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In Praise of The Printed Shirt

19.04.17

The printed shirt has gone from routinely shunned to menswear must have, here's how to wear one the right way

When it comes to wearing a printed shirt, men usually fall into one of two camps. There’s the ‘wouldn’t go within a ten mile radius’ type who would rather go without a shirt than face the perceived indignity of wearing some form of pattern. Then there are those who approach wearing a printed shirt as if it were a birth right, always erring on the side of loudness. For them bolder is better.

These two sharply polarised positions on the printed shirt (and indeed on print in general) leave little room for sensible sartorial appraisal and mean that this versatile piece is either routinely shunned or approached with all of the subtlety of a brick through a window.

We like to think of ourselves as sitting on the fence, sympathetic to the concerns of the minimalist but receptive to the expressiveness of the maximalist. Yes, a printed shirt can single-handedly turn you into a walking faux pas, but isn’t a wardrobe just so stale without a smattering of pattern?

The solution? For those predisposed to turn their nose up at this divisive item of clothing, cast out of your mind eye-wateringly busy designs and instead think smaller scale – micro polka dots anyone?  For those who have a penchant for unashamedly flaunting their love of loud print, we prescribe the same approach. Scale back your ambition a little and think boldly tasteful, not attention grabbing at all costs.

To prove that we’re not all talk - and that the printed shirt can work for all creeds of men -  here are four ways to wear printed shirts well.

THE STATEMENT SHIRT

Yes, a statement printed shirt can be tricky to pull off and the task of carefully balancing the rest of your outfit with it is more often than not a real headache. The problem with a statement printed shirt is not one of boldness however, but the specific print itself. A garish print will do a pretty good job of inducing winces irrespective of what it is paired with.

Above all bold print should be carefully considered, not a riot for the senses. If in doubt keep things simple by wearing a statement print with black or navy.

THE STRIPED SHIRT

Striped shirts are a mixed bag and can claim to have been worn by almost every style subset imaginable. It is this versatility which sets the striped shirt apart as a must-have for all men though. In fact, we challenge you to come back completely nonplussed after a thorough immersion in SS17’s striped shirts.

When it comes to wearing, we’re firm believers that opposites attract. Pair bold stripes with formal trousers, and give fine stripes an informal dressing down.

THE FLORAL SHIRT

Is there a printed shirt more feared than the floral shirt? We think not. Too often called upon as the ironic item of clothing which must be worn by he who mans the BBQ, the floral shirt is the unfortunate victim of some seriously bad PR.

To avoid becoming a badly dressed summer cliché avoid wearing floral print in any form which could be described as predictable. Ergo, if it’s recognisably Hawaiian it belongs in a fancy dress shop. Floral prints which could be described as painterly or sparse however are most definitely menswear approved.  

As a rule of thumb floral print shirts like little competition for attention and are best worn with block colours and without too many accessories.

THE CHECKED SHIRT

To say that the checked shirt had a chequered history wouldn’t just be a bad pun but a gross understatement too. More often attracting derisory side eyes than admiring glances, this humble design doesn't have the best of reputations. It's perilous territory; getting the checked shirt right or wrong is the difference between looking like you’ve got a reasonable grasp on men’s style and looking like you’ve got a reasonable grasp on how to fix the printer.

A few rules of thumb. Window pane (that’s large) checks are easier to pull off than fine checks, short sleeved checked shirts should be rolled at the arm for a snug fit and Cuban collared casual shirts are preferable to point collars.

There you have it, the not so square way to wear squares.

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