Matching Patterns Do’s and Don’ts

Wearing an outfit with multiple patterns is a dicey proposition for most guys. Only egregious mistakes are apparent to the untrained eye, turning heads for all the wrong reasons, but fortunately there are some tried and true tips for mixing and matching patterns.

The very first thing you have to know is the largest pattern is going to define the outfit. The eyes will be drawn there first, so choose wisely. Pick the most powerful piece (i.e. the one with the boldest pattern) and then complement it with a smaller pattern and matching colors. We recommend keeping the big tailored piece, like your suit, safe in terms of pattern choice and instead play off it in other ways with your shirt, tie, or pocket square. That way you don’t invest in a tailored suit that you can hardly wear because it only works with one of your dress shirts.

The second pattern you choose will complement the strength of the first and should be smaller and weaker in expression. You’ll want to look at pattern dimensions first – meaning you want to have varying sizes – and then the colors of each so that the smaller pattern “works” with the family of colors from your big pattern. A great example of this is the photo above, with the blues of our windowpane sport coat pairing beautifully with the lighter-colored small graph and windowpane shirt.  It’s very important that there’s some continuity of color between your patterns so they can complement each other instead of clash.

In terms of choosing which patterns go well together, there are some ground rules you should follow. Plaid with plaid is extremely difficult to pull off, so it’s much better to pair a plaid with a different type of pattern that is a little more subtle. Stripes have a softer dimension, so you can do two stripes as long as the two dimensions are different like the strong stripe of the tie with the blue Bengal stripe shirt shown to the right. Also, be mindful of the patterns you choose relative to your build. For instance, a plaid will make you seem shorter and wider while others, such as vertical stripes, will elongate your frame and have a slimming effect. It’s possible to go with three patterns, but you have to be ready to display that amount of flash and it ups the difficulty level for making the outfit work. Continuity of color and dimensions are imperative if you want to work with three patterns.

Properly mixing patterns can seriously enhance your look. Have fun with it, your efforts will be noticed and give you the confidence to keep adding new styles to your wardrobe. Keep your patterns’ dimensions varied and your colors matched and you’ll be turning heads, now for all the right reasons, in no time.