The beach and poolside are often the only places where men feel comfortable enough to wear floral prints. But this season a new mood in menswear is seeing luxuriant blooms and verdant foliage flourishing in unexpected ways and unusual places, from sharp tailored pieces to knitwear.
“Stereotypically, men in florals are seen as feminine and flamboyant. But now edgy prints and more subdued colours, such as grey, blue and burgundy, are coming to the fore,” says Jeremy Hackett, who this season scatters flowers and pointillist blooms on everything from polo shirts (£75) and blousons (£225) to button-down shirts (£95).
Such moody, masculine colours find expression in Alexander McQueen’s sensual floral designs – elegant bouquets appear on shirts and the linings of formal eveningwear (jacket£3,595) while Victorian flowers adorn shorts (from £325), shirts (from £495) and a dark-navy suede jacket (£3,495), the perfect bloom for evening. But it is the knitwear that displays an unusual floricultural allure – especially the black Victorian Floral Still Life jumper (£635) and black cardigan with feather and flower embroidery (£760).
Valentino also turns to the dark side with its diaphanous shirts (from £320) and summer trousers (from £320) in silk, linen and viscose blends. Backgrounds of grey, taupe, burgundy, brown and navy are speckled with white and pale-blue flora. These loose garments might be too much worn tout ensemble, but teamed with denim they’ve got an easy-going attitude in their DNA. Midnight navy is also the background colour of key pieces in Gucci’s Flora Knight range for men – it sets off the oversized, oriental-inspired blooms of the stretchy gabardine pants (£470) and co-ordinating cotton shirt (£325) very stylishly.
Paul Smith plays with a dark palette too, but it is his use of oversized, graphic prints – huge fronds and jungle patterns rather than delicate plants – that provides a more masculine edge. Shirts (£145), illustrated sweaters (£465) and shorts (£155) all have a cool verdant vibrancy, but it’s the luxurious jacquard plant-print trousers (£505) in light blue and green that tempt most – especially paired with an understated jumper or shirt.
On London’s Savile Row, Richard James turns the spotlight from jungle greenery to desert blooms. The inspiration is the Sahara Desert c1938, when men strode across sandy wastelands wearing safari suits and pith helmets. The brand has reinterpreted this manly élan by adding flora to the mix. A deep-tan four-pocket military shirt (£435) – best worn untucked – has a single line of orange and white floral embroidery across one side of the chest and shoulder. An apple-green hopsack military blouson (£575), with two pockets and a zip, gets a similar treatment with pink and orange petals, as does my personal favourite, a slim-fitting three-button safari jacket (£695) with epaulettes and a dusting of embroidery on both sleeves. More subtle are the cotton shirt (£255) interpretations. “The hand-embroidered flowers demilitarise the look,” says Richard James’ co-founder Sean Dixon.
Brioni, meanwhile, brings florals to sharp tailoring that oozes slick Italian brio – particularly the grey suits (from £4,700) with muted all-over blue blooms. For something with more pizzazz, silky bombers (from £1,810) and blousons (from £1,990) in wine, electric blue or forest green interpret flowers with painterly vigour – part graffiti, part psychedelic camouflage.
In a similarly bold vein is Ralph Lauren’s Banana Leaf Floral print, used to stunning effect on a range of trousers (£475). Anything but sombre in tone, the green, yellow, blue and red flora creates a sort of tropical camouflage that’s splendidly outré. More subtle in terms of colour palette is the Tropical Safari print used on drawstring linen trousers (£475) and a matching shirt (£285) that’s a brooding masculine blend of bold cream blooms on black. The eponymous designer says these two prints are his personal favourites this spring. Throw on a blazer – try the classic RL brass-buttoned barathea version (£2,195) – and a pair of espadrilles for off-duty summer swagger infused with horticultural splendour.
This contrast between a dark, elegant jacket and a dynamic patterned shirt is a strong look that works for Marni’s audacious foliage too. Here, bold floral abstractions inspired by Japanese rakugaki cartoons make an appearance on shirts (£250) and trousers (from £250).
Finally, keen Etro moves into the floral arena with a sideways step. His prints are inspired by his kitchen gardens in Piedmont and Puglia and are small and delicate. They exude a freshness combined with that vital Italian ingredient – brio. Among the designs are a two-piece track suit (top, £450, bottoms, £355), a two-button black wool suit with small lilac, white and green blooms (jacket £795, trousers £355) and – my favourite – a cool woven blazer with a notched collar and button lapels (£910). It’s unquestionably the most versatile item in the collection and would look knockout paired with denim, worn either at the bar or, indeed, poolside.