Objective The objective of this study was to determine the association of disease expression patterns with demographic and clinical characteristics in SLE. Methods Patients from a multi-ethnic SLE cohort were included. Disease expression patterns were defined as acute SLE and insidious SLE; this group was divided into those who accrued three ACR criteria and then accrued the fourth (insidious pattern A) and those who have one or two and then accrued four criteria (insidious pattern B). Disease activity was ascertained with the SLAM-R and disease damage with SLICC/ACR damage index. Variables were compared using analysis of variance for numeric variables and X2 for categorical variables. Multivariable analyses adjusting for possible confounders were performed. Results Six hundred and forty patients were included; the most frequent pattern was the insidious pattern B, with 415 (64.8%) patients, followed by the acute SLE group with 115 (18.0%) and the insidious pattern A with 110 (17.2%) patients. Patients from the insidious pattern A were older at diagnosis (pattern A: 39.8 vs pattern B: 36.7 vs acute: 32.4 years; p < 0.0001), more educated (13.6 vs 13.1 vs 12.1; p = 0.0008) and with a less active disease at baseline (8.8 vs 9.2 vs 10.7; p = 0.0227). Caucasian and Hispanic (Puerto Rico) ethnicities were overrepresented in this group (40.0% vs 27.7% vs 19.1% and 18.2% vs 17.1% vs 9.6%; p = 0.0003). Conclusions More insidious onset is associated with older age, Caucasian ethnicity, higher level of education, and lower disease activity than those with acute onset. However, after multivariable analyses, disease activity was not associated with any disease expression pattern.