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Why Bright, Bold Shirts Feel So Appealing—and How to Wear Them Right

Punctuate traditional tailoring with a pop of color and pattern.

The Row blazer; Valentino silk shirt; Salvatore Ferragamo wool pants; John Lobb leather sneakers; Berluti sunglasses; Tom Ford suede pouch Joshua Scott
Above: The Row blazer; Valentino silk shirt; Salvatore Ferragamo wool pants; John Lobb leather sneakers; Berluti sunglasses; Tom Ford suede pouch.

As temperatures rise, dress codes relax. Winter’s rotation of staid layers gives way to bolder, breezier fare, with neckties becoming scarcer as ankles re-emerge and color comes back into focus. This season especially, designers are encouraging men to flex their sartorial nerve, and while some ideas presented on spring/summer runways are best left there—here’s looking at you, acid-washed chinos and business-casual caftans—the statement shirt, seen everywhere from Paris to Milan, offers the perfect amount of daring. Unexpected yet easy to wear, it’s a surprisingly versatile way to add some kick to your wardrobe without veering into peacock territory.

Rendered in linen and silk, the new versions have a louche, bon vivant appeal that works well beyond holiday gallivanting. If you’re already adept at using a tie or pocket square to punctuate traditional tailoring with a pop of color and pattern, consider the statement shirt an extension of the same principle, just on a larger canvas.

Pierre Louis Mascia's color-blocked silk shirt

A color-blocked silk shirt by Pierre-Louis Mascia. 

Pierre-Louis Mascia launched his eponymous line with artfully printed scarves, which eventually led to shirts, now a mainstay of his brand. “I don’t design based on trends,” Mascia says; the designer calls the printed silk shirt “a classic” and says it should be “a staple in men’s wardrobes.” Even Hermès, that bastion of understated refinement, concluded its spring collection with shirts made from a patchwork of the house’s signature foulard prints. When a brand celebrated for its subtlety decides to get loud, that’s a green light to walk on the wilder side.

The Armoury suede jacket; Lemaire camp-collar printed voile viscose shirt; Corneliani cotton pants; Tod’s suede Chelsea boots; Bennett Winch leather folio.

The Armoury jacket; Lemaire printed voile viscose shirt; Corneliani pants; Tod’s Chelsea boots; Bennett Winch leather folio.  Joshua Scott

“These colorful patterned shirts interpret the needs of contemporary gentlemen, constantly moving between business and leisure engagements,” says Antonio De Matteis, CEO of Kiton, another brand that made bright, floral-patterned shirts a spring cornerstone. “We don’t think these shirts are bold,” he adds, noting they “give a touch of nonchalance to the formal men’s wardrobe.”

For its fashion-week presentation, Kiton paired the shirts with lightweight, unconstructed blazers and trim cotton twill pants for a smart-casual look that wouldn’t be out of place in a Friday office or for Saturday drinks. On the runway, Saint Laurent softened the sharp cut of a double-breasted suit with a botanical-printed shirt in a sherbet palette, while Valentino tempered its graphic camouflage shirt with rust-colored trousers and a muted gray jacket. The key, according to De Matteis, is balance: “What really matters is being sober in the jacket-shirt combination, even when you choose strong, bright colors.”

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello blazer, trousers and jungle-print shirt; Tom Ford boots; MCM Collection sunglasses; Dior Men brass rings.

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello blazer, trousers and shirt; Tom Ford boots; MCM Collection sunglasses; Dior Men brass rings.  Joshua Scott

Mascia endorses the more advanced styling trick of doubling down on a bold shirt by combining prints. “There are no rules for mixing patterns as long as they’re different in size and shape,” he says, “like thin stripes and big florals.” When in doubt, he adds, “my suggestion is to be fearless.” A fitting mantra for the season indeed.

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