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Coats & Jackets

Three ways to wear a patterned blazer

Three ways to wear a patterned blazer

A wardrobe that’s well-stocked in basics is easy to wear, but tough to make feel personal. That’s a lot to be said for a versatile, everything-goes-with-everything approach to style, but it can mean you blend in, rather than stand out. Which is, of course, no bad thing. Until those occasions when you want to make an impression.

A lot of guys struggle with that transition from the everyday to the exciting. They shift the needle too far, thinking that a wildly patterned shirt and an ‘interesting’ (read: novelty) accessory will make them memorable. And it will. But not necessarily in the way they intend.

The answer, our stylists say, is to stick to what you know works. Then use that as a base for one piece that’s just slightly more individual. How? Pattern. “It’s a great thing to add in to give lots of personality to looks,” says Thread stylist Luke McDonald. “Especially on something like a blazer, if you keep everything else neutral, it does all the lifting by itself.”

Now, ‘pattern’ can mean a lot of things. Before you break out anything in rainbow paisley, know that in most looks, less is always more. Classic patterns achieved that status because they’re easy to wear and look good on anyone. So if in doubt, stick to checks. Stripes and polka dots can also work, although they’re trickier. Florals and geometric prints quickly start to feel ‘whacky’.

Ditto for anything too bright. “Patterns are always more punchy – and slightly tougher to make work – than block colours,” says Luke. “You don’t want to be trying to match patterns and tone at the same time.” Best are bases that you know always work – neutrals like beige, grey and navy are good – which you can liven up with more interesting accent colours. If you can echo them in the rest of your outfit, even better; you’ll look consistent, rather than like you’re wearing two wardrobes at once.

Finally, think about size. “Larger patterns are harder to pull off,” says Luke. The bigger your checks, the more obvious they are. “That means more visual impact. Whereas smaller patterns look like texture from a distance, but then reveal themselves when someone gets closer.” That’s also why you should look for fabrics that don’t feel flat. “Smooth patterned blazers look a bit odd. With something textured, like wool, you don’t need as bold a pattern to still look interesting.”

Nail all those elements and you’ll have a patterned blazer that works in a myriad of looks. Below, Luke explores just three of the occasions when a patterned blazer is the perfect choice.

For casual Friday

Patterned blazer and polo shirt

Photographed: Marks & Spencer patterned blazer (£129); MVP polo shirt (£125); T.M. Lewin trousers (£79.95)

If your office is smart enough that it dedicates a day to dressing down, then odds are everyone you work with follows the same template: suit trousers become jeans; suit jacket becomes navy blazer; shirt stays the same, but lose the tie. It’s as much a uniform as what guys wear Monday to Thursday, which makes it easy to stand out if you switch your own style up.

“This look was the go-to for the off-duty movie star in the 1960s, and it still works today,” says Luke. The polo’s long sleeves keep things smart – even if you lose the jacket – but the blazer’s pattern injects some life. “It flips the formula. Most guys get loose below the belt but stay incredibly smart up top. Here, the trousers are quite formal, but the jacket and polo feel relaxed and, most importantly, unique.” The shirt also solves that perennial question when you’re not wearing a tie: how many buttons do I fasten? With a shirt there’s designed to be worn with a necktie, there’s no right answer. With a polo, you can’t get it wrong.

Date night

Patterned blazer and rollneck

Photographed: Blazer as above; H&M Edition mock rollneck (£55.99); MVP chinos (£30)

On a date, you want to reveal something about who you actually are. That’s tricky when nothing about your outfit feels individual. A patterned blazer lifts your look and stamps it with your personality, without being zany. “The checks are traditional, but the outfit underneath feels more modern,” says Luke. “If you’re young, the blazer feels more mature; if you’re older, the tonality adds youthfulness. It’s a look that’s appropriate for a guy of any age, but makes your style feel current. It’s authentic, not fusty.”

The mock rollneck – that’s a style that only extends a short way up your neck – is a wiser choice than something that covers your Adam’s apple. “It’s easier to keep on indoors because it’s not so warm,” says Luke. “So you’ve got more flexibility as you can keep your knitwear on wherever you’re heading. You can even lose the blazer entirely and still be distinctive.”

Sunday lunch

Patterned blazer and cord shirt

Photographed: Blazer as above; Wax London shirt (sold out – £130 for similar); MVP chinos (£30)

A patterned blazer is perfect for weekend get-togethers because, depending on how you style it, you can shift it up and down the smart-casual spectrum at will. That way, you’re prepped for any location, whether that’s your local or the in-laws' dinner table. “It’s smart, but not uncomfortable,” says Luke. “You can tuck the shirt in, even add a tie or pocket square if you need to. But even as is, you’ve made an effort, but don’t look fussy.”

The advanced move here is texture. “The cord shirt echoes the fabric of the blazer,” says Luke. “People will want to touch them both.” And again, it means you can leave the jacket on a chair and the outfit underneath will still look interesting, not flat. The colour helps here, by pulling blazer and shirt together. “It repeats a minor tone in the checks, so the whole outfit feels very put-together. The blazer is leading the look, then the outfit is built around it.” That's great style that any guy can pull off.