carrying some extra padding, or running in the opposite direction if an outfit contains two different prints.

The thing is, the style rules that we think we have to follow were set so long ago – most of them are completely redundant. Our style inspiration doesn’t just come from whatever trends the big brands are trying to push that month, we now look at real people as inspiration for our fashion choices. Scrolling through instagram you can see people smashing expectations when it comes to style. Two types of polka dot for a wedding outfit? Check. Contrasting floral prints on a lads holiday? Check.

Obviously you don’t want to run the risk of people thinking you fell into a charity shop after a few too many. Maintaining the balance between experimental style and a ‘bad taste’ stag do outfit can be tricky, which is why we’ve put together the ultimate guide to breaking the style laws and still looking good.

Mixing the same patterns

We start our journey into the world of patterns and prints with one of the trickiest combinations to master, wearing multiple pieces of the same pattern. This is one of the most popular ways to start wearing patterns and prints, however if you get it wrong, it can leave people thinking they’re looking at an optical illusion. The trick to wearing things in the same pattern is to alter the size of each piece you add. Whether you’re working with spots, stripes or checks, build up your look by playing with different sizes to create a stylish, contrasting look. This type of pattern wear looks great on formal wear, for instance a polka dot shirt with a smaller pattern layered with a tie with slightly larger polka dots. If you’re wanting to step away from block colours, this is the best place to dive in.

Experimenting with tones

So you’ve picked out the pattern that you like, what about the colour? If you’re getting bold with prints, try and stick to colours that are in the same family. This will ensure that the look doesn’t stray into ‘novelty’ territory whilst also giving your overall ensemble a more structured look. Although this may seem a little restrictive, when you consider the amount of shades you have to play with, there’s room to create a really bespoke look. One of the colour rules of thumb is to ‘anchor’ light colours with a darker version. So, if you’re planning on wearing light blue striped shirt, opt for a heavier black, charcoal or navy blue jacket to complete the look.

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Textures

Another way to experiment with patterns and prints is to look at the actual fabrics you can pair together for your look. Combining different fabrics can help transform an outfit from basic to bespoke, offering more depth and variety in your wardrobe. Let’s use a classic Friday night ‘after work drinks’ look to demonstrate. You’ve got your go-to pair of jeans, a shirt and a blazer, a classic combination that helps you get from the office to the pub with minimal changing effort.

Now let’s add some prints into the mix; the shirt is a red tartan cotton shirt and the blazer is a navy checked jacket in a larger print. Already you’re mastering the art of the combining patterns, so it’s time to start looking at dimension. A thicker, almost tweed like blazer will give the look give that added texture to your look.

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Going off grid

Now, obviously the tips we’ve given you here are designed to help you make the first steps into the world of prints and patterns, but if you’re already a master of matching, maybe it’s time to think outside of the box.

If you’re feeling confident, you can mix and match different patterns to create a unique combination. The only real rule you need to remember with this is ‘vary the size of your prints’. If you’re planning on wearing a floral print shirt with a pair of checked trousers, one of these needs to be a more delicate print. The more dominant pattern is the ‘highlight’ pattern, something bright and bold that is then toned down slightly with a more muted subtle print. Keep textures and colours in mind when mixing your prints and ensure that there is some element of block colour to give the outfit a ‘rest’. This could be anything from a pair of dark jeans to a plain colour t-shirt that highlights one of the shades in your pattern mix.

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At the end of the day, fashion is supposed to be your individual expression. Once you break free of the voice inside your head that tells you to avoid anything other than your neutral basics, you’re stepping into a world of endless style possibilities. Follow us on Instagram @stuartslondon for more style tips from the team.

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