In the realm of menswear, there are a handful of classic patterns that have endured the test of time: stripes and polka dot motifs on accessories. A dotted pattern is especially versatile, so what’s the best way to wear it?
Polka dots work well with both casual and more formal outfits. We’ll review the uses of dots, spots or pois in classic style and provide some ideas on how to wear them.
In the history of Western dress, clothes with spotted patterns (unevenly spaced because they were hand sewn) were originally taboo because they resembled various skin diseases including bubonic plague and leprosy. However, by the 18th century, dots began to gain popularity. There is abundant proof for the invention of the so-called “polka dot” in connection with the polka dance craze that swept across Europe and North America in the first half of the 19th century. The dotted pattern we know today was marketed as “polka dots” to capitalize on the mania, though the connection to the dance is unclear. Probably, the round shape is associated with the circular patterns made by couples when they dance the steps of the polka.
While the pattern of repeated dots grew in popularity for fashion, in menswear it remained (and still remains) largely limited to small-scale use on ties, scarves, pocket squares, and socks. Large dots feature on women’s blazers, dresses, and shirts but you’re not likely to see the same on classic menswear as dots convey a sense of lightness and fun, which runs contrary to the more sober style of tailored men’s clothing.
When selecting a polka-dotted accessory, there are several factors that affect the impression they create, namely the size of the dots, their color and their spacing.
The beauty of polka-dotted accessories is how they lend themselves to numerous two- and three-color combinations.
Though any sort of spotted pattern is generically referred to as polka dots, small versions are usually described as “pin dots.” “Micro dots” can also be used to refer to the same thing or can be slightly larger. It can help to picture pin dots as what it would look like if you took a pin, dipped it in color and then poked a piece of cloth with the tip: the result is quite subtle and, though they don’t disappear entirely, they almost resolve to a solid when viewed from a distance. At the other end of the spectrum, you can have quite large dots. This is definitely more casual and fun while average and smaller dots are more business appropriate. For everything up to an “average-sized” dot (and this is admittedly relative), people will see the dots but not focus on them as an obvious design feature whereas there you can’t NOT focus on them when they’re huge. So, in terms of formality, where dots are involved, size does matter!
Bright socks or those with aggressive patterns on them are often touted as a way to inject individuality into what you’re wearing. The question to ask first is whether you prefer having people look at your ankles rather than your face.
At this point, perhaps you’re seeing spots before your eyes, but we hope you are also seeing polka dot patterns in a new light. Most people know that polka dots feature in menswear, but we don’t often think about all the possibilities of using them. Polka dots have a unique ability to straddle a range of occasions from highly formal to playful and casual, and as such, they are a must-have in every man’s wardrobe.