Color and Pattern Matching 101

We know the feeling. You’re standing in front of your closet, possibly pantless, definitely shirtless, with a growing sense of dread creeping into your mind. “How the hell do I figure out what shirts go with what ties?” you’re asking yourself, “and how do I know which colors go well together?” Before you throw your hands in the air, scream “I can’t even!” to the heavens and just wear a bathrobe to the office (Editor’s Note: We do not recommend wearing a bathrobe to the office.) take a deep breath, we got you. We’ve got a few simple rules to keep you looking sharp, feeling chill, and making your morning routine a whole lot easier.

How To Nail Color Matching

It doesn’t take an engineering degree to figure out how to put colors together, just a little bit of know how.

Keep It Simple, Stupid
If you don’t know where to begin, K.I.S.S, as they say. We agree that sometimes it’s best to distill it all down to just the basics, especially if you’re looking to save time in the morning and trim down your routine. That means starting with a simple solid shirt, and a basic tie. Without fail, a white shirt goes with everything, no matter the suit or tie color. Plus, it doesn’t matter if you’re going with a pattern or not, that white shirt works. Finally, as a very general rule, your tie should always be darker than your shirt, otherwise, you risk looking like a mob boss or, at the very least, some sort of Bond villain. (But not in a good way.)

Win The Primaries
Once you’re looking at adding some color to the rotation, primary colors, that is red, blue, yellow, green, and for our sartorial purposes, white and grey, are the perfect place to start because they all match with each other and are nearly interchangeable. For example, white, blue, and grey shirts can be matched with red, blue, yellow, green, and grey ties interchangeably. So, if you’re focusing on the primary colors it doesn’t matter how you pair them up, it’s always going to look great. The same goes for your suit color, basic, essential suit colors like navy, charcoal, grey, and tan pair with nearly every combination of primary color. There’s a reason that every presidential candidate always has on some combination of navy, blue, red, and white, it’s because it looks damn good.

Get Mono (the good kind)
Going monochromatic involves pairing different shades of the same color together for a complete look. As you've probably figured out, since they’re all variations on the same color they’ll naturally work well together. There’s a reason you’re seeing a lot of monochromatic vibes in fashion magazines and on some of the most stylish dudes on the planet, it’s not only simple to execute but it looks cool and modern. You can also add subtle tie patterns to add a little bit of visual interest but, always try and keep a relatively noticeable difference in the hues you go with so you don’t end up looking like a high-fashion mental patient or Kanye off his meds (unless that’s what you’re going for, in which case, that's cool).

Our Favorite No-Fail Color Combos
Navy + White + Red
Navy + Blue + Yellow
Navy + Blue + Brown
Charcoal/Grey + Blue + Red
Charcoal/Grey + White + Yellow
Charcoal/Grey + White + Purple or Lilac
Charcoal/Grey + White + Pink

Mix and Match Patterns The Right Way

Now that you’re feeling confident about your color skills, let’s talk about how to take the headache out of adding some patterns into your rotation.

It’s All About Scale
The key to matching patterns is keeping the scale, or size, of the patterns in check (puns, bro). You never want to have two large-scale patterns of the same size competing with each other, it’s going to look totally out-of-whack and be a lot for the eye to handle (not to mention the stomach). Two small-scale patterns together can work so long as there is enough difference in what they look like. For example, if you’ve got a nice gingham shirt to rock, pair it with a tie that has a small or micropattern that differs slightly, like a thin stripe or small geometric pattern. Alternatively, if you got a boldly patterned foulard print or striped tie, pair it with small-scale check or tattersall shirt for the right combination. You’ll be keeping everything in stylish balance by letting the large patterns do the talking.

Colors Do Matter
Obviously, you can’t totally forget what you learned about putting colors together (back to that risk of looking like a mental patient again) and the same rules should apply with your pattern mixing. Patterns featuring similar or complementary colors are always going to mix together like gin and tonic so try to keep them in the same family. The more contrast and variation you add, the more risk involved.

Keep One Thing Solid 
As with putting large-scale patterns together, you’ve got to be aware of the amount of pattern you’ve got going on and make sure you’re not throwing pattern on pattern on pattern like Rick Ross tripling up on wing sauce. When in doubt, keep one of your three items (suit, shirt, tie) in a solid and mix the other two up. For example, if you’re going with a patterned shirt and tie, it’s best to pair them with a solid suit. Alternatively, wearing a patterned suit and a patterned tie together will look best when paired with a solid shirt.

No-Fail Pattern Combinations
Large Check + Small Geometric Pattern
Gingham + Small Foulard or Geometric Print
Pinstripe + Small Geometric Pattern
Tattersall + Stripe
Tattersall + Large Check, Geometric, or Foulard Pattern
Stripe + Small Geometric or Foulard Pattern
Dotted Print + Small Geometric Pattern