The key word is CONTRAST.
Many men have failed to pull off mixing patterns with their suits, shirts and ties. The key to mixing patterns is simple – contrast. Contrast, by definition, is the state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association. You never want to mix one pattern with a similar pattern, like a stripe suit and stripe shirt, or a plaid shirt and plaid tie. When you have pattern on pattern redundancy, both patterns cancel each other out, and it makes it look like you got dressed in the dark.
Some people will argue that you should never wear more than two patterns at a time. I will admit, I used to be one of those people. But as I continue to grow in my style and figure out what I am comfortable wearing, I tend to push the envelope a little bit. Wearing three or four patterns at a time is tricky, and I do it often. But it can be done right with proper planning and the proper contrast of both color and pattern.
To help you out with mixing patterns, I’ll use a recent image of myself rocking four different patterns, and then I’ll share four tips to help you mix patterns:
Tip #1: Define the base of your wardrobe. Your base can be the suit, the shirt, the tie or the design. In this case I chose the suit and the design as my base. The suit is light gray, with a glen plaid design. Glen plaid is a favorite of mine, and is a mixture of small and large checks. Mostly, you’ll see it in suits in black/grey and white, or with more muted colors. It creates a crossing pattern of irregular checks. The lines of the glen plaid suit are thin in width.
Tip #2: Choose complementary colors that accent, but are also in contrast, to the base. The shirt is striped with various shades of blue. The stripes themselves are vertical in direction, and medium in width. So, now we have the contrast of the design, which is a plaid suit and a vertical stripe shirt, and we also have colors that are complementary to one another – light gray and navy blue.
Tip #3: Find a tie that brings out the colors of the shirt. The tie is of geometric shape, which in this case is polka dots. While I prefer polka dots, a tie with paisley, or some other geometric shape would be sufficient. The blue polka dot tie brings balance to the striped shirt and the plaid suit combination, and still provides contrast in color and design.
Tip #4: To add one finishing touch, you need to add a pocket square. This pocket square I selected is navy in color, which will contrast well when placed against the suit jacket, but it brings balance as it is in the same color palette as the shirt and tie. The design on the pocket square complements the shirt and tie, but the red polka dot adds that last piece of unexpected flair.