The Patterned Short Sleeve Shirt: 3 Outfits + 16 Affordable Style Picks

A stylish summer essential.

men summer style outfits - short sleeve button up shirt - floral shirt

One of the most commonly repeated style axioms is to never wear a short sleeve button up shirt. You’ll look like a middle-aged man. You’ll look like a big box store employee. You’ll look like the sartorially-challenged guy from your company’s IT department.

My ugly shirt says, “I’m professional, but hey, man, I’m casual too.”

Well that style rule isn’t completely wrong. You definitely should avoid short sleeve shirts that look and fit like the photo above.

But if you’re applying that rule across the entire spectrum of “shirts that have buttons on the front that also have short sleeves,” you’re not only limiting your summer shirting options to t-shirts and polos – you’re missing out on a super easy way to add some color and visual texture to your hot weather outfits. Which is especially important since as guys our summer Getups almost always comprise of: shirt, shorts, watch, footwear. If you’re one of the million guys who invariably leaves the comment, “Not in the south,” on any mid-year Getup that I post that has either long pants, long sleeves, or a light jacket, then you know exactly the frustrating limitation I’m speaking of.

Over the last few years, men have been given a new trove of almost limitless options. Not only have clothing brands rethought the fit on their short sleeve shirts, the “patterned” short sleeve shirt has become a summer essential. These patterns aren’t limited simple to dots, stripes, and plaids (though these are great too) modern takes on florals have become the go-to stylish option spanning streetwear to conservative prep.

However, it can be hard to determine which will make you the best dressed guy in a casual room or make you look like:

ugly floral shirts

How to Wear A Patterned Short Sleeve Shirt

In general, you’ll want to remember three things:

  • The shirt should be fitted – avoid the baggy bowling shirt look
  • If the shirt has a flat hem it’s almost certainly not a younger man’s shirt
  • The pattern should balance intricacy, size, and color vibrance. A more intricate design should be of a smaller pattern. A larger pattern should be more sparse, and so on. If you’re nervous, start with a pattern that is muted, such as this subtle blue-on-blue option from CottonOn.

To Make It Easy, Here are 3 Outfits plus 16 More Affordable Picks to Get You Started

short sleeve floral shirt men summer style outfit idea gray jeans white sneakers

Shirt: Amazon Prime, $22 / Jeans: Gap, $49 / Sneakers: Nike, $35 / Watch: The Fifth, $150

modern floral shirt black watch gray jeans - men summer outfit

men summer style - short sleeve floral shirt green shorts white sneakers flat lay

Shirt: Amazon Prime, $22 / Shorts: Gap, $35 / Sneakers: Nike, $35 / Watch: MVMT, $95 / Sunglasses: Classic Specs, $95 / Cologne: Hugo Boss, $95

men's summer outfit patterned short sleeve shirt chinos vans

Shirt: Amazon, $30 / Chinos: Levi’s, $40 / Sneakers (similar): Vans, $60 – This whole outfit is available on Amazon Prime, check it out in our Amazon Outfit series.

men summer outfit - short sleeve button up henley joggers boat shoes

Shirt (similar): H&M, $13 / Henley: H&M, $9 / Joggers: CottonOn, $40 / Boat Shoes: Sperry, $95 / Sunglasses: Amazon, $12

16 Best Patterned Short Sleeve Button Up Shirts

Down with ugly short sleeve shirts: Please share this post!

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.

  • Zac Silk

    I’ve been looking for some direction on short sleeve shirts for a while now. Thanks Andrew for clearing up that short sleeve shirts are okay as long as the fit is right.

    I’d like to add if the shirt is still too baggy in the arms after sizing down, try a tailor. They can take in the arms and make the shirt fit a whole lot better.

    I think the patterned short sleeve shirt really bridges the gap between a solid polo or t shirt and adds some much needed texture to summer looks.

    I’m keeping my eye on this option from Gap as it has some texture but is not too outside my comfort zone. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5b62fd6b75c2ddca955af98e7fc23f138dbb1d03579fd933247ca8934afc5c30.png

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Great point! That’s a nice shirt also!

  • MP

    That white H&M shirt… just, no. Maybe it’s the model, but that fit is terrible. Love the first getup though.

  • Mark Hancheroff

    I own that Magnum PI Hawaiian shirt. It never goes out of style. Just need the Ferrari…

  • rogun

    I love short sleeve shirts, but I hate trying to find S/S shirts that fit well. It’s an impossible task nowadays and I don’t know why. No other item of clothing has given me so much trouble.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Are they too baggy or tight?

      • rogun

        It’s mostly the sleeves being too large. My guns aren’t that big and the excess fabric points outward in the shorter sleeves today. My shoulders are fairly large, which makes it worse. It’s not a good look for a gent with large shoulders, but thin arms.

  • Kyle Taylor

    Hey Andrew, where’s the henley in the third outfit from?

  • Silver B

    The bunched up sleeves on the second shirt is what I have a hard time with, and can’t stand. Not only does it look ill-fitted, imo, but even more important, it’s uncomfortable. It’s very difficult to find one that doesn’t do that.