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How to wear spotted patterns

Patterns are one of very few means available to men to create unique outfits, without edging on the eccentric. At the moment, the spotted pattern (or polka dot pattern) is one of the trendiest patterns in menswear but admittedly, is not always the safest of options. Here, we look at how to add the pattern to an outfit, depending on the look one’s after, considering the pattern’s colour and size in particular.

When you think of polka dots, ‘cute’, ‘vintage’, and ‘fun’ is probably what comes to mind and the pattern certainly adds a playful tone to an outfit. It’s ideal for when you’re after a look that’s not corporate or too serious. In addition, being a less common choice, at least when compared to other patterns such as stripes and plaid, the spotted pattern offers an opportunity to render an outfit even more unique.

True, not any type of outfit. You wouldn’t wear a spotted shirt or tie for a job interview at a bank or a law firm, or even most professional events (unless related to the creative industry). However, other than such events, it’s a pattern that lends itself well to both casual and smart casual outfits. The end result will depend a lot on how prominently the pattern features in the outfit. The more prominent the spotted pattern, the bolder the outfit will look, which will in turn determine how appropriate or not it is for the event it is worn to.

Probably the first thing to consider about a pattern is its motif’s size. The larger the spots, the bigger the impact, meaning the more playful (nearly comical) the end result. To tone down the impact of the pattern, opt for a top layer in a solid colour. That way, you’ll conceal much of the area covered by the pattern. Wearing another patterned item but in a different pattern will also de-emphasise the effect of the spotted pattern but caution as to avoid a clash between patterns is recommended. Alternatively, just opt for a very subtle pattern that consists of very small spots. This is a more versatile and often elegant option.

On the other hand, if you want a bolder and more adventurous look, go for a larger motif, and for a statement-look, leave as much of the pattern as possible exposed, mainly by wearing it as a top layer, such as a sport coat or a shirt worn without a jacket. Even trousers will work but ideally these will be in smaller spots since unfortunately for polka dot lovers, clowns love their fancy spotted trousers.

In addition to the size of the spots and layering, the pattern’s colour-scheme will also affect how much the pattern will stand out from the rest of the outfit. Generally, the more colourful and brighter the palette, the less formal a garment will look whilst those in a darker background colour and with a minimalist colour-scheme, will look dressier. Of course how casual or dressy the outfit will end up looking will depend a lot on what you coordinate the piece in a spotted pattern with. However, since you should aim to keep your patterned piece as the focal point, it will inevitably influence the end result.

As much as patterns are great to add a dash of one’s unique style to an outfit, without proper coordination, it’s easy to get it wrong and end up with a look that is too characteristic of the unflattering associations made with that pattern. Often, it’s safer and visually more attractive to opt for smaller patterns when worn as a top layer. Bigger patterns should ideally be worn as an inner layer and with pieces in a solid colour. Often, less is better.

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