How to Wear More Prints and Patterns

By: Peter Nguyen
Last Updated: July 6, 2018

Today’s question comes from Chad:

I wanted to share something that has been bothering me recently. I find that one of my biggest issues with dressing stylishly is that I don’t have the balls to try strong prints or colors. I find bold looks interesting but can’t find the courage to be bold myself. Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks!

Exploring bolder colors, prints and patterns are definitely scary and challenging.

It’s often the last hurdle for my 1-on-1 clients. More often than not, guys run the risk of overdoing it and looking like a mess. It’s like any truffle oil or sauce in a dish, a little usually goes a long way.

Luckily, we’re in the middle of summer, which is the perfect time to experiment with colors and patterns because:

  1. You have a ton of bold, colorful print and patterns to choose from in stores.
  2. Everyone wears brighter colors in the summer so you won’t look out of place!

I recently stopped by Arizona for my birthday week. And before my trip, I teamed up with my friends over at Bonobos to show you a few of my favorite ways to go bold with your summer style.

But before we jump into some weekend getaway looks, I want to show you a little trick I developed for my 1-on-1 personal styling clients to teach them how to easily upgrade their outfits with bold prints, colors, and patterns.


Imagine for a second you have never had hot sauce in your life. You’re really interested adding it to “spice up” your boring meals.

How would you go about it?

Would you try Taco Bell’s mild “hot” sauce one week, then jump to Mad Dog 357 Plutonium 9 Million Scoville Pepper Extract, the next?

No! Of course you wouldn’t!

You’d gradually work your way up the Scoville ladder.

And yet, this is what I see a lot of my clients and readers do when they’re trying to add more colors and prints to their wardrobes. They go from a white tee shirt and blue jeans to a green tropical print shirt and tie-dye shorts and end up feeling uncomfortable and honestly, looking a bit silly because they overdid it.

You don’t go full Mad Dog Plutonium!

Ease into it. Go from mild to medium, to slightly hotter, and hotter, until you reach a limit you’re happy with.

The best way to ease into it when it comes to your style is using what I call “The Swap Trick”.

Here’s an example for the summer.

Start with an easy, timeless outfit: white short sleeve button-up, navy shorts, off-white sneakers. The neutral color palette, while perfectly fine, feels a little safe and honestly a bit boring.

We use The Swap Trick to take things up a notch gradually.

Choose one item to start and swap in a slightly bolder substitute. With “Medium,” we went with a shirt that’s still mostly white with a subtle red stripe.

Going from “Medium” to “Hot,” we get bolder with a solid pink shirt, then finally graduate to “Hottest” with a pink leaf print shirt

Notice though that the rest of the outfit doesn’t change at all! This is the real key, especially when wearing bold prints. Let the print be the star. 

My favorite part about The Swap Trick is when you find yourself swapping in something that’s a little too much for you to handle, you can pull it back and still have a great outfit!

Ok, so you’ve learned The Swap Trick, let’s see some real-world examples!



(Hover over image to shop the clothes featured in this photo!)

Ease into prints by choosing a piece with a solid neutral base color, like white, along with a subtle print or pattern, like this striped shirt. Think of this like one step up from a classic white tee and jeans.

When it comes to Bonobos’ short sleeve print shirts, I tell my clients to embrace summer and relax your fit a bit. Size up for a more effortless, chill look.

Summers can also be brutal – make sure you don’t make the amateur mistake of wearing your fall/winter denim in the heat.

I’m a big fan of Bonobos summer weight denim, which is thin and ultra comfortable thanks to 10% stretch. Like their classic chinos, the summer weight jeans come in a variety of fits, including athletic which is roomier in the thigh and butt but tapers down for a sleek look (perfect for guys that don’t skip leg day.)


(Hover over image to shop the clothes featured in this photo!)

When it comes to bolder floral prints, it’s important to let it be the star.

Pair it with a mostly neutral outfit here like I did with Bonobos classic stretch chino. Unbutton the top and let your chest breath a bit while you watch that little Uber car ride around on your phone.


(Hover over image to shop the clothes featured in this photo!)

Mixing prints and patterns can be tricky, but not impossible. Balance it out by pairing one classic, toned down pattern with something a bit more eccentric.

Tie dye is huge this summer, and I highly recommend taking a trip back to the 90s and picking up these tie dye beach shorts.

Bonobos’ summer weight button-down is the perfect pairing in a classic, understated stripe. The lightweight cotton is SUPER breathable lightweight cotton. Their shirts come in a variety of fits, including short for men like me who are #TEAMFIVEFOOTSEVEN.


(Hover over image to shop the clothes featured in this photo!)

9pm Summer sunsets are a sign for you to put away that boring dark date night outfit.

Bonobo’s Jetsetter suit’s razor-sharp tailoring makes sure I look properly fitted. The hint of stretch in the suit helps remind me I’m on a date, not a business meeting, so I can relax a bit.

I know this outfit looks intimidating, but all I did was swap in a print shirt in place of my usual white button-up. Notice my pocket square is still white and, while off camera, my loafers are still black. The Amalfi print shirt, Bonobos’ luxe line made from Italian fabrics, is the star here, so let it shine.

Remember, when it comes to adding patterns to your style this summer, act like a good flirt, less is more, but don’t be afraid to be a little bold.


Share them in the comments!

This post was in partnership with our my friends over at Bonobos, who’ve been my go-to shop for my 1-on-1 client work. Thank you for working with me on this featured story!

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