As the second in a three part series based on selecting the proper neckwear color, pattern and texture, we've teamed up with Mr. Rishi Chullani, a men’s necktie entrepreneur and formal wear fashion blogger with The Dark Knot, a line of ties that is focused on helping gentlemen dress better. The Dark Knot provides approximately 120 designs across a range of patterns, in both hand made woven and printed silk tie categories.
While elements of color theory and personal preferences highlighted in our first article of our series are of paramount to choosing appropriate neckwear, the ability to mix and match patterns will prove to be indispensable as you move further along your stylistic journey. Pattern play probably confounds men even more than color. We have been used to treating fashion as function for so long, that the notion of deviating from slipped on jeans and a shirt seems almost foreign to us.
However, today more than ever men are equipped with more knowledge than they ever have been for at least the prior three decades. Armed with this new found wellspring of information, we now have the tools, options and inspiration to dress impeccably, day in and day out.
With this in mind let’s take a deeper dive into the world of pattern mixing. Before we delve into various pattern combinations, let’s establish some general rules of thumb ~
(1) When mixing and matching tie patterns to your suits and shirts, it is best to choose different patterns. As examples, a polka dot tie would sit perfectly against a striped shirt, as would a plaid tie against a solid shirt.
(2) Pattern proportion is critical when discerning which piece of neckwear to complement your ensemble with. If your shirting pattern consists of narrowly spaced stripes, a largely spaced floral abstract tie will pair well against it, as would a larger plaid pattern.
To the extent that you are wearing the same pattern (i.e. a striped tie against a striped shirt), pattern proportion becomes even more critical. In this instance, a wider striped, regimental / university tie would add character and depth against a subtle, narrow striped shirt. If pattern proportion is not taken into consideration, the end result will be a suiting ensemble that looks cluttered, without having one piece that stands out against the other. Just as we had discussed the notion of harmonizing color, here we are addressing the notion of harmonizing pattern.
One Solid / Two Patterns
A relatively easy transition to a more sartorial statement is to pick one solid item with two patterns. A great way to accessorize with mixing and matching is to choose a solid shirt, with a striped suit and a tie pattern of your choice.
Insider’s Tip: With pinstripe suits, larger spaced abstract or polka dot designs provide great contrast, allowing you to exhibit your sense of style and flair. If you are wearing a plaid suit, a striped tie or smaller abstract pattern would provide the right level of pattern contrast in order to make a statement.
Three Patterns, of which two are similar
A gentleman’s next step up the sartorial ladder can be to introduce an ensemble with three patterns, of which two are similar. While this is obviously not as eclectic and bold as an ensemble with three patterns, it will provide you with flexibility to mix and match patterns without risking three clashing patterns that may scream overkill if not executed properly.
Insiders Tip: A common example of using three patterns, of which two are similar, is to use a pinstriped shirt with a wider, block striped tie, set against a plaid / checkered suit. This look is extremely handsome If pulled off with textural variation (which will be covered in the next article), using, for example, a linen or cottons striped tie in the summer or a woolen striped tie in the winter.
Bringing it all together with three patterns
Mixing and matching three patterns requires a discerning eye. If pulled off correctly, you’ve created a head turner. Executed poorly though, and you’ll leave viewers either squinting from the glare or scratching their heads. With three different patterns, you need to maintain proportions and effect so that you don’t overdo congruency and don’t exaggerate differences. There has to be a fine line, and it takes fine tuning to get there.
Different types of tie patterns
In addition to the advice above regarding mixing and matching of tie patterns to your suits and shirts, here is a summary of the most common types of neckties and what occasions / settings they are best suited for:
Solids are essentially the most versatile pieces of neckwear out there. Whether you are looking to dress up for a business meeting, an interview, or a wedding, a solid tie will ensure that you look elegant and well put together. Every gentleman should own at least a couple of solid ties in their wardrobe.
Stripes are best suited for more formal occasions, and can be broadly broken down into the following sub types:
British Regimental Stripes run from upper right to lower left
American Regimental Stripes run from upper left to lower right
University Ties have stripes of equal size (often used for club memberships etc)
Repp Striped Ties consist of a ribbed weave, with the stripes floating on top of the underlying fabric, helping to create a textured pattern
Foulards display a neat repeating geometric pattern and are appropriate for business meetings and other formal settings, but can even be worn during more casual settings. The repeating pattern can consist of flowers or geometric shapes like squares / diamonds etc.
Polka Dots work well as they contrast beautifully against a solid, striped or checkered shirt, especially if the dots are widely spaced apart, creating pattern contrast both from type of both pattern and proportion. While a polka dot tie might not be appropriate for an important business presentation, they can be worn to work on a daily basis, to a wedding or to a less formal event.
Paisley tends to serve the same benefit as polka dot ties. Because they are generally spaced wider apart, they pair nicely against solid, striped or checkered shirts. Paisley ties are great for business casual and less formal settings. Owning a paisley necktie is something every sartorially inclined gentleman could do with.
Pattern mixing and matching can really help you stand out above the crowd as you grow in your personal style. When first starting out, it is best to mix and match one solid with two patterns, so that you can work your way into the pattern mixing game. A way to develop a strong foundation is to start with a solid shirt, a pinstriped suit and a tie pattern of your liking.
Two key elements to pay attention to when pairing patterns ~
(1) Differences in pattern style While striped ties can sit against a striped shirt, you are bound to create more of a visual pop if your patterns are contrasted i.e. a polka dot tie against a striped or checkered shirt
(2) Difference in pattern proportion In addition to difference in pattern style, pattern proportion is critical. A larger spaced abstract design will contrast much better with a smaller checkered shirt than a narrowly spaced dotted tie. Different patterns where proportions are similar or identical will not help in creating visual contrast, as you will most likely have people scratching their heads as to your choice of dress. To the extent that you are wearing similar patterns (i.e. a striped tie against a striped shirt), pattern proportion becomes even more critical.
As you become more comfortable with mixing and matching patterns, you will be able to interchange items in your wardrobe seamlessly, and will soon be dressing above and beyond without having to expend much conscious effort. And who wouldn't enjoy that luxury?