Playing with patterns is a great way to create a signature look. Men who mix patterns with élan seem to know something that other men don’t. Though some have an eye for detail and a knack for layering complicated prints, the rest of us can easily level up our style by following a few rules.
First up, let’s begin with the popular patterns found in menswear:
Stripes – Striped shirts using Bengal, candy, pencil, and fancy stripes, etc. are familiar to most men. Suits that sport stripes are usually pinstripe or chalk stripe suits. Stripes can be found on suits, trousers, shirts and accessories like ties and pocket squares.
Checks – Similar to stripes, checks are a popular option for men. The most popular checks are Glen plaid, windowpane, tartan, checkered, gingham and graph checks. Again, checks can be found on suits, trousers, shirts and accessories.
Geometric patterns – Most fabrics with dotted or geometric patterns used in menswear have a subtle design. Think of a navy blue shirt with tiny light blue dots. If the dotted fabric is bright or has high contrast, it’s usually a tie or a pocket square.
Florals and paisleys – Floral and paisleys are often favored for men’s ties and pocket squares because they offer a lovely pop of color to an otherwise subdued look. Yes, floral shirts with huge tropical floral prints are popular in casual wear, but for formals, florals are kept subtle and small, or used as accents.
Conversation prints – Conversation prints, despite their casual nature, are slowly making their way into looks that are not strictly formal. This is because they look like harmless repeat prints from a distance, and only show off their quirkiness on closer inspection.
Let’s not forget twill weaves and solids. Solids form the foundation of most looks by easily balancing patterns. The most popular twill weave, the herringbone, looks like a pattern and is very popular in men’s clothing.
Now that you know the major patterns in menswear, it’s time to look through the rules of matching them:
Rule 1 – Have a harmonious color story
This rule may seem simple to grasp but takes finesse to execute. Ideally, the colors of your clothes should fall into a complementary or contrasting color story. It should never be clashing. For, e.g., a charcoal grey suit, white shirt, and navy blue tie are all neutrals. However, a charcoal grey suit, white shirt and deep purple tie play with contrasts.
Rule 2 – Think proportion
Suits cover your body, whereas shirts and ties don’t. Therefore, stick to patterns on your shirts and ties instead of your suits, or trousers. The other thing about patterned suits and trousers is that they are memorable, therefore they should not form the foundation of your wardrobe like pieces in black, navy or grey.
Rule 3 – Have only one prominent pattern
The safest bet is to use one print in the form of a tie and pocket square or shirt and then layer it with the right suit or jacket and trousers. But if you’re going to have a patterned suit, shirt and tie, then it’s best to ensure that all pieces don’t have loud patterns. For example, a charcoal grey plaid suit paired with a white and grey graph check shirt accessorised with a red dot print tie.
Rule 4 – Play with complementary patterns
This may take a bit of time to master, but keeping rules of proportion and color harmony in mind, you can play with complementary patterns. Here are a few:
- Checks and stripes – Check suit, solid shirt and striped tie
- Stripes and dots – Solid suit, striped shirt and dotted tie
- Stripes and paisleys – Pinstripe suit, solid shirt and paisley tie
- Florals and solids – Solid suit, floral shirt and solid tie.
Rule 5 – Don’t clash pattern and color
This bears repeating, but don’t mix a loud pattern and a
vibrant shade. Your look should have a single point of focus. If the viewer is distracted by too many elements, then you’re doing it wrong.
Apart from the above rules, think of your accessories like shoes, cufflinks, watches, belts, etc. as points of visual interest. This means that if you’re going to wear a look that’s heavy on patterns, stick with basic accessories that don’t distract the eye.
If you don’t own any patterned pieces of clothing yet, start out with smaller pieces like ties, pocket squares, and shirts and build it up from there. You can also consult with the Tailorman stylists at Tailorman stores to help you choose the right prints for your wardrobe.