By Ivan Yaskey
We all can’t dress as if we walked off the runway of a Charles Jeffrey Loverboy presentation. Instead, the next best thing to being living, walking art is to incorporate photographic prints within your look.
Going by names like “digital” or “digi” prints, “magazine” prints, or just “photo” prints, these garments are exactly as they sound: A shirt, hoodie, or even a jacket sporting realistic-seeming imagery. Sometimes, the image is taken from somewhere and reused, such as a magazine cover or older photographs; in others, it’s completely original. In any cases, the level of detail, even if the image replaces a more traditional graphic, elevates the garment far out of solid-color territory.
With this in mind, what options do you have for wearing photographic prints?
As Placement Prints
Placement prints, for a primer, mimic your standard graphic tee: An image, a digital print and often photographic in nature, printed anywhere on a garment, and playing off a solid-color background. With graphic tees, on the other hand, “placement print” isn’t used, as the image’s nature is implied. With everything else, including button-downs, hoodies, sweatshirts, and tunic-length shirts, a placement print adds a surprising degree of detail.
So, with a placement print, you’ve got a couple of choices. Angular – a square- or rectangular-shaped graphic – across the chest or front is a fair place to start. Predictable, yes, but not when across a zip-up hoodie or a button-down. But, as Limitato’s SS19 presentation at New York Fashion Week: Men’s showed us, placement prints can go anywhere: Across the back, much like a skate tee, off centered, or wrapped around the sides. As such, if a photographic image slapped across the front of a button-down already seems unpredictable, take that unexpectedness up to 11.
Streetwear has owned this over the past five years. However, there’s a difference between being loud for loud’s sake and making a thoughtful statement. Whatever photographic image you can dream up, you can likely find it splashed fully, if not up to the sleeves, of a sweatshirt or tee on eBay or a traditional urban streetwear site.
But, with fashion, there can always be too much of a good thing, and the brightest, loudest prints start to get stale after you see one after the other. That’s likely why Calvin Klein Jeans Est. 1978, introduced last month, feels somewhat fresh. If you didn’t have a chance to see it, the approach is fairly on the nose: Large-scale images of the heartland – think fields and pointed-roof, white-painted homes with American flags, somewhere in the vast Midwest – projected across an otherwise ordinary garment. Not too exceptional, until you consider the political undertones of applying theoretical flyover state imagery to something from a clearly Blue State, and often blue-blood, brand.
The Collage Print
Why settle for a single image, when you can take it and repeat it over and over? The semi-realistic nature gives the traditional print some variety, and further creates a progressive feeling, as if the pattern’s actually going somewhere.
That Supreme collection featuring the floral imagery from New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies album cover, originally designed by Peter Saville, manages to take something pop culturally insignificant – at least, in the modern era – and scatter it all over. Unlike Raf Simon’s repurposing of New Order’s second, full-length album as placement prints on tees and tunics, the Supreme version cuts out the flowers and pastes them all over, like a streetwear print. It ends up being louder than the original, requires you to understand the fairly obscure allusion, and manages to make you feel like you’re staring into a field of yellow and pink flowers.
That dizzying, dithered sensation came through Dior Homme’s rave-themed FW18 collection. While the overall line progressed from New Wave through ‘90s Dutch hardstyle, a few garments stood out with a crowd print, itself taken from photographs of underground clubs. Overlapping and repeat use ended up having a similar effect: You’re one of the crowd at a massive, all-night rave, where you’re enjoying yourself to the point of hazy satisfaction.
Pop Culture and News Prints
Roll the shirt onto its back and get ready to tackle the largest continuous part of the dress shirt fabric. A good place to begin is below the yoke by first following the contours of the box pleat. Also pay careful attention to the tail section at the very bottom. This is important if you’re going for the “untucked” look.
Although an extension of the collage print, these patterns have a distinction all to themselves. The difference? The lack of repetition. Instead, the effect is that of a teenager’s collage or mood board, without the precision of Pinterest: You’ve gathered a bunch of clips, perhaps pictures cut out of magazines, photos you’ve taken yourself, and occasional text, and taped or pasted it all together. It’s a bit sloppy, and there are plenty of rough edges, but it has the effect of being a compilation reflective of a particular place and time. For another riff on the dance music motif, consider TZUJI’s Electro Clash print bombers, with prints that appear lifted from a clubbing-happy teen’s bedroom wall.