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Why it's high time you tried tie dye

Why it's high time you tried tie dye

As trends go, we won’t pretend that tie-dye is going to be an integral part of your capsule wardrobe or become the next white Oxford shirt. But there’s a reason why our stylists are obsessed with it right now. “It’s a weird mix of two trends,” says our own wardrobe historian, Luke McDonald. “Some designers are reimagining the clothes from the 1970s, but with modern cuts. At the same time, there are loads of brands referencing 90s skater culture. And they come together, because the clothes in the 90s were looking back to the 70s.”

But its history aside, tie dye is perfect for right now because it embodies a sense of optimism. As the world becomes increasingly heated (both literally and metaphorically), why not embrace a style that’s so closely associated with utopian dreamers? “Things can feel a bit bleak right now, and tie dye is the opposite of that,” says Luke. “So it’s a fun thing for summer, because it’s colourful and a bit goofy.”

Quite how colourful, though, is up to you. Today’s tie dye can be as far-out as anything you might have seen at Woodstock, but it also comes in more grown-up flavours, too. This dip-dyed Ralph Lauren polo, for example, wouldn’t look out of place in the bar at your local yacht club (or just a nice restaurant, if your tastes run less nautical). Even simpler are stripes – this tie dye tee from Japanese brand Liberaiders, for example, feels like a tripped-out Breton – which is a much more accessible way to pull off the trend, says Luke. “But even though it can be subtle, the style isn’t supposed to be about subtlety. If you’re going to go for it, go for it.”

If you do embrace the rainbow, there are a few rules to bring your tie-dye back down to earth. “It goes with other things that are also a bit hippy, a bit 70s,” says Luke. “So think washed denim, army jackets, and casual stuff like hoodies.” You could wear it with a suit, although think monochrome stripes rather than swirls or smiley faces. And be equally wary of going too far the other way – with cut-off shorts and Crocs, you start to look a little like you work on a Florida alligator farm.

The key thing is to abide by Luke’s cardinal rule: “Let the tie dye be the colour in the outfit. You don’t need to go crazy – if it's the focal point,  you’re guaranteed to be pretty striking. If you wore a pair of bleached jeans, white trainers and a tie dye tee – that’s a look. People will remember you.” More than they remember Woodstock, anyway.

How to wear tie-dye in 2019

Anchor brights with basics

If you’re not sure where to start with the trend, take some inspiration from perennial style hero, Jeff Goldblum, suggests Luke. Goldblum balances his more out-there tie-dye looks with crisp white jeans or stone chinos, sometimes even a tan blazer. This keeps the focus on the fun, and doesn’t cause migraines.

Keep colours minimal

Tie-dye is a technique, not a synonym for ‘rainbow’. For every Skittles-tinged tee there’s one that’s almost monochrome. And as with any pattern, the fewer colours there are, the easier it is to wear. But the key is really to embrace the laid-back aesthetic. Or, as Luke put it: “Don’t overthink it, man.”

Do it yourself

Tie dye’s popularity with those on culture’s fringes stems largely from the fact that you can do it at home for next to no money, with next to no kit. Grab a white t-shirt, some rubber bands and a couple of packs of dye and you can craft your own, one-of-a-kind design in just a few minutes (for a step-by-step guide, watch this video). Once you’ve got the technique locked, you can tie dye anything from socks to shirts to your bedsheets. The only hard thing will be resisting the urge to wear it all at once.


Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Jamie Stoker
Styling: Luke McDonald