Pattern Mixing 3-7-2011

Mixed right, or all mixed up?

A definitive guide to mixing patterns.

Wearing solid colors is simple. Grey suit. White shirt. Navy tie. No problem. But you want to leave Men’s Fashion 101 behind and wear patterns. Why? Because patterns are about personality. Patterns are where you break away from the pack. But don’t attempt to mix them without knowing the basics. The last thing you want to do is walk around the office looking like you’re wearing a Jackson Pollock painting.

Big and small.

Start with either your shirt or tie. Are the patterns large or small? If large, then be sure that what you’re pairing it with has a smaller pattern. And vice versa. Think of your tall friend with the tiny wife. They’re a nice couple.

“It’s all about scale,” says Richard Cristodero, Shirt and Tie Merchant at Brooks Brothers. “Frequently we see shirt and tie combinations where the width of the stripes on both is very similar. What ends up happening is that the tie gets absorbed into the shirt. It’s a real opportunity lost.”

Be size wise.

Wearing two patterns of the same size or weight creates an extremely busy look. You want people to be drawn to your look not be reminded of this.

The tie-in.

Start with your shirt. Determine what the dominant color in its pattern is and then choose a tie that has accents with the same dominant color. Is navy the primary color? Then pair it with a tie that has navy in the background somewhere. It will “tie your look together” which is a horrible pun but is somewhat appropriate.

Being a “peacock” is not a bad thing.

For a bold display of color, remember that opposites pair well. Look at a color wheel. The complementary colors lie opposite each other. So, agreeable color pairings are orange with blue, purple with yellow, and red with green. Now, pick your favorites and go out and strut your stuff.

Preferred pattern pairings.

With these pairings, you can create everything from bold statements to subtle, thoughtful moods.

Striped Shirt/patterned tie

Striped shirt and patterned tie.

This combination of patterned tie, like polka dots, and striped shirt goes best with a plain jacket.

Striped shirt/striped tie

Striped shirt and striped tie.

It’s best to wear bolder stripes on your tie than your shirt. And don’t be afraid to go very bold when you become more experienced.

Checked shirt/striped tie

Checked shirt and striped tie.

Like the striped shirt and striped tie combination, it’s best to wear the larger pattern on your tie.

Checked shirt and patterned tie.

A more advanced level of pattern mixing. Done properly, the intricate pairings impart a subtle depth of character to its wearer.

Ready. Set. Mix.

Now you know the basic rules to guide you. So go ahead and let your personality shine through with your pattern pairings. And trust us, let your style be what sets you apart. It’s infinitely preferable to being known as the guy who insists on fist bumps instead of handshakes.

TAGS: Pattern mixing | Patterns | Shirts | Ties

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