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Patterns of Shirts and How to Complement Them with Your Suits

Suiting up for men would be so much easier and less enjoyable if suits, shirts and ties only came in black and white. Luckily for us, experimenting with a variety of colors and patterns allows for discovering ways to make our ensembles shine. Whether you’re getting suited up for a wedding, business function or a cocktail party, there’s always something you can wear that is perfect for the occasion.

The possible permutations for shirt and suit combos are numerous. So how do you know which shirt to pick with your suit? Our handy guide below will make things simpler for you. Remember, these are rules that you can certainly break free from eventually but for now, here are the basics.

Solid Colors
Think of classic white and light blue shirts. These shirts will be the workhorses of your wardrobe and are versatile with a range of suit hues. Pair them with your charcoal suit and a lightly patterned tie to give your outfit some texture. The black suit is perfect with lighter solid colors – think white, light blue, light grey and even darker tones likes crimson.

Gingham Checks
Gingham shirts have even-sized checks formed by horizontal and vertical stripes of one or two shades of the same color on a solid background. Solid color suits are an obvious way to go with Gingham checks (think navy blue, black, charcoal, light grey) but this is the safe choice. Up your style game and go for a subtle herringbone suit with your checked shirt. The rule of thumb for patterned-shit and suit is that the patterns shouldn’t be the same size. Say you had a white and light blue Gingham shirt – pair it with a wide striped black blazer, a solid grey blazer or a classic navy blue pinstripe.
Gingham Check
Plaid shirts come in many different styles and in general, their prints are busier than checks or stripes. If we’re talking about a plaid shirt with a solid light base like white or light blue, you’re going to want to pair this with a darker suit with minimal to no patterns (think grey, black and navy blue). A popular color combination is the white and red plaid shirt paired with a medium shade grey suit (with thin, subtle stripes). This is a stunning way to create contrast and use different patterns to great effect. Bonus Tip: plaid shirt are your friend if you’re wearing a vest with your jacket – you’ll need a solid color suit and vest and a plaid shirt in a lighter hue to pull this off.
Plaid Check
Striped shirts are where things to start to get interesting. Think of the classic executive look: a white shirt with grey stripes and a charcoal/black jacket. Grey and charcoal suits with more subtle patterns like herringbone also work perfectly well with striped shirts as long as you follow the this rule of thumb – the suit’s color tone should always be darker!
Herringbone is a common pattern that you can find in suits, ties and shirts in a range of colors. In shirts, they are usually smaller in scale. When it comes to matching your herringbone shirt with a suit, we’ll say that the suit pattern should be more muted so as not to appear ‘busy’. You’ll certainly want to stay away from suits with pronounced stripes and checks. The occasion will be the best determinant of your choice but the herringbone shirt is a fine staple for any wardrobe as long as you balance its texture with a solid color suit with very little texture – this will help balance the look and make both your suit and shirt shine.
If you are inexperienced in mixing your shirts and suits, use this guide to get you on your feet. As you get used to playing with color scales and patterns, you’ll certainly get more experienced at putting everything together effortlessly. Remember these tips:

  • Start small. For example, keep it simple with a patterned shirt + a solid suit.
  • Balance bold patterns with more subtle patterns. Think a bright plaid in white and red with a subtle grey striped suit.
  • Don’t wear two similarly bold patterns on your shirt and suit. For example, if you’re wearing a dark Gingham check shirt, stay away from a darker checked suit.
  • Don’t wear plaid shirts with plaid suits. It’s best to keep your suit solid with plaid shirts.

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