© 2015 Taylor & Francis. Shear band formation and evolution is a predominant mechanism of deformation patterning in granular materials. Independent rotations of separate particles can affect the pattern formation by adding the effect of rotational degrees of freedom to the mechanism of instability. We conducted 2D physical modelling where the particles are represented by smooth steel discs. We use the digital image correlation in order to recover both displacement and independent rotation fields in the model. We performed model calibration and determine the values of mechanical parameters needed for a DEM numerical modelling. Both mono- and polydisperse particle assemblies are used. During the loading, the deformation pattern undergoes stages of shear band formation followed by its dissolution due to recompaction and particle rearrangement with the subsequent formation of multiple shear bands merging into a single one and the final dissolution. We show that while the average (over the assembly) values of the angles of disc rotations are insignificantly different from zero, the particle rotations exhibit clustering at the mesoscale (sizes larger than the particles but smaller than the whole assembly): monodisperse assemblies produce vertical columns of particles rotating the same direction; polydisperse assemblies 2D form clusters of particles with alternating rotations. Thus, particle rotations produce a structure on their own, a structure different form the ones formed by particle displacements and force chains. This can give a rise to moment chains. These emerging mesoscopic structures - not observable at the macroscale - indicate hidden aspects of Cosserat behaviour of the particles.