How to wear patterned shirts


The smart alternative to t-shirts this summer? Short sleeved shirts.
Image source: Samuel Windsor

There’s nothing like a few patterned shirts to jazz up a jaded wardrobe, but how do you look resplendent without edging into “mutton-dressed-as-lamb” territory? Here we take a look at how to wear patterns in an age-appropriate way – your passport to impressing with the subtlety of your summer dress sense.

Smart casual


Patterned shirts introduce an element of fun.
Featured product: Short sleeve shirt – Blue Palm from Samuel Windsor

As a general rule, you’ll already know that where teenagers and young men go, you should fear to tread. The same goes for patterned shirts. While young guys can get away with wearing patterns over ripped jeans or bright, jaunty shorts, your look needs to retain the element of fun without losing the “grownup” vibe.

That means keeping your look simple. As Carl Thompson of his eponymous website says, “the attention should be on the shirt and not overly-complicated by having too many power pieces drawing one’s attention”.

He advises you to keep your bottom half smart with either plain jeans or better still, a pair of chinos. That’s a sentiment with which Fashion Beans agrees: “this wardrobe essential doesn’t sit well with other firmly casual pieces like distressed jeans or joggers”. For the more mature gent, patterns are always smart casual.



Roll up long sleeves on a patterned shirt.
Image source: Samuel Windsor

A long sleeved shirt offers flexibility in that you can always roll your sleeves up if you get warm, but as Michael Adams of Michael 84 says: “I don’t think patterned shirts look good with long sleeves, they just look too over-the-top and in your face.”

For him, patterned sleeves should always be rolled up, and since patterns are for summer only, short sleeves are the natural choice. The folks at Fashion Beans agree, saying that for them, the best way to go is also to ditch formal collars in favour of the traditional open-neck Cuban collar.

Unsure whether to tuck or leave untucked? On this point, the advice is crystal clear. In an interview on Fashion Beans with Sam Kershaw (buying manager at Mr Porter) the wisdom is: “Beware the tuck. You can look like either like a sixties Nasa engineer or like you’ve just clocked off from a job in customer service.” And, Kershaw says, never wear a tie with a short sleeved shirt “unless you actually are at the controls of a jumbo jet.”



Plain chino shorts make this shirt the star of the show.
Image source: Samuel Windsor

When wearing patterned shirts, the key to getting your ensemble right is to keep your colour combos simple, at least while you find your feet with the look. As David Evans of Grey Fox says:

“Too wild a mix of colour and pattern will not work if you don’t have a particularly acute artistic sense of style. Unless you are prepared to experiment, choose single-coloured trousers or shorts to go with brighter checks or patterned T-shirts.”

When matching your patterned shirt to your jeans, chinos or tailored shorts. David says to choose one colour from the shirt as a theme, and to “pick it out in the colour of [your] trousers or jeans”.



The continuity of dark accents in the hat, belt and sunglasses give this outfit a sharp edge.
Image source: Samuel Windsor

The way to make your new snazzier summer look really shine is to carry your colour tones right through to your hat and accessories. Wear a blue and white patterned shirt, stone chinos, panama hat and tortoise shell sunnies for example. A refined look is all about continuity.

Fabric choice is important too. If you’ve gone for a patterned cotton shirt with a Cuban collar – how about a pair of linen mix trousers to keep you cool in the sunshine? Or switch it around and go for a linen shirt and cotton chinos.

And remember your feet. It’s like the team at Fashion Beans say – you’ve plenty of summer footwear options to choose from with this look. Think “suede espadrilles, sandals or loafers,” remembering that a well turned ankle only looks good in shorts, if you’re wearing invisible socks.

Do you have any tips to share about how to wear a patterned shirt well? If so we’d love to hear from you. Comment below or drop us a line via our Facebook page.

Posted in How To - Style.

One Comment

  1. It also important to take note of your akin colour shade when choosing the colours. I have often noticed that my skin shade will sometimes betrayed me even after wearing super rich colours.

What's your thoughts on the subject?