Know your colours: Pairing shirts with suits

30 June 2016

Know your colours: Pairing shirts with suits

There’s no better skill than knowing how to throw an outfit together at the last minute when you’re rushing to work in the morning. Clock ticking, coffee yet to kick in, sometimes you must make a decision in the dark you could regret later under the harsh fluorescent glare of the train. When you’re already prepped to make these decisions almost by touch, then the whole thing becomes a cinch.

There are three major choices in business shirts that will see you through your entire career: plain, checked, or striped. Plain is straightforward, but comes in a range of colours each in various pastel hues. Checked shirts are a great way to break up the form and look smart under a suit jacket. And then there’s stripes, which vary from pinstripe-width to candy stripes. They give a classic look that always looks bang on when you take off your jacket. 

Don’t be afraid to keep it simple when pairing your shirts with suits. It’s one of the luxuries of being a gentleman: We have a prescribed direction for our attire each day, which allows for a little wriggle room when pulling it together. And you want to get this right. One of the simplest ways to look good with little effort is to colour match. Pulling out the stripe or check colour of your jacket fabric by wearing a similar-coloured shirt is a safe match (right).

When using stripes on stripes or checks on check, try to use two different weights or spacings so it looks less uniform (centre). If you’re more adventurous, stripes and checks can work together. Try to keep the check or stripes subtle on the shirt as a starting point, and then pair with a bold and contrasting jacket. There’s no exact science to it, rather experimentation, and of course if you're not confident with the look you’re probably best to leave this for the peacocks (left).

When putting the whole look together remember that a plain shirt goes with everything, no matter what your suit looks like—just ensure it’s pressed well and the colour matches. White with everything, blue with grey, brown and navy, lilac with black, brown and grey, and pink with all of the above. Of course there are other variations, but your tailor can advise on these when order your made-to-measure shirts. It doesn’t get much easier than that.