This is part II of a three-part series. Read Part I. Read Part III.

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Last time, we covered tie colors. Now, let’s move on to patterns.

If mixing and matching tie colors correctly is difficult (lets face it, it is difficult for most guys), then matching tie patterns is even tougher. Like ‘Shaq shooting threes’ tough. 

So how do we solve the pattern conundrum that seems to plague most of us? The answer is right here in this extensive guide, where we’ll cover:

  • The essentials of pattern theory,
  • How this theory applies to mixing and matching patterns in different ensembles
  • How different tie patterns suit different occasions and settings.

Pattern Theory Essentials

When matching tie patterns to your suits and shirts, there are two critical elements to focus on:

  • Pattern proportion. This is absolutely critical. Whether your tie pattern is similar to or completely different from that of your shirt, it is imperative that the pattern proportion differs. The whole purpose of color and pattern coordination is to ensure that the tie creates visual interest and an element of ‘pop’. With patterns, generally speaking, a wider spaced tie pattern will pop off perfectly against a smaller striped shirt pattern. An example of this is a wider striped regimental / university tie against a shirt with narrow stripes.
  • Differentiation. When pairing a tie pattern with a shirt pattern, it is best to try two different patterns. However, and I can’t emphasize this enough, it is absolutely imperative that pattern proportion is different! Ties that work well in these instances are polka dot silk ties or floral abstract ties. If pattern proportion is not observed, the end result will feel cluttered.

Pattern Proportion

As you can see here, while both patterns are similar (stripes), the wider striped tie pairs perfectly with this narrow striped shirt. The contrast in pattern proportion allows for this to work.

With a tie pattern that is wider than the shirt pattern, the tie becomes the statement piece.

The Dark Knot’s Canterbury Regimental Navy w/ Red Tie

The Dark Knot’s Canterbury Regimental Navy w/ Red Tie

You can also do the inverse by pairing a smaller patterned tie against a wider patterned shirt.

As you can see in the case below, a smaller foulard silk tie works with the large checks on the shirt. However, in this case, the tie takes a back seat while the shirt becomes the statement piece.

The Dark Knot’s Dorset Squares Blue w/ Pink Tie

The Dark Knot’s Dorset Squares Blue w/ Pink Tie

Quick Tip: For the most pronounced and stylistic effect, start with a small patterned shirt and work your way up with a larger scaled patterned tie to create the most contrast.

Different Tie and Shirt Patterns

Introducing different shirt and tie patterns will most definitely add flair to your ensemble. I highly encourage you to vary the pattern proportions. If you haven’t tried experimenting with different tie patterns in the past, this is a great place to start.

The dark knot ties

The Dark Knot’s Monroe Dots Burgundy / Cream Polka Dot Silk Tie over a narrow striped shirt.

Applying Pattern Theory to Different Combinations

Patterned Shirt with a Solid Tie (Suit Can be Solid or Patterned)

Before we delve into different combinations of suit and shirt patterns, remember that the easiest combinations combine a patterned shirt with a solid tie, or vice versa.

Choose a solid tie that is darker in color than your shirt (discussed in our color theory article here), and your solid colored tie will completely stand out against a patterned backdrop.

The Dark Knot’s Waterbury Blue Solid Silk Tie over a striped shirt.

The Dark Knot’s Waterbury Blue Solid Silk Tie over a striped shirt.

Solid Shirt with Patterned Tie (Suit Can Be Solid or Patterned)

Another extremely easy pairing, and it basically goes without saying, is to wear a patterned tie with a solid shirt. If you are using the right understanding of color theory and you choose a patterned tie with a hint of the shirt color in it, you can create an extremely elegant look.

For example, The Dark Knot’s Berkshire Abstract Grey w/ Red Tie here pairs perfectly with this solid pink shirt, with a grey and red motif (red=a variant of pink) against a solid light pink shirt. This pattern creates both color and pattern contrast, resulting in an extremely dapper combination.

the Dark knot ties guest post on effortless gent

The Dark Knot’s Berkshire Abstract Grey w/ Red Silk Tie against a solid light pink shirt.

One Solid and Two Patterns

Ok, now on to the really interesting stuff!

A relatively easy way to transition into what we’ll call ‘Sartorial Territory’ is to pair one solid item with two patterned items. If you are wearing a patterned tie, this can entail either a solid shirt or a solid suit.

In the case below, we see a foulard silk tie of smaller proportion paired with a plaid suit, creating pattern proportion contrast that utilizes the same underlying (checkered / plaid) pattern.

The suit is left as the solid piece here, creating a gorgeous backdrop for the navy silk tie.

Navy Blue Tie with a solid light blue shirt

Rockport Squares Navy Blue Tie with a solid light blue shirt (monochromatic color scheme) and a plaid suit.

Three Patterns, Two of Which are Similar

The next step into Sartorial Territory is to wear three patterns, of which two are similar.

This can be a narrow striped shirt with a chalk striped suit, or a finely checkered shirt with a plaid suit. In this case, you would want your tie pattern to be of wider proportion than your shirt, so as to create visual contrast, but not as widely spaced as your suit.

This will bring the three pieces of your attire together in a cohesive manner while still allowing you to look your sophisticated best.

polka dot tie with a checkered shirt

A polka dot tie against a smaller checkered shirt. Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Alternatively, you can opt for a shirt and tie of similar pattern, with a different patterned suit!

wide striped tie against a narrow striped shirt

A wider striped tie against a narrow striped shirt, with the plaid blue suit having the largest pattern proportion among the three items.

Three Different Patterns

This is when you have graduated to the level of the truly sophisticated gentleman.

Mixing and matching three different patterns is no easy task, and should only be attempted when you are more comfortable with the various pattern combinations listed above.

With three distinct patterns, it is even more imperative that you pay attention to pattern proportion, so that your ensemble doesn’t look like a cluttered mess.

paisley tie with a narrow striped shirt

A Paisley Tie with a narrow striped shirt, with the plaid suit having the largest pattern proportion of the three items. The finishing touch is a solid pocket square with blue contrasting hand rolled edges. Courtesy of www.atailoredsuit.com

Different Tie Patterns and Their Corresponding Settings

In addition to the mixing and matching of tie patterns according to your suits and shirts, here is an overview of the most common types of neckties the settings they work best for.

Solids: Essentially the most versatile neckties out there, they can be paired with any shirt or suit pattern. Whether you are looking to dress up for a business meeting, an interview or a wedding, a solid tie will ensure that you look sophisticated and put together. Aspiring dapper gents should own at least a couple solid ties in their wardrobe.

Stripes: Perfect for professional settings, whether it be work, a business meeting or a presentation, and can be broken down into the following sub groups:

British Regimental Stripes: These run from upper right to lower left.

british regimental stripes

The Dark Knot’s Foxborough Repp Striped Silk Tie

American Regimental Stripes: These run from your upper left side to your lower right.

american regimental stripes

Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Repp Striped Ties: Comprised of a ribbed weave, where the stripes are floating on top of the underlying fabric, creating a more textured pattern.

Repp striped tie

The Dark Knot’s Danbury Repp Red and Blue Striped Silk Tie.

Foulard: The Foulard Silk Tie is a versatile tie with repeating patterns of floral or geometric designs that will look sophisticated in any setting, business or casual.

foulard silk tie

The Dark Knot’s Premium Foulard Silk Tie Collection.

Polka Dot Ties: These contrast extremely well with a solid, striped or checkered shirt, especially if the polka dots are widely spaced apart and the underlying shirt pattern is not.

Polka Dot ties help to create contrast from both a pattern and proportion standpoint, making them an ideal choice to spice up your outfit.

polka dot tie

The Dark Knot’s Newport Dots Burgundy Silk Tie with a narrow striped shirt.

Summary

We know that was a lot of information to digest, but its all worth it. To recap, here are a few key points to take away:

  • Pattern Proportion is absolutely critical when matching tie patterns to your suits and shirts. Whether your patterns are similar or not, your look will be greatly enhanced by varying pattern proportion so that your tie pops off your shirt.
  • When pairing tie patterns with your shirts, it is best to start with a muted, narrowly spaced shirt pattern and scale up to a larger tie pattern to create the most pronounced look.

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The Dark Knot is a men’s accessories line carrying silk ties, linen and silk pocket squares and lapel flowers. They also offer Free Style Consultations to help you choose ties, pocket squares, and lapel flowers that will best suit your existing wardrobe and lifestyle needs.

You can also choose ties based on occasion and by matching suits/shirts right here.

The Dark Knot is happy to offer Effortless Gent Readers 25% off using code EG25 at checkout.