Itemized: Wild Prints

Photographer Nicola Turner
July 12, 2011

Every week a different FADER staff member will pick a clothing item or accessory that he or she has lately been spending a lot of time with—or would like to—and write a little love letter to it. We would’ve done a column on who we’re dating but that seemed a little bit much. This week Nick Spain talks about his collection of wildly printed shirts.

A couple of years ago, I was sitting at my computer scouring Topman lookbooks for inspiration, one of my favorite online pastimes, and I stumbled on their Spring 2009 Motel Arizona collection. A model was wearing a loose-fitting, Palm-Beach inspired button-up in a sweet technicolor palate, looking cool as a cucumber, and a light bulb went off in my head: I, the kid who felt perpetually doomed to conventional garb because I look like a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Von Trapp kid, maybe had some options after all. My mind went through an unexpected slideshow of the '80s and '90s. It revisited Jon Cryer as Duckie romancing Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink, Zack Morris up to his usual hijinx at Bayside High and the cast of In Living Color rocking vibrant duds. The one thing that connected these seemingly disparate eras was that, no matter the epoch, there was a love for traditional pieces re-imagined in bright, colorful patterns and prints. A short-sleeved, button-down shirt doesn't have to be boring if it's rendered wacky. From that moment on, my style was never the same.

Above is my collection of vintage printed shirts that I've accrued over the years. My favorite one by far is what I have affectionately dubbed my "Crayola" shirt. I found it about a year and a half ago in the Salvation Army on Bedford Avenue, right after moving to Brooklyn. It's messy blue strokes and spots reminded me of something I would have scribbled on construction paper in my kindergarten class. Beyond that, there's my red, white and blue sailboat print that I got in the Summer of 2010. I wear it when I feel like being a satirical version of JFK on his vessel. Since I often get restless when I'm in my hometown, last Thanksgiving I visited a local store and found the striped shirt. It's actually tiny, multicolored ropes and I don it on those rare occasions when I feel inclined to dress as a Deutsch schoolboy.

Flash forward to the present day, and we have contemporary designers like Reyn Spooner making cool summer shirts for Opening Ceremony in the same vein as those idols from my childhood. In loftier circles there was a rise in wild new patterns at Pitti Uomo and Milan, with even Prada playing along. Maybe it's just a flash in the pan, but I think if Duckie had been around in 2011, he would've gotten the girl.

From The Collection:

Itemized: Wild Prints