Sartorial Love/Hate: Floral Shirt



I imagine no one would be likely to accuse me of being a zany dresser. I like colours and patterns but most of what I like is not too far removed from the conservative. It should come as no surprise then that I am not at all partial to floral shirts. I do not mean the palm-tree calico prints, the crudely coloured Hawaiians; I am referring to the William Morris, Arts & Craft, Liberty-inspired, Boden-catalogue James May. The sort of print you expect on curtains and wallpaper, at the very most a modest house dress. Not the sort of thing you would expect for a gentleman’s shirt.

It has become the quintessential garment of the middle-class gastropub; a smattering of excessive ornament against the suede lampshades and the leather armchairs. The wearer, parked on a barstool with a basset hound at his feet, flips through the pages of a weekend supplement as a pint of Guinness rests on the bar. It is not an offensive image; the shirt itself is not ugly and it is not worn in a fashion that attempts contrivance. It is something about the concept of a shirt with so incongruous a pattern. Time and again I have attempted to envisage myself in one of these shirts – with a jacket, chinos and loafers – and each attempt results in failure.

It is not, I think, a traditionally male aversion to the floral; a man fond of buttonholes could scarcely be against the use of flowers. It is that alien, tablecloth-quality that isolates the garment which makes me feel uneasy, but it is probably that very quality which appeals to others; that sense that you are not wearing a midweek shirt of plain weave, stripes or check but a shirt that is a signature of a Sunday afternoon. There are, after all, gentlemen who loathe the working week and yearn for all that it is not; whatever the business you are in, a floral shirt is most certainly not the most appropriate choice.

Unsurprisingly, I have little idea on how it should be worn, although long straggly hair, a pair of moleskin jeans and some beaten-up deck shoes appear to be the most popular partners. The idea of tying a tie with such a shirt is incompatible with its purely ‘fun-time’ connotations; no one mans even the smartest of neighbourhood barbecues (‘It’s unsafe…and uncool’) wearing a necktie. It is an open-neck option only. Likewise, it should never be partnered with anything less alpha than a pint of bitter or, if the evening’s getting late, a neat scotch. Add twizzly umbrellas and fruit mixtures and you’re finished.


Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at