Your Guide to Print and Patterned T-Shirts

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Got yourself a patterned T-shirt and unsure about what to pair it with? Believe it or not, they’re a lot easier to style than you think, and you don’t always have to play it safe! Our definitive guide will help you understand your look so you can nail the patterned and printed T-shirt trend.

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A printed T-shirt. One of the more iconic pieces of clothing that has hung around for over half a century. It has become a clothing staple, a part of modern life. From a cool band tee to a record label top or even a shirt emblazoned with your favourite brand. No longer just the spawn of slightly dodgy souvenir shops with funny slogans like “My mum went on holiday and all she got me was this lousy T-shirt,”  or something a lot more inappropriate. The printed tee is now the epitome of cool, when styled in the right way that is.

Prints can transform an outfit, updating your usual denim combo and freshening up your look. As Spring tentatively approaches (we’re still hoping for some warmer weather!) now is the time to try out different combinations, playing with print, colour and brand. They don’t have to be all in your face, and you don’t have to always go for the boldest of bold. Whatever you choose, our guide to the underwear that became outerwear, will give you all the right style tips.

When choosing your tee, what do you usually go for? Are you a full on head-to-toe print man whose outfit is never complete without a logo or pattern-covered tee? Are you that person that loves an iconic film or band tee? (See Napoleon Dynamite’s ‘Vote for Pedro’ classic or the Rolling Stones’ never ending dirge of rock n roll tees). Or are you a newbie to the print scene, cautiously poking your nose into realms unknown? To help you decide what kind of tee you prefer, we’ve broken down our favourites. Find out what fresh new ways you can style your T-shirt, or how to simply incorporate them into your wardrobe.

Branded Prints

So we now know that soldiers wore them and Brando loved them, but why did T-shirts suddenly start being used as promotional tools? Well, because our bodies became walking, talking, human billboards: an advertising campaign that just kept on giving.

You’ll all of course recall the “I Heart NY” T-shirts that every man, and actually even their dog, seems to own. These were one of the first slogan tees to spark a trend that eventually spiralled into the mainstream. Then came Che Guevara’s face emblazoned on every radical’s chest. Clothing labels then began to use T-Shirts to promote their companies, creating a cult fashion status for brands like Supreme, Carhartt and even Coca-Cola.

The printed tee became a wearable form of self-expression, beloved by hippies and rock stars alike. It was a concept that was so simple and yet so darn obvious that the people just loved it, and are still loving it today.

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Kanye West in Supreme
PHOTO CREDIT: Vogue

Head-to-Toe Master

Why not go all out print? Dare to bare your printed best this Spring and sport your T-shirt tucked into a pair of printed, tailored shorts. You’ll be making the most of the fleeting glimpses of sun and look effortlessly summery. Some of you may be thinking that this is a bit of a print overload, but for others this is the ultimate Spring outfit, especially when worn to a casual park hang-out or on a spontaneous weekend trip to the beach. Throw on a lightweight bomber jacket and a pair of box-fresh white trainers and you are good to go.

Colourful Fanatic

If you yawn at the thought of navy or white, you need to get some colourful prints in your life. Think tie-dye, but less poster paint spatters and more artfully arranged streaks. Offset the colourful nature of your T-shirt with a pair of your tightest black denim and throw your jacket over your shoulders to give the appearance of nonchalance. Of course, your jacket will probably slip off after you take two steps and you’ll no doubt get cramp in your elbow from the angle that you’re holding your arm in. But just think how ridiculously effortless you’ll look.

The Brand Obsessed

If you prefer to look effortlessly undone (whilst planning every outfit meticulously) then look no further than the trusty logo tee. It’ll add a certain ‘je ne sais quois’ to your ensemble. See streetwear legend Carhartt, denim maverick Lee or the back-in-favour North Face for some of the more popular brands on the scene. Whether your tee is old and faded or fresh and new, make it stand out by slipping into a pair of faded denim – Levis 501s are the perfect accompaniment – and old-school Wayfarers to hear your Dad proudly proclaim, “I used to wear just that when I was your age.”

The Groupie

If music or film is your thing, then now is the time to pull out that cool band T-shirt you bought at your first gig. Or alternatively head to your nearest charity shop to discover some old favourites that have been carelessly discarded. Nothing feels cooler than strutting your stuff in a faded Rolling Stones tongue and lips tee or a black and white image of a band’s latest album cover. Pair with desert boots and a baseball cap to keep the look millennial or wear underneath a crushed black bomber to hark back to the 70s.

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Your printed tee can be of anything if styled correctly
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Skater Boy

If your idea of an evening with the lads is hanging out on a set of wheels, be it two or four, rock your printed tee with long sleeves and a loose pair of shorts – battered board or a bike is an essential. Either choose a raglan tee to bring in a bit of colour or go for a branded logo to suggest a potential sponsorship in the pipeline. Or do a mixture of the two. Your friends will be none the wiser.

Just a Hint

If the idea of print in the past has struck fear into your perfectly organised, minimalist wardrobe, why not start off with just a hint of print? A small logo tee or one that has some small embellishment on the back will ease you in. From the front you’ll look your minimalist stylish self, but when the jacket comes off, you start to show that you’ve taken a risk and added some detail onto your back. It’s as easy as that, plus we at The Idle Man have the perfect ones to get you started.

The Sporty Kid

If you tire easily of jeans and the thought of plastering your torso with extravagant prints makes you balk, look to the classic raglan tees instead as they’ll be your saving grace. Choose from a variety of colours that can change depending on your mood or occasion. Whether that be red for a festival or a darker shade of purple for a slightly smarter work look, you can switch up the colours with a matter of ease. Throw on over your joggers and keep the trainers classic. It’s a look that’s comfortable yet stylish.

Understated

If you’re still not sure about the whole print thing, but want to give something new a try, try a subtle stripe or polka dot. It’ll add a bit of flair to your outfit without being too over the top. With this style we’re not saying that they should be T-shirts that are covered in ridiculously oversized spots, but rather tees in muted tones. The stripes or dots are a subtle addition to your wardrobe and are easily missed if not looked at closely. There’s no need to overstate the print when you can be understated in your approach, right? Wear with cut off denim and a classic boat shoe to bring your look into Spring.

The Breton Advocate

If you have always longed for the French Riviera and its beautifully Breton-ed inhabitants then this Spring sport the look. But instead, update it for the city. Teem navy stripes with a straight legged pair of chinos or channel Wally in a red and white number (just avoid wearing with a beanie hat – cue endless questions about Wally’s whereabouts). Or go classic and pair with light coloured trousers and slip-on loafers. Croissant and beret optional.

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Stripes are easy to include in your wardrobe
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

T-shirts: A History

So first off, why the name? Well it cleverly, now we know the answer, is quite obvious. The name T-shirt comes from the T shape made of a person’s shoulders, arms and torso. If you look at a person, this area of the body creates a T shape. Plus the garment itself, when laid flat, makes the answer pretty apparent. So we’ve got the name down, but where did they come from?

Back in the day, World War Two to be precise, the US Navy, followed swiftly by the Army, issued its soldiers with an undergarment to be worn beneath their uniform – aka the T-shirt. The Army recruits quickly began wearing their T-shirts off duty and when they returned home, the trend spiralled from there.

Easy to clean and made from a lightweight cotton, the shirts became the first choice of clothing for many industry workers. As well as workers, Mothers would get them for their sons, due to the ease. The reality was, the T-shirt was popular and, shock horror, even though your mum championed it first (kind of), it was also cool. Marlon Brando sported one on the set of A Streetcar Named Desire and that was that. When Brando spoke, the people listened. Once upon a time it would’ve been more than embarrassing to be caught in your T-shirt but, just like that, the T-shirt became fashionable as a piece of outerwear.

Your Guide to Print and Patterned T-Shirts

  • You can ease yourself into the printed T-shirt trend by going for a logo tee or one with detailing and design on the back.
  • If you’re feeling brave, go for a bold print and even pair it with matching bottoms for a Fashion Week ready look.
  • Stripes and dots are a staple and easy print to incorporate into your existing wardrobe.
  • Style your printed T-shirts with a pair of jeans and even an over shirt. Finish with trainers for a casual day to day look.
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Printed tees can be fairly subtle
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

On That Note

Now that you have a better idea about what kind of prints you like, you can wear them with confidence. A lot of prints and patterns will easily fit into your wardrobe, so as long as you keep the rest of the outfit pretty minimal you’ll now know how to make prints an everyday part of your wardrobe. Because, really, it’s pretty simple. Prints are a quick and easy way to update an outfit and transform an over-worn and slightly tired look.

SHOP ALL T-SHIRTS

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