Patterns and fabrics are the keys to move away from conformity. Knowing which patterns and fabrics work best for clothing is a wise way to shop, and as each fabric or pattern dictates a certain dress code, it’ll help you decide if you are dressed right for all occasions.
In definition, a pattern is a repeated decorative design. Fabric is a cloth produced by weaving or knitting textile fibres. Below is a list of the essential fabrics and patterns that men should know, as well as how they are best worn.
There are many different patterns to choose from when it comes to everything from your blazer, to your scarf. All these patterns have a different place in your wardrobe, and each fits a particular occasion or outfit.
- Bird’s Eye is best for cocktail parties and special events.
- It can be identified as the tiny dots of a light colour on a darker background.
- As a solid suit between two colours, it’s a refreshing take on the classic suit.
- Chalk-stripe is commonly comprised of grey or white stripes that are set further apart than regular stripes.
- It works best for suits, especially in warm cold weather.
- It helps to make the wearer appear taller in appearance.
- The pattern is less formal than pinstripes, and therefore shouldn’t be worn for overly formal occasions.
- Gingham is made from dyed cotton or cotton blended yarn.
- It is a checked pattern, made of white and coloured even checks.
- It is most popular in red, blue or green for shirts or shorts.
- Wearing a gingham shirt with a suit and a tie can be appropriate for a smarter dress code.
- Also known as Glen Urquhart Plaid or Glenurquhart plaid, and nicknamed Prince of Wales Check.
- It can be mistaken for houndstooth.
- It is best for casual attire, in jackets or suits for a relaxed yet classy look.
- Often the pattern comprises of similar shades of one colour to create variation.
- It combines elements of plaid crisscrossing of horizontal and vertical line with jagged houndstooth checks.
- A tie or hat in Glen Check offers a respite from normal patterns.
- Herringbone is generally suited for more casual occasions and is not overly formal.
- It is recognisable by its small, compacted chevrons in contrasting colour.
- It can be found in sports jackets, pants, suits, scarves.
- As it is generally paired with heavier fabrics, it works best for winter.
- Houndstooth is often associated with Sherlock Holmes.
- In menswear, the checked pattern is small and subtle.
- It can be found in jackets, coats, scarves and hats- therefore best for winter.
- It is best suited for casual sports jackets, adding a bit of antiqued charm to an outfit.
- It is typically patterned texture with a plaid design.
- An item in Madras is perfect for summer, especially for casual occasions.
- As lightweight cotton with colour, it works best for shorts and shirts and is not just for the golf course.
- Because of its bold pattern, it pairs best with muted solids.
- Pinstripes have elements of class and can be dressed up.
- It makes the wearer look taller. Can be dressed up.
- Most commonly found in suits or shirts.
- For a more formal look, choose thinner, more subtle stripes.
- Not to be mistaken for the Chalk-Stripe.
- Seersucker can be identified by its crimped or puckered surface, most commonly in white and blue.
- Because of the loose and lightweight nature of the pattern, it’s great for warm weather.
- Its intentionally-wrinkled pattern makes it unsuitable for formal occasions.
- Common items in seersucker include shirts and shorts.
- Good for channelling a nautical look.
- Synonymous with kilts and skirts, it shouldn’t be disregarded.
- It can be found in scarves, shirts and jackets.
- It has made a bold statement in the indie scene- worn for a cool-casual look.
- This pattern gets its name from the object it resembles, forming elongated rectangles.
- It works well for business suits, especially if the occasion is for a party.
- A windowpane patterned suit has a slimming effect on bulkier men.
- If the windowpane pattern is simple, dress it up with a bold tie or pocket square.
Dress Shirt Materials
The most common material used for dress shirts is cotton, and therefore it is the most well-known. There are multiple types of fabric used in dress shirts, all of which have a different structure, feel and sometimes colour.
Oxford fabric is known for being the coarsest of the materials used in shirts, but it is still quite soft and very comfortable to wear. It is commonly associated with casual button collars and should be a staple in any guys closet.
One of the distinguishing features of the shirt is the way it is coloured. Only the threads running in one direction are coloured, while the other threads are left white, this gives the shirt and fabrics a basketweave appearance.
There are different types of Oxford, namely Pinpoint and Royal. Pinpoint is woven in the same way, but with finer yarn which gives it a smoother look. Royal is even finer and can be used for suits and extremely formal attire.
Poplin is similar to Oxford as it is similar in weight but is much smoother. It is made by running a fine yarn and a thick one and interweaving the two. This material is soft and comfortable, holds colour well, and is ideal for more casual pieces of clothing.
Cotton Twill is recognised as being a bit more shimmer compared to other materials. The diagonal weave gives the shirts incredible texture, while still keeping them formal and suitable for formal occasions
Herringbone Twill gives you even more depth as the direction of diagonals switches every quarter inch or so. Twill will give you a lot of texture while still keeping the shirts incredibly formal and is ideal for matching with a suit.
Broadcloth is very similar to Poplin, except it is more tightly weaved. This makes it one of the most formal types of material you can wear on a day-to-day basis. You can easily transition from the office to a formal event with Broadcloth.
End-on-end Broadcloth is made by interweaving yarn of different colours that then gives it very subtle texture, the texture you can’t even notice from an arm's length away. The right weave displays patterns with immense precision.
End-on-end fabrics usually use white and another colour to create an almost checkered effect. Sometimes, two colours are used to create what is called a “double-shot” of colour. This fabric is usually associated with a striped pattern shirt.
Formal Shirt Fabrics
Formal shirts are made of white cotton, which gives you a strong woven texture. These shirts are the most common and acceptable types of shirts for a black or white tie event, and not much else.
Blends Vs Cotton
Many of the fabrics above can be found in both pure cotton and a blend of cotton and one or two other synthetics. When it comes to blends though, remember, you get different ratios of synthetic to cotton.
Cotton Pros and Cons
Cotton is a very comfortable and soft material. It is a brilliant conductor of heat and is very breathable. It is also one of the most visually appealing materials. The downsides of cotton are that it wrinkles easily, can be expensive, and is susceptible to chemical damage.
Blended Pros and Cons
Blended shirts are wrinkle resistant, are usually cheaper than pure cotton shirts, they usually have a nice appearance and keep you warmer than cotton. The downside is that they aren’t very breathable, can look shiny and are prone to ironing damage.
When it comes to patterns and fabrics, there are many different options that can, and will, set you apart from the crowd. Don’t be scared to try something new and different, or something you haven’t seen anyone else wear.
Style is constantly changing, trends are constantly evolving, but there are a handful of materials and patterns that will always be a staple, and incorporating them into your wardrobe will never be a bad idea.