You might be a pro at matching your solid-colored ties with your solid-colored shirts, but with trends in recent years emphasizing a mix-and-match approach to fashion, how well do you fare at mixing stripes and patterns? And let’s not even get started on dealing with textures.
Fortunately, learning to combine interesting shirts and ties is not as taxing as it sounds. Just stick to a few simple rules and you’ll find that mixing it up has never been easier
1- Repeat colors in each pattern
In this case, choose your shirt first, carefully noting the dominant colors. When you are ready to pick your tie, choose one with accents that use the same dominant colors from your shirt. This combination of a brown John Varvatos dress shirt and pink silk Ermenegildo Zegna tie is a perfect example of how to implement this rule. The shirt is dark brown with lighter, more subtle, nutmeg-colored stripes and, although the background of the tie is pink, the small, brown, paisley art-nouveau print echoes the color of the shirt.
2- Graduate checks outward
Skillfully combining a checked shirt with a differently checked tie is a quick way to get a quirky look. The rule to follow in this case is to always wear smaller checked prints on your body and larger checks around your neck. Again, make sure you pay attention to color and choose a shirt and tie in a similar color palette. Take, for example, this hip combination of a pumpkin-plaid, Hickey Freeman shirt with a navy-striped silk tie from Luciano Barbera: The shirt has smaller, thinner checks, while the tie has a larger and brighter pattern. As the checks become larger from the shirt to the tie, the effect is more Johnny Depp than Screech.
3- Vary weights between patterns
Choosing two patterns of the same size will just look too busy and confusing, so for a cleaner look that’s easier on the eyes, make sure one piece has a chunkier pattern than the other. This classic J.Crew shirt has thin gray and white stripes, while the silk tie is set on a gray background with slim white stripes, as well as much larger, notice-me blue stripes. The combination works by giving a subdued dress shirt just the right boost with a brighter, bolder striped tie, thereby breaking up the monotony of the shirt.
4- Match smaller patterns with larger ones
You’ll be surprised at the fantastic and elegant combinations you can come up with, even when the tie and shirt have completely different patterns, simply by following this rule. If your shirt has a small pattern, you’ll need to wear a tie with a larger one and vice versa. You don’t even have to worry much about keeping to the same color family if the shirt is in a neutral color like black, gray or white, although matching these pieces when the shirt is colored does make it easier to get it right if you don’t have a particular eye for color. Joseph Abboud’s single-breasted lilac dress shirt has very slim, barely noticeable white stripes, meaning that Paul Smith’s tie with alternating stripes and multicolor floral embroidery complements rather than overwhelms the delicate pattern of the shirt.
By now you should feel less mixed up about mixing shirts and ties than before you learned these rules, and you’ll never have to question your matches or be the cause of optic dysfunction in others again. You’ll be a licensed mixologist in no time.