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Monday, May 13, 2013

Rules for Matching Suit

The world is full of choices and menswear is no exception.  Not only do suits, shirts, and ties come in a variety of colors and fabrics, but they also come in diverse patterns.  Some men may find these immense pattern options daunting.  But fear not – The Sharp Suit is here to help.  We’ve compiled basic pattern matching rules and brought them to you in a simple article.  Next week, we will detail the most common men suits, shirt, and tie patterns in order to help you make sharp wardrobe decisions.  Armed with that knowledge, you’ll have no problem creating a killer outfit for your next big occasion.

When we share style rules, we like to reiterate that they are to be taken with a grain of salt.  Not every rule is black and white – each contains grey areas dictated by your personal style.  Everyone’s personal style is different, so don’t let a rule deter you from being yourself and embracing your style.

Rule #1: Vary pattern sizes.  Mixing and matching patterns in a suit is highly encouraged; it can add flair and style to what might otherwise be a boring outfit.  No matter what patterns you select though, always keep in mind this simple rule: Vary the pattern sizes.  For example, when wearing a navy suit with thin pinstripes, avoid pairing it with a white shirt and thin blue stripe.  The similar-sized stripes make the outfit look distorted.  If the combined patterns are too similar, they can even create the illusion of movement.  This illusion is distracting and takes away from the harmonious suit style the wearer was likely hoping to achieve.

If you want to combine suit elements with similar patterns, make sure one pattern is larger than the other.  Striped suit elements frequently utilize this rule.  When pairing a pin striped suit with a striped shirt or tie, be sure to choose a shirt or tie with thicker stripes.  A tie with thick, slanted stripes helps  create an even greater contrast.  There is one black-and-white rule to keep in mind when matching  patterns, and it’s in regard to matching checks.  Always make sure the tie contains the larger check pattern.  Otherwise, it will look as if the suit and shirt are swallowing your chest, which makes you appear smaller and less impressive.

Rule #2: The shirt is the pattern selection base.  Treat the shirt as the base around which the rest of the outfit is built.  Once you’ve picked out a shirt, its much easier to select a complimentary tie and suit.  Plus, most men own a grey or navy suit, and these staples are easy to match with almost every shirt and tie combination imaginable.

This rule is flexible, though.  Want to look dapper in a tailored navy pinstripe suit?  Build an ensemble around it.  Just purchase a new polka dot tie and want to show off?  Pick a complementary shirt, pair it with a suit, and show the world that stylish outfit.  The shirt doesn’t need to be the base for every suit outfit you create.  When in doubt though, the shirt is an easy starting-point for selecting complementary patterns.

Rule #3: Keep the outfit in harmony.  This last rule is fairly open-ended, but it’s helpful to always keep in mind.  What does it mean to wear an outfit that’s in harmony?  Basically, a suit in harmony contains elements (suit, shirt and tie) that complement one another; no one piece overpowers any other element.  Another way of looking at it is to check that the suit limits its extremes.  Is the suit too monotone, or does it have overwhelming contrasts?  If either of those answers are “yes,” then a part of the suit needs adjustment.  There are times when a little more contrast or a little more subtlety are appreciated (depending on the occasion).  So match patterns that suit your style (no pun intended) and tweak the outfit to achieve proper suit harmony.


Like most things in life, matching patterns requires patience and practice.  And it’s challenging to match suit elements if your pattern knowledge is limited.  Next week, we will introduce many of the common suit, shirt and tie patterns found throughout the menswear world.  Armed with that knowledge, you’ll have no problem creating a killer suit that shows off your excellent personal style.

Related article: selection.html

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