Just because there’s a plethora of patterns out there, doesn’t mean that a multi-patterned approach is inherently more stylish than a plainer or more simple ensemble. But let’s be honest gents, once you embrace the world of fashion outside of your standard office attire, there’s a whole world of stripes, checks, paisley and polka dots that can add some graphic interest and variety to your wardrobe…not to mention a guaranteed way to show some of your rakish personality; Don’t hide your light under a bushel…that peacock deserves to fly! You just have be familiar with harmonising patterns in order to pull it off with aplomb.
Whilst propping up the bar recently at a post-racing meet, over a couple of Champagnes and Sailor Jerry’s, our opinion was sought on one gentleman’s multi-patterened mode. This got us thinking, as much as we are loathed to preach ‘rules’ to our readers, gents do need some advice when it comes to navigating the tricky road of mating and mixing patterns.
So, without further ado…here you go gents:
First and foremost, choose your dress shirt and then select a tie and pocket square as a complement. Secondly, scale is key when mixing patterns.
Mixing patterns: two patterns of the same design
The size of the patterns should be as different from the other as possible. So, whether it’s a bengal stripe shirt and rep tie or a bold plaid sports jacket and checked tie, you should remember contrast in the scale of each.
Mixing patterns: two different patterns
The size or scale of the two patterns should be similar in size. For example, when mixing a prince of wales check shirt with a polka dot tie, a graph check shirt with a motif tie or a plaid sports jacket with a striped shirt, you should keep the patterns similar in size. However, like many rules, there is always an exception – in this case, when the patterns are particularly small in size (we’re talking mini houndstooth or a hailspot tie for example), one pattern needs to be significantly larger than the other.
Mixing patterns: three totally different patterns
This requires significantly more skill, but as they say, risk and reward go hand in hand. When combining three different patterns within the one outfit (suit, shirt, tie or pocket square) all three patterns must be consistent in scale and contrast. In the photo below, to the left you can see how the windowpane check suit, the bengal stripe shirt and large spaced motif tie harmoniously work together because of the consistent scale and contrast. Similarly, the plaid shirt, polka dot tie and striped pocket square (below right) employ a similar small scale size and echo the blue tones throughout.
Mixing patterns: three patterns, when two are the same
We’re talking two stripes and a paisley or two checks and a stripe, such as a pinstripe suit and a striped shirt or prince of wales check jacket with a checked shirt; in these instances the two like patterns should be different in size whilst the third unlike pattern should take its cues from the more prominent of the two patterns. This is where a larger patterned tie like wide-spaced paisley really comes to the fore, as seen in the photo below.
Mixing three patterns of the same design
This is where we really get into difficult territory, because it does come down to your intuition and experience…but in general, you should ensure that all three patterns are different in size, starting with the smallest size pattern for your shirt, graduating outwards towards the tie, jacket and finally pocket square. The Prince of Wales is quite adept at this level of expertise.
Mixing four patterns
Congratulations! You’ve arrived at the height of pattern pastiche. This is where you can almost abandon all rules in favour of your own imagination…mixing four or more patterns is probably more art than science. Just remember, that in order not to look like you’re trying too hard, your clothes must be worn with a certain insouciance (tie slightly skewed, pocket square arranged a little haphazardly for example) and none of the individual designs should draw too much attention to itself – think muted contrast and scale.