From roses on rucksacks to tulips on T-shirts, floral prints are one of this season's biggest menswear trends, seen everywhere from Dries Van Noten to Topman. But will flowers really take root in men's wardrobes?
Clothes with flowers blooming all over them are where it's at. Orchids, tulips, peonies and roses, on T-shirts, shirts, trousers, coats, jumpers – you name it, this season it has had a floral-over. It's a fashion moment that could raise eyebrows. But really, if we weren't already hurtling into a devil-may-care menswear era (and the the floral inspired menswear shoot in the latest issue of the Fashion is testament to just that), we certainly are now that Pharrell has gone and wore tux'n'shorts to the Oscars. Florals for men? No big deal.
On the catwalks, Gucci clashed floral-print tailoring, Prada went all moody Hawaiian, McQueen offered ticking-stripe blazers embroidered with black roses, Raf Simons featured pop art tulips while Dries Van Noten put flowers on pretty much everything.
Van Noten is a fan of gardening – in the March issue of US Vogue the designer's home, on the outskirts of Antwerp, is photographed in all its flowerbed and foliage glory. This week, at his store in Antwerp (AKA the Dries mothership), the palest pink tulips stood in a red vase on a counter, though it was the clothes themselves that seemed to turn the entire men's floor into an indoor garden: flowers on denim, bags, coats, blazers. I succumbed to a black shirt with a spray of orchids on one half of its front. It's a fashion shirt, no doubt about that. But there's also something innately timeless about it. A Dries-ian trait if ever there was one.
Despite loving flowers in paintings or photographs (Wolfgang Tillmans, Robert Mapplethorpe, Manet) I haven't always loved floral clothes on men. Of course, Kurt Cobain in a tea dress, shot by David Sims for the cover of the Face in 1993, was a brilliantly subversive pop moment. Mostly though, florals have only had the limelight via the Hawaiian shirt, from Al Pacino in Scarface to Tom Selleck as Magnum PI. The floral look for men desperately needed modernising. Those small repeat-pattern shirts, mainly worn un-tucked with jeans or ill-fitting chinos, have started to reek of bad BBQ attire.
Christopher Kane got the man-flower reboot off to a good start for spring/summer 2013; graphic floral motifs splattered with paintbrush strokes on black shirts and grey marl sweats. Note: floral motifs feel modern when framed amid a dark background. Jonathan Saunders' latest, a peony print on a black t-shirt, is a winner, while Topman has a floral-on-black short-sleeve shirt that is the spit (if you squint) of a Marc Jacobs number.
Other floral 2014 tips?
1. If you're embracing floral trousers but don't want to do the full flower clash, a plain crew knit will dial things down.
2. A floral blazer might not be as useful as a navy one, but looks great with a white T-shirt.
3. If you're updating anything a bit Hawaii, toughen it up à la the Saint Laurent runway with jeans, or make like Dane Dehaan in the Prada ads and mismatch with pinstripes and excellent hair.
Florals for men update, over and out.
• Simon Chilvers is men's style director of Matches fashion
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