Menswear’s insatiable love of print continues into fall 2012 and it looks like designers aren’t holding back. Prints in all shapes and sizes barrelled down the runway proving rather effective at breaking through the many traditional tailored pieces that usually dominate.

We picked up where we left at spring. Prints are an easy way to inject some personality and life into an outfit and create a wonderful contrast to tailored silhouettes. They’re a polite way of saying you have some attitude and you’re not afraid to show it. When prints are complemented with a sharp trouser or layered underneath a smart knit, there’s always a nod to something not so serious. The designer’s creativity and personality are best on show when working with print.

After the break, we take a closer look at the trend and how to wear it.

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Menswear prints on the runway

On the fall runways, Dries Van Noten offered his own psychedelic interpretation while Raf Simons playfully injected Liberty florals into his usual minimal aesthetic. Unsurprisingly, both Etro and Missoni played to their strengths within their own eclectic styles and gave us some great paisleys and nature-inspired prints. Paul Smith took his nautical theme quite literally and offered trousers and shirts adorned with octopi and shark’s teeth. Even when his clothes are dark and sharply tailored, his sense of humour is never too far off.

Prints for men: shirting

The all-over style of print suits mens style so well because, due to its scale, it can easily be treated like a solid. Raf Simons employed this technique to great effect in his eponymous show when he brought out looks with all-over micro florals, even layering them on top of each other to prove his ability in combining the decorative and the austere. Squint, and the pattern blurs into itself, serving as an injection of colour and panache rather than something very literal.

Raf Simons floral shirting look
Floral shirting at Raf Simons, F/W ’12

All-over printed shirts react so well to fall layering, which in turn provides so many options. Take a geometric printed shirt and pull over a merino v-neck sweater. Pair a floral shirt with an earthy corduroy jacket for a delightful combination. When mixed with different textures, such as knits, leather, flannel and even velvet, print adds a complex richness and vibrancy to a look. Modern abstract prints prefer stark contrasts, such as sharply tailored suits and cropped trousers.

Prints for men: trousers

While it’s relatively easy to incorporate print in shirting, printed pants and trousers offer a markedly more visible route. With seemingly nowhere to hide, it’s a way to make a bold statement. Dries styles the look smartly, by balancing the loud bottom half with crisp plain shirting or soft knits. Henrik Vibskov did the same by utilising the layering properties of the cardigan. Canali paired his with rich and heavy turtlenecks. It’s all about balance and finding the right look; colour, proportion, texture and detail all have to be taken into account.

Canali printed pants for mens fall 2012
Men’s printed pants at Canali, F/W ’12

Ami styles it to perfection by bringing a floral pair of pants down to earth with brogue boots, an olive lambswool sweater and a tobacco parker tied around the waist. The autumnal tones look right at home against the colourful print. The woolen scarf gives just the right proportional balance and ties the whole look together.

Ami pairs printed pants with Autumnal colours
Men’s printed pants at Ami, F/W ’12

Prints for men: accessories

If you’re not willing to take the plunge into the deep end, accessories are an easy entry point and this season designers are making a point of instilling the most of the trend. Patterned scarves are by far the most popular and accessible way of introducing print. When paired with a suit or an overcoat, like in the Kenzo show, silk scarves are an elegant touch of eccentricity. There are other ways utilising the scarf; throw it around an overcoat for a debonair look or tie a neckerchief for something a little more mischievous.

Kenzo mixing of print and fabric for fall 2012
Printed accessories at Kenzo, F/W ’12

Patterns to look for this season

  • Florals, mainly small in scale and rich in colour
  • Paisley, goes hand in hand to the recurring 70’s theme
  • Geometric, bold but still fun
  • Digital abstract, modern and sharp

In the end, print is all about having fun and the endless array of options means that there’s a print out there for everyone.

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