We all know the value of a good stripe, plaid, or gingham shirt and the way they can liven up any outfit, but generally speaking they aren’t particularly daring patterns. If you’re looking to take it a step further, we are delving into the wild world of paisley, polka-dots, tribal, geometric, and other less common prints.
Pattern Myth 1: Polka-dots are for 50s housewives. Just not true. Polka-dots are having a huge comeback right now in both mens and women’s clothing. It is a basic geometric pattern like a stripe or a plaid, that looks polished and isn’t too distracting. There is something a little whimsical about dots, which makes them perfect for pairing with more traditional or plain suits or slacks. Still worried they are too girly? Try darker base colors or a tighter pattern.
Myth 2: Paisley is too psychedelic or flamboyant. It’s true that paisley is one of the louder patterns out there because it often incorporates a lot of colors and various shapes, but it is also a classic. You can find monochromatic or duo-chromatic versions that are subtler and, like dots, when paired with traditional menswear items, it becomes a unique statement piece.
Myth 3: Geometric patterns (besides stripes) are too busy. Geometric patterns are what I am calling repeated patterns of basic shapes, so basically all of the patterns that don’t have a name and aren’t a single picture. Like paisley, these can be loud because they really don’t have any rules. But they won’t overwhelm you because the pattern repeats, which keeps them from being distracting. Have you noticed how many times I’ve repeated that these patterns repeat? That’s because repetition is to patterns what neutrals are to colors; they go with anything. Okay so maybe really loud ones won’t pair with everything, particularly other patterns, but the idea works.
Myth 4: Tribal is for hipsters. Okay, so tribal is a little bit for hipsters, but that is just because it has a distinct feel. Tribal isn’t something you’d wear to the office, but it has an unmistakable summery feel. You’d wear this to a concert or the beach, probably on a t-shirt or flannel. This is another pattern that can handle bright colors, but doesn’t have to, it can be as muted as you like. (I’m also going to lump south-west patterns in this myth).
Myth 5: Animal prints are for girls. I’m calling that a myth because in my book animal prints are always a bad idea. In general they tend to look trashy and cheap. You could maybe get away with a really subtle, dark, monochromatic one, but in general I say no.
And now a piece of pattern advice: keep it localized. WAMSW is thrilled if you’ve taken to the idea of patterns, but please do not go so far as to completely cover your body in it. Stick to one article of clothing in one pattern (Pattern mixing is a topic for another day. It can work, but it is risky territory). Just please don’t follow the example of one of the group below:
You don’t want people singing the Star-Spangled Banner to your backs. To the kid saluting the couple, we at WAMSW salute you.
If the thought of patterns still scares you, try it on a tie or some socks as a way to add individuality without wearing it all over. The feel of a pattern can be completely changed by the colors and what it is paired with, so maybe before making an out of character purchase have a plan of what you will pair. If you buy with a plan, it won’t end up in the back of your closet as a regretted purchase.