When you think about the patterned shirt, what do you see? Your great uncle in his favourite floral number? Wayne Mardle hitting triple 20? Ace Ventura in Pet Detective?

Now while all of these men are proud owners of the shirt in question (we’ll have to take your word on your uncle), the pattern shirt is so much more than just garish prints. In fact, it can come in many different forms — from the fashion-forward Hawaiian shirt to formal favourites such as the Bengal stripe. 

This guide will explore the different versions of patterned shirts and provide expert advice on how and when to wear them.

What Is a Patterned Shirt?

The pattern shirt is a classic garment featuring a regular repeated arrangement or design. This could include a recurring paisley-print or repeated lines, shapes or colours. Not kept for any one particular occasion, it offers the perfect way to add a little pizzazz to your everyday outfits without compromising on smartness.

Are Patterned Shirts Formal?

Patterned shirts can come in both casual and formal styles — with some being loud and proud, and others far more subtle. Formal pattern shirts are usually subdued, while casual shirts are generally the more adventurous.

Can I Wear a Patterned Shirt to Work?

If the dress code allows it, you can wear pattern shirts for any occasion; you just need to make sure you choose the right one. We’ll help you make that decision below.

How Do I Choose a Shirt Pattern?

The key to finding the right pattern shirt for you, is to select one that fits in with your personal style and the environment you’ll be wearing it. To do so, first you need to understand what type of patterned shirts are available and their suitability for different occasions. 

While there are many different patterned shirts to choose from, we’ve highlighted the three key styles and explained how you can incorporate them into your own rotation.

The Best Striped Shirts for Men

When building up your collection of wardrobe staples, a striped shirt should be high up on your wish list. A timeless design that you can wear all year round, it offers an easy way to add pattern to your outfits. It’s especially appealing for men who would like to add character to their ensemble, but are not quite ready to go full-on Timmy Mallet.

What Are the Different Types of Stripes?

Stripes can come in a range of designs, each offering the wearer something a little different. To give you an idea of what types of stripes are out there, we’ve rounded-up some of the most common variations.

What Is a Bengal Stripe?

Often found on formal shirts, the Bengal stripe first became prominent in the 1800s. Its roots, as the name would suggest, stem from Bengal, South Asia. It was once worn by the Bengal Lancers — a regiment of the British India Army. Featuring an even alternating stripe, it is perhaps the most popular of all shirting stripes thanks to its versatility; looking just as good under a tailored suit as it does alone with a silk tie

What Is a Candy Stripe?

A bold choice, the candy stripe is better suited to casual shirts, but it’s not uncommon to find them on formal shirts too. Its name references the bold stripes you might find going through sweets such as a stick of rock or candy cane. The spacing is generally even and the stripes themselves are fairly large. 

What Is a Hairline Stripe?

Hairline stripes are the thinnest stripes you’ll find on a shirt; they are roughly the width of a human hair. As the stripes are so small, and spaced very close together, a shirt with hairline stripes can actually appear as a solid colour from afar. This makes them the perfect pattern for formal shirts, and great for those who want to take baby steps when it comes to being more daring with their clothing choices.

How to Wear a Striped Shirt

Wearing a striped shirt gives you an easy way to break away from your comfort zone without going uncomfortably too far. Different stripes convey different levels of formality, so before planning your outfit, you should decide how smart or casual you would like your look to be. Bolder stripes are more casual and work particularly well in summer or spring, while thinner chalk or pinstripe shirts exude professionalism and feel more formal. 

Whichever option you go for, the styling rules follow the same mantra: keep it simple. Combining two different patterns is possible, but the best way to wear stripes is with solid-coloured garments such as the navy or grey suit. This allows your stripe shirt to take centre stage and avoids any unsightly clashing of prints.

Can You Wear a Striped Shirt With a Check Jacket?

Wearing two patterns together can be done successfully with a little thought. The most important thing to remember is that the two patterns must be of different scales. This means you don’t want to wear patterns of a similar size or style. For example, you should never wear a pinstripe suit with a pinstripe shirt. However, you could wear a check jacket with a striped shirt, or a Bengal stripe non-iron shirt with a windowpane check suit. 

The Best Check Shirts for Men

The check shirt is one of the essential pieces that every gentleman should own. They’re stylish and versatile, plus there’s an option for everyone. Just like the striped shirt, those with checks also offer a simple yet effective way to introduce pattern to your wardrobe — whether you’re dressing for work or the weekend.

Checks are defined by horizontal and vertical lines that cross one another, forming squares or rectangles on the cloth. They are more complex than stripes, therefore they tend to be bolder and more informal.

What Are the Different Types of Checks?

There are many different check patterns available, however we are going to focus on three of the most common when it comes to men’s shirts. These are the styles of check you will have regular come across and may even already own in your own wardrobe.

What Is a Prince of Wales Check?

If you haven’t heard of the Prince of Wales check, you may recognise it by one of its many different guises: glen check, glen plaid and Glen Urquhart plaid. It is a woven design of small and large checks which is usually made up of black/grey and white, but can also feature a range of other muted colours.

It originated in the valley of Glenurquhart in Inverness-shire, Scotland. This is where the checked wool was first used by the New Zealand-born countess of Seafield during the 19th century. It wasn’t until a little later — due to its popularity with Edward VII, or otherwise known as the Prince of Wales — that the fabric started to be referred to as the ‘Prince of Wales check’.

You can find out more about the pattern by reading our guide to wearing a Prince of Wales suit.

What Is a Micro Check?

The micro check is a classic check but on a smaller scale. An intricate design, it is one of the check patterns that you will often find on a formal shirt. From afar, you may not notice the check — but once up close you’ll be able to truly appreciate its detail. The micro check shirt is a great choice for men who would like to wear checks in a smarter fashion.

What Is a Gingham Check?

Gingham is a simple plain-woven fabric. The way we identify gingham, as being a contrasting-check shirt, was not the way in which the fabric was originally known.

"Gingham" comes from the Malayan word genggang, or “striped”. It wasn’t until later (when the fabric made its journey from southeast Asia to the Western world) that it appeared as a check or plaid pattern. Gingham check shirts are often of the casual nature.

How to Wear a Check Shirt

Wearing a check shirt is easy. It can be paired with the majority of the items already in your wardrobe — you simply need to decide if you would like to wear it formally or more relaxed.

For a smart look that you can wear to the office or a family wedding, a Prince of Wales check shirt is a great option. It can be teamed with a single-colour tie and your favourite tailored suit. If you want to opt for an outfit that’s less formal, the gingham check shirt is ideal. Paired with flat front chinos and casual footwear, this fail-safe ensemble will never let you down.

The Best Printed Shirts for Men

The printed shirt is the most casual of patterned shirts, but it can still be used in both formal and casual occasions. Not for the sartorially shy, they are the ideal port of call for those who would like to make a statement and really add character to their look. 

How to Wear a Printed Shirt

As with any pattern shirt, the key to wearing the right one depends on the occasion you are wearing it for. For example, if you’re heading to a festival or a summer BBQ, the print on your shirt can be as bold as you would like. However, if you’re choosing to wear one to the office, you should keep the boldness to a minimum. 

There are many different types of printed shirts, but these are some of the most common:

  • Hawaiian-print shirt
  • Paisley-print shirt
  • Floral-print shirt
  • Geometric-print shirt

Can You wear a Patterned Shirt With a Suit?

It goes without saying that certain pattern shirts — such as stripes or checks — are the perfect partner for a tailored suit. However, what about shirts boasting a more playful design?

Patterned shirts can be worn with suits, however the key to getting the combination right is about balance. Choose a print that is detailed rather than big and bold. Bigger prints can often take away too much from your jacket and ruin your whole aesthetic. If you keep it classy, you can add interest to your look without ruining the whole outfit.

Can You Wear a Patterned Shirt In a Passport Photo?

There are no rules in place to say that you can’t wear a patterned shirt in a passport photo. In fact, we think a formal striped shirt is a great choice and will help you look smart for the camera. Just remember, if you decide on a striped shirt, you should choose vertical stripes if you would like to make your frame appear slimmer, or horizontal stripes if you require the opposite effect.

Can You Wear a Tie With a Patterned Shirt?

There is often hesitation when it comes to wearing a patterned shirt with a tie, but there’s no need to worry. A pattern shirt can be easily worn with a tie, you just need to make sure you pick the right design. To do so, follow our top tips below:

  • Choose a solid-coloured tie and keep it darker than the shirt. If you need help in selecting a tie colour, a handy tip is to look for a base tone in the shirt and match it to that.
  • Pair a patterned shirt with a patterned tie by making sure the patterns are not the same or similar sizes.
  • Avoid pairing a shirt and tie with the same pattern. For example, if the shirt is a vertical stripe pattern (large or small) the tie should not include vertical stripes.