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How to Wear Tie-Dye Menswear Plus Some Inspiration

Menswear has turned to tie-dye for the summer.  Most years, we associate the swirling, wave-like psychedelic color combinations with bohemian and hippy couture.

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Perhaps the vibe is a bit stoner, perhaps it’s part Deadhead, but the result comes off as a confluence of do-it-yourself style and counterculture ethics.

Yet, tie-dye in the wrong hands can look like an off-kilter summer camp project – amateurish, childish, and, at a the time, bursting with too much all at once.

tie-dye tee

Rather, the elevated menswear angle treats tie-dye both as a statement combination, as it should be, and an innovative two-tone variation.

Here’s how you can incorporate some tie-dye into your wardrobe:

The Origins of Tie-Dye

From a modern cultural standpoint, we tend to associate tie-dye with 1960s hippy culture – that back-to-the earth, do-it-yourself era of communes, homes made from found materials, and repurposing military garb.

Yet, the technique – twisting, tying, and dyeing the material – goes back much earlier. Evidence of tie-dye can be found in the Prehistoric era, ancient Egypt, Incan Empire, and in Japanese silk garments. 

As a method for creating a print – as opposed to a pattern – tie-dye is classified as “resist dyeing.” This involves taking a fabric – or an already-formed T-shirt in most cases – and twisting or bunching it up, before string, twine, or rubber bands hold it together.

This form means parts of the fabric get exposed to the dye once dipped, and the parts bunched or folded together retain the fabric’s original color. The result can look swirled, circular, or jagged, based on how the fabric is arranged. 

tie-dye shirt

Following the counterculture movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s, tie-dye went on the backburner, excluding summer camp activities and fans at jam-band concerts. The ‘90s version of low-key androgyny in the form of Grunge brought it back briefly. 

Today, however, tie-dye is less hippy-tinged and more a refined experimentation with psychedelic prints. The result feels somewhat restrained and muted at times, with an understanding that the wearer – usually a young adult with a tech job – might sport it with the rest of a smart-casual ensemble or as part of a party suit

Giving Tie-Dye Menswear a Try

Take the following approaches when diving into tie-dye menswear options:

Accessorize With It

Accessories present the shortest and most streamlined pathway toward trying out a print – and tie-dye is no exception. As you look around, you’ll see this combination on socks, pocket squares, and caps, creating a colorful accent that enlivens plenty of solid-color ensembles.

Polo Ralph Lauren Tie-Dye Cotton Beanie

Polo Ralph Lauren Tie-Dye Cotton Beanie

Give off some positive vibes with this knit organic cotton beanie tie-dyed the shade of a bluebird sky with whisps of white for a lighter contrast. 

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Royal Silk Pink Tie-Dye Silk Pocket Square

Royal Silk Pink Tie-Dye Silk Pocket Square

With formal menswear, pocket squares offer a subtle spot to try out a dashing new color or print. This silk crepe option delivers a touch of personality through a mélange of pink, orange, purple, blue, and green swirled like a sunset. 

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Vans Tie-Dye Classic Crew Socks

Up the ante on the acid with these classic crew-height socks featuring an all-over neon green and yellow tie-dye print. 

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Casual and Traditional

Especially through the surge of Y2K style, the ‘70s-via-the-’90s are back. Perhaps tie-dye in its simplest, plainest form, the print adds some punch to T-shirts and sweatshirts, giving off a jam-band concert or old-school rave vibe based on the color scheme. All you really need are jeans – ripped or wide legged – and you’re all set. 

Outerknown Sur Tie-Dye Sweatshirt

Outerknown Sur Tie-Dye Sweatshirt

Make your basics a little more sustainable without compromising comfort. This Outerknown sweatshirt reflects the ocean’s depths with a darker tie-dye print added to a French terry blend of hemp and organic cotton.

Polo Ralph Lauren 6-Inch Stretch Classic Fit Tie-Dye Short

Polo Ralph Lauren 6-Inch Stretch Classic Fit Tie-Dye Shorts

Classic tie-dye doesn’t have to be in T-shirt form. These shorter-inseam drawstring shorts give off two layers of vintage character through relaxed cotton construction and a two-tone print. 

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True Religion Crewneck Sweatshirt

True Religion Tie-Dye Crewneck Sweatshirt

Even something low-key can make a distinctive impact, as this True Religion sweatshirt shows with streaks of aqua green and gray on a solid white background.

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Tie-dye especially in circular and neon combinations offers a throwback to the Second Summer of Love, which helped Usher in the ‘90s rave era. Up the acid appeal with heavy contrasts and neon shades paired with a bucket hat and track jacket.

AllSaints Men's Kanha Relaxed Fit Tie Dye Animal Print Short Sleeve Button-Up Shirt

AllSaints Kanha Tie-Dye Shirt

When you can’t choose between one print, get both from this AllSaints camp shirt blending purple-tinged tie-dye with traditional tiger stripes on Sustainable EcoVero™ viscose.

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Off-White Printed Oversized T-Shirt

Faith Connexion Off-White Printed Oversized T-Shirt

Aloha vibes pervade this oversized T-shirt, from the island-themed graphic to the sunset-like tie-dye colors along the edges. 

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Alexander McQueen Men's Blue Tie-dye Print Long-sleeved Shirt

Alexander McQueen Men's Blue Tie-Dye Print Long-Sleeved Shirt

Multicolored psychedelia meets the direct head trip of a Rorschach blot, resulting in a symmetrical yet abstract combination covering the front and back of this button-front shirt.

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Merging classic menswear with the out-there splash of tie-dye truly embodies 2022. If you’re moving past the retro allusions, seek out chinos, a blazer, or a full-on suit with a dusty tie-dye print.

Polo Ralph Lauren Classic Fit Tie-Dye Oxford Shirt

Polo Ralph Lauren Classic Fit Tie-Dye Oxford Shirt

Diverge from the usual robin’s egg hue with a cloud-like blue and white combination that’s slightly faded for a worn appearance. 

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Tie-Dyed Linen-Gauze Shirt

120% Tie-Dyed Linen-Gauze Shirt

What do you see? Horizontal tie-dye in cooler tones takes on the appearance of a mountain range against a blue sky on this 100% linen camp shirt. 

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Purple Label Baden Tie-Dye-Print Suede Jacket

Purple Label Baden Tie-Dye-Print Suede Jacket

With a chore coat foundation, this soft suede jacket steals the spotlight with navy and white tie-dye mimicking the contrasts of acid wash. 

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Tips for Wearing Tie-Dye Menswear

To incorporate some tie-dye into your wardrobe:

  • Don’t add too much: Tie-dye clearly falls within the scope of statement prints and even in simple variations can be somewhat overpowering. Instead, reserve it for a single piece – accessory, shirt, or shorts in most cases – and tone down the rest of your ensemble with neutral solid colors. 
  • Select something understated: If you’re eyeing tie-dye for your everyday office ensemble, consider something two-toned rather than multicolored. Blue and white add a mottled, swirling effect without coming off like a concert tee.
  • Consider it for your casual wardrobe: Especially if you work in a more conservative environment, save tie-dye for the weekend, as it still gives off moderate counterculture associations. In this case, go for a more old-school, streetwear-leaning approach with an all-over tie-dye print paired with denim and a windbreaker.
  • Bring it out for the festival: Colors are an unspoken part of the summer festival dress code. Here, try tie-dye out head to toe or in combination with other acid house-referencing garments. 

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Tie-Dye Style Inspiration

Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born menswear fashion blogger and copywriter. When not writing about men's style he's also an EDM and synthpop enthusiast.