Mix & Match - How to work with patterns

21 August 2015

Mix & Match - How to work with patterns

Whether it’s your tie, your shirt or even your socks, there’s just no escaping the pattern. It’s virtually impossible to create a look these days without succumbing to the temptation to incorporate a stripe or a check somewhere in there. But while mixing and matching patterns might seem like a simple task, it’s an art in itself that can be quite tricky to get the hang of. So we’ve pulled together a few tips to get you on the right track.

When working patterns into your outfit there are three approaches you can take.

Same but different 

Think about the typical businessman’s look and an image of a pinstripe tailored suit paired with a striped shirt and tie is most likely what pops into your head. The pairing of similar patterns has been part of men’s suiting for decades, and it’s easy to see why. It’s just so easy to do as there is only one major rule that you should, for the most part, be sticking to – make sure those matching patterns are of a different size. This rule can be bent a little when colours are taken into consideration, but we’ll get to that later.

When you say it out loud it sounds a little odd to think that a polka dot shirt, tie and pocket square (we’ll draw the line at a polka dot suit) could all be worn at the same time. But in reality once each pattern is of a different size, then there’s no limitations to what you can do. The same goes for stripes and checks which, unlike the polka dot, can both be integrated into your custom made suit.


Hues, shades and tones

Keeping your patterns in the same colour family is another way to bring your favourite designs into your outfit. But just like using the same patterns, each new item added should be a distant relative of the one that preceded it rather than its twin. Choose various shades of a base colour such as blue and you can mix and match your patterns to your heart’s content.

You can still try to keep the patterns different in size when mixing by colour, but it’s not essential as it’s the difference in hues that makes this look subtle yet a little on the adventurous side.

Mixing it up

The last method of mixing and matching patterns is our favourite and definitely the most fun but you really have to understand your colours to get away with this one. The seasoned pro will use colours that complement each other rather than those that are in the same family. Once he’s settled on his colour choices, he’ll simply throw together whatever patterns he feels are a good match for his overall look.

Complementary colours are those that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel. And if you take a look at our graphic you’ll see they work so well together because they contrast so much. Choosing such contrasting colours for your patterns is a bold statement to make and while we’re all for taking chances, if you have to second guess it, then it’s probably not the right match for you. Your look must be something that you feel comfortable and confident in. Just remember to keep those pattern sizes different.


Mixing and matching patterns is usually the reserve of the self-confident man with a good handle on his personal style. But it’s an ideal way to throw some of your own flair and panache into your look, so even if you’re new to the sartorial pursuits, take a chance and throw caution to the wind.