As far back as we can remember, the wearing of a necktie has become firmly ingrained as a rite of passage from boyhood to adulthood world over. Learning how to tie a tie, and wear it with both confidence and grace, is an imperative undertaking that as true gentlemen, we all must come to firmly grasp.
What, however, has eluded the vast majority of us is actually knowing what to wear our tie with. While much focus has been placed on how to wear a tie (i.e the actual tying of the knot), little consideration, at least in the earlier years of our lives, has been placed on becoming comfortable with what to wear our ties with.
It’s not exactly something we paid attention to growing up. Colors and patterns, and understanding how they worked, never made their way to the forefront of our priorities. Those usually went along the lines of sports, more sports, women, and somewhere in the mix, academics. In fact, as a guy, dressing up in our earlier years was often shunned upon as being elitist our out of place – to the point that we often went the other way and dressed down.
Fortunately, it’s not as big of a concern with us men starting to dress better and the emergence of chic, casual dress shirts. For example, Nimble Made, a company that caters to slim fit dress shirts also has excellent style tips and guides to help us learn how to dress a little better.
Well today, we are going to rectify this. As grown gentlemen that are keen on improving ourselves in all aspects of our lives, knowing how to dress is imperative to maintaining and growing our self confidence. Like the gentlemen over at Menprovement, I am not trying to start from the outside and work our way in.
I firmly subscribe to the notion that building our self confidence and dressing better should go hand in hand. I am not a proponent of the ‘fake it till you make it’ mindset, and that is certainly not what I am trying to convey here. Just a set of guidelines that we can follow, that if paid attention to, can be applied across our wardrobe and not just limited to the matching of ties to suits and shirts!
So where do we begin? In trying to gain an understanding of how to match your ties to suits and shirts, there are four primary factors that we should pay attention to:
3) Tonal Considerations
Effectively apply all four of these considerations the next time you are strutting a tie, and you will most definitely look dapper and stand heads and shoulders above your work and personal contemporaries. And, most importantly, you will walk out of your house feeling confident and with a renewed sense of dapper!
If you are looking for for specific advice on how to dress for a date or other suited occasions, check out The Dark Knot’s in-depth and sophisticated guide on How to Dress For a Dinner Date
Table of Contents
- 1. Color
- 2. Necktie Patterns
- Introducing Pattern Schemes
- 3. Tonal Considerations
- 4. Necktie Fabrics
- In Conclusion
- About the Dark Knot
The first factor to consider when matching ones ties to their suits and shirts is color. A color wheel allows us to build a strong foundation of color theory and relevant properties of color.
A color wheel serves as an extremely useful tool when discerning which colors form a harmonious color scheme – a scheme where order and balance is preserved, all while helping the wearer look dapper and elegant. In the case of color, this is often accomplished through the mixing of both warm and cool colors.
As we can see with the color wheel below, it is broadly divided into two segments; warm and cool colors. Warm colors exhibit vibrancy, such as red, orange and yellow, and are associated with the sun, while cooler colors, such as blue, green and purple are associated with the sea and foliage, helping to counteract the strong properties of warm colors.
When deciding upon which color scheme to employ, it is best to derive an understanding of color schemes for the more conservative (or those of you who are new to dabbling with color experimentation) and color schemes for the more aggressive (or those of you who are more experienced in experimenting with matters of color).
More conservative color schemes can generally be classified as monochromatic or similar color schemes (not using the balance of warm and cool colors, but still create harmony), while more aggressive color schemes can broadly be classified as triadic or complementary color schemes (and do use warm and cool colors to create harmony).
Monochromatic color scheme:
A monochromatic color scheme achieves balance through matching shades (Darker variants) and tints (lighter variants) of the same color. As an example, with the color wheel above, shades and tints of blue would include navy and light blue. What is derived from this particular color scheme is a popular choice of coordinating cool colors by mixing and matching a light blue shirt with a navy blue tie, with a pinstriped or plaid charcoal grey suit.
While I am not specifically an advocate of using a warm monochromatic scheme (e.g a red tie against a light pink shirt) as this requires a bolder dresser, a monochromatic color scheme using cool colors provides a muted, elegant look without the need to harmonize or balance warm colors with cool colors.
A Navy Blue Tie against a lighter blue pinstriped shirt provides for an elegant monochromatic look! Courtesy of www.lookastic.com
Similar Color Scheme:
A similar color scheme is a fantastic way to take your dapperness up several notches without introducing the boldness and complexities involving a triadic or complementary color scheme (harmonizing warm and cool colors). Similar color schemes consist of colors that are close to each other on the color wheel. An example of this would be pairing a light blue shirt with a darker purple tie. Another idea is to match a darker green tie with a lighter blue shirt, as in the case below!
A gorgeous dark green grenadine tie sits perfectly against a lighter blue shirt and peaked lapel blue suit, for perfect similar color scheme execution! Courtesy of www.dresslika.com
Dark Knot Tip: When mixing and matching ties to your suits and shirts, as in the case above, work with a lighter color for your shirt and a darker color for your tie for maximum effect. Remember, the goal is to create visually appealing contrast, and having the tie as the darker color in the ensemble will bring that contrast to the forefront of an observer’s attention!
Triadic Color Schemes:
A Triadic Color Scheme is where we start to introduce to the concept of harmonizing warm and cool colors. This is where contrast becomes even more visually appealing, as we are creating a true sense of order and balance by picking colors on different halves of the color wheel, with the vibrancy of warm colors being appropriately muted by the calmness of cool colors. Sounds great when its described as such, doesn’t it?
For many gentlemen, triadic color schemes are not something that they have regularly experimented with in the past. Great examples of using a triadic color scheme involve wearing a red tie against a blue shirt, as does wearing a mustard yellow tie!
A darker red polka dot knitted tie against a light blue graph checkered shirt makes for a fantastic dapper combination! Here, we can see color contrast, pattern contrast, tonal contrast, and textural variation (please read more below), making for an incredibly dapper ensemble! Courtesy of www.styleforum.net
The Dark Knot Tip: To pull off an exemplary, stylistic look, use the secondary color in your shirt as a dominant color in your tie, or vice versa. An example of this is the tie and shirt combination below, with a blue shirt and red and navy tie.
Complementary color schemes:
Are the most strikingly aesthetic of all the color schemes, but generally reserved for more seasoned veterans of color matching! A complementary color scheme will pair strikingly contrasting colors that are directly across from each other on the color wheel, such as blue and orange.
In this case, a cool color (blue) is being paired with its direct warm counterpart (orange), creating a look that most certainly pops right off the wearer’s shirt. While red and green combinations are best reserved for Christmas (Surprise!) and yellow and purple are generally worn by only the very bold, combining a blue shirt with an orange tie provides a perfect way to step out of conservative ville and right into bold territory.
An orange polka dot tie against a graph checkered blue shirt provides a perfect illustration of a complementary color scheme. This pairing of warm and cool colors that are directly across each other from the color wheel provides for the boldest contrast between colors across all the major color schemes. Courtesy of www.thenordicfit.com
Dark Knot Tip: When matching tie colors to your suits and shirts, add some textural variation, such as adding a knitted or linen tie against a cotton shirt and woolen suit, for extra effect. As we will discuss further below, textural variation is a sure fire way to take your dapperness to the next level and help you stand heads and shoulders above your contemporaries – who wouldn’t want that!
2. Necktie Patterns
The second most important consideration behind matching tie colors is coordinating patterns between your tie, shirt and suits. As a general rule of thumb, when you are starting out, avoid mixing and matching three different patterns. If pulled off incorrectly, this can create a jarring effect as a result of overkill.
When matching tie patterns to your suits and shirts, there are two primary considerations that you want to keep in mind:
1. Type of Pattern
Improving your aesthetic with different patterns will certainly create visual interest in your ensemble. While stripes can work against a checkered shirt (lines on lines), mixing up patterns completely such as a paisley or polka dot tie against a checkered or striped shirt can provide a pronounced aesthetic effect. These patterns can help to break up the lines on your suits and shirts and create a completely different look.
A Paisley Tie against a checkered or striped shirt helps break up lines typically associated with suits and shirts and often injects much needed variety into a suiting ensemble! This dapper combination has been presented courtesy of www.tie-a-tie.net
2. Pattern Proportion
The more critical of the two elements, paying attention to pattern proportion is absolutely imperative when matching tie patterns to your suits and shirts. While patterns can be similar e.g matching a striped tie against a striped shirt, it is critical that proportion differs e.g a wider striped tie against a striped shirt.
Pairing a striped tie with a striped shirt (two similar patterns) perfectly illustrates the importance of pattern proportion. While different patterns paired with each other look great, what is of most importance, irrespective of whether the patterns are similar or different, is pattern proportion.
Here, we can see a wide striped tie sitting perfectly against a narrow striped blue shirt, helping to create contrast. Remember, as stated above, the goal is to create visual contrast. Image courtesy of www.alexandra-remus.ro
Introducing Pattern Schemes
One Pattern and Two Solids
The safest way to introduce pattern variation into your suiting ensembles is to wear one pattern and two solids.
A solid suit and shirt with a patterned tie allows a wearer to express with patterns all while simplifying the process. Note how the tie is the patterned piece, bringing it to the forefront of one’s attention. Also, the brown tie has a hint of blue in it, which is the primary and only color of the solid shirt. Image courtesy of www.pinterest.com
Dark Knot Tip: A solid shirt with a tie with an appropriate color combination (monochromatic, similar, triadic or complementary) and a solid charcoal grey or navy blue suit will ensure that you look both elegant and dapper.
If you are newly initiated into Dapperville, similar patterns can help to alleviate some of that confusion. Similar patterns provide congruency and an element of contrast at the same time. As an example, a windowpane suit can be well complemented by a plaid tie and a small checkered shirt.
A Plaid Suit and tie in different proportions with a solid shirt (two similar patterns) works perfectly together provided that pattern proportions are existent. Here, we can see a more intricate plaid tie against a windowpane plaid suit, which works perfectly, providing for this incredibly dapper look above! Courtesy of www.lookbook.nu
Two Different Tie Patterns
Two different tie patterns can work extremely well together, given that there is an element of contrast with regard to proportions. For example, a smaller animal motif tie would not sit well against a small checkered shirt, as the proportion of pattern spacing would be too close and hence create a jarring effect.
Remember, the key with matching ties to your suits and shirts, or clothing in general, is to create contrast. Whether that be through color or pattern, maintaining aesthetic contrast will create the best impression. As mentioned above, even matching two similar patterns can create contrast while maintaining congruency (e.g a wider striped tie against a narrower striped shirt).
Two Different Patterns in a suiting ensemble come perfectly together here, with narrow striped shirt and a wider pinstriped suit being perfectly complemented and contrasted with a stunning paisley blue tie. Again, of critical importance is that pattern spacing (proportion) is maintained, so that there is a sense of harmony and contrast with the two different patterns present.
This works particularly well as the pinstripes on the suit are very widely spaced apart, versus the narrowly spaced stripes on the shirt. Additionally, the paisley tie provides adequate pattern spacing, bringing the whole ensemble together perfectly. Image courtesy of www.wellbuiltstyle.com
With two different patterns, pattern proportion is critical. Hence, a wider striped tie, on a narrow pinstriped suit and a small checkered shirt could provide a pronounced effect. Or as in the case above, a paisley tie against a narrow striped shirt.
For more design ideas, insights and to browse collections that have been designed to match your own personal style check out The Dark Knot
Combining Three Different Patterns
Mixing and matching three different tie patterns requires a discerning eye. If pulled off correctly, you’ll have people looking at you twice. And for the right reasons!
Combining three different patterns can work wonders providing that pattern proportion and colors are coordinated well. In the case above, a small checkered shirt combined perfectly with a wider spaced chalk stripe suit and a lilac paisley tie (which is part of a similar color scheme against the light blue / brown checkered shirt).
As we will discuss below, the tonality here is exquisitely pulled off, as we have a higher tonal paisley tie against the lower tonal checkered shirt. This exquisite image is courtesy of www.tie-a-tie.net
The Dark Knot Tip: Specifically for matching ties to your shirts, try and work with smaller scale patterns and work your way up. Similar to the concept of pairing darker ties with lighter colored shirts described above, this will help to create the strongest contrast and bring your tie to the forefront of an observer’s vantage point.
While you can wear a shirt that has a larger scale pattern than a tie, this will make your shirt more of a focal point than your tie.
3. Tonal Considerations
Tonal Considerations refer to how contrasting your shirts and ties are as standalone items of clothing. A low contrast shirt refers to a shirt that appears more subtle in appearance. Low tonal shirts are essentially designed with one major and one minor color, with the minor color not being visible from afar.
Hence, from a distance, these shirts often look like a monotone (single color) shirt. However, upon closer inspection, the subtle designs embedded within these shirts, such as faint pinstripes or herringbone, can be seen more clearly.
Similar to the principles of contrast described above with color and pattern theory, tonal matching works best when you pair a higher tonal tie (where different colors are more clearly visible) with a lower tonal shirt.
A low tonal shirt as in the case above is perfectly complemented by a higher tonal lilac tie, helping the tie to pop right off the shirt and create a visually stunning ensemble. Once again, this dapper image is courtesy of www.tie-a-tie.net
The Dark Knot Tip: When choosing a higher tonal tie, ensure that the tie is made from a higher quality manufacturer. One way is to inspect the colors of the tie and make sure that they are color coordinated. Lower quality manufacturers will often use color schemes on ties that don’t work, and so, even if the tie is higher tonal, it will look ridiculous against a lower tonal shirt and the color coordination will be completely disjointed!
If you are still unsure about colour considerations, or want some ideas on how to best choose a colour scheme best suited to you, check out this article on matching ties, accessories and colour considerations.
4. Necktie Fabrics
The fourth consideration, albeit just as vital, for matching ties to your suits and shirts, is one’s choice of tie fabrics. In recent years, fabric selection has started to increase in importance, and rightfully so. Whether we are choosing a certain fabric because of seasonal considerations, or because it contrasts well with existing fabrics in our suit and shirt ensemble, adding textural variation to our suit can really make us standout and look even more elegant.
Silk is by far the overwhelming choice of necktie fabrics in the marketplace. It happens to be one of the most durable fabrics out there, and its lustre and sheen allow it to really stand out. Additionally, despite its soft appearance, silk has high tensile strength, resulting in greater durability. Silk also exhibits a natural drape and feel and can often be found over both woven and printed selections.
As a result of the above factors, silk is considered the most versatile piece of neckwear in the marketplace. Silk ties can be worn year round, during the summer months, with a woolen suit, or during the winter months, with a heavier jacket, such as tweed!
The Dark Knot Tip: When choosing a silk tie based on season, summer colors such as pastels (blue, pink, lilac) with floral paisley designs are best suited for spring and summer months. Often a more conservative motif such as a striped or polka dot tie, in a darker tone such as olive green or burgundy, is best suited for fall and winter months.
Linen and Cotton – Summer Ties
Linen and Cotton are considered ideal fabrics for the Spring and Summer Seasons. Considered ideal for warmer months as a result of their lightweight properties, linen and cotton ties are ideally suited towards wearing lighter material suits such as seersucker, cotton or linen, and should be avoided with power / business suits.
These ties are often offered in lighter pastel colors, making them even more suited towards Spring and Summer Seasons.
A Linen Tie can add a sophisticated layer of textural variation to a suit, especially during the Summer months.
The Dark Knot Tip: For a semi-formal, yet fun setting, such as a beach wedding, consider strutting a seersucker or linen suit with a cotton shirt and linen tie!
Woolen Ties – Fall / Winter Seasons
Woolen Ties are best suited for the Fall and Winter Seasons , and can be worn both formally and casually. Woolen ties are often preferred during cooler months, given their warmer, insulation heavy properties.
While silk ties can be worn year round, the class exuded by woolen ties is priceless and will most definitely ratchet up your dapperness several levels! Woolen ties are full in body, drape well and tie thick knots, making them a perfect piece of neckwear for any formal or casual setting during Fall and Winter months.
The textural variation from a thicker woolen tie against a lighter, silky looking woolen suit will most certainly create an elegant textural contrast that will keep heads turning.
A Woolen Tie can add a priceless level of textural variation and sophistication to a winter suit . This woolen larger plaid tie sits perfectly against a smaller checkered shirt and darker grey herringbone suit. Image courtesy of www.soletopia.com
The Dark Knot Tip: Avoid pairing a woolen tie with suits that have more sheen, as the natural subdued nature of a woolen tie is best complemented with a more conservative looking suit or jacket, such as the herringbone jacket above.
Knitted Ties are at the less formal end of necktie spectrum, and can be used to either dress down a formal ensemble or dress up a more casual look. Knitted ties are characterized by their textured, loosely woven appearance and lack of interlining. Most knitted ties have square ends, and are usually constructed of wool or silk, with the former primarily being used during the cooler Fall and winter Seasons.
A Knitted Tie is the perfect way to look dapper and still be marginally dressed down (as if that’s an apt characterization!). Image courtesy of Men’s Style Connoisseur Blog Trashness, blog.trashness.com
Because knitted ties are generally considered less formal than their silk counterparts, they are best worn using a four in hand knot. Furthermore, their thicker texture automatically results in a thicker knot than silk tie would yield, thereby further necessitating the four in hand knot.
Ok, so that was a ton of information to digest! Before I go into summarizing the main points of this article, there is one key takeaway with respect to color, patterns, tonality and fabrics: started with a relatively muted backdrop for your shirt and work your way up with regard to intensity of color, pattern, tonality and fabric.
This will help to create a more pronounced look and will make your tie the centerpiece of your ensemble! So, for example, a lighter colored shirt or a smaller, more subtle patterned shirt, will serve as an ideal canvas to pair a higher tonal, larger, darker patterned tie with.
Matching Ties to your Suits and Shirts requires closer examination of four critical components (1) Color Theory (2) Pattern Matching (3) Tonal Considerations and (4) Pattern Selection.
~When matching tie colors, a color wheel is a great foundation upon which to understand the properties of color harmony. A color wheel is essentially divided into two halves; warm and cooler colors. Warmer colors represent vibrancy and the sun (red, orange and yellow) while cooler colors represent calmness and foliage (blue, green and purple).
~Regarding color schemes that create the most contrast, from least to most we have the following schemes: Monochromatic (using tints and shades of the same color), similar color scheme (using adjacent colors on the color wheel), triadic color scheme (using colors that form a triangle on the color wheel) and complementary color schemes (colors directly across from each other, and hence creating the strongest warm and cool color contrast).
~When matching tie patterns to your suits and shirts, there are two critical elements to pay attention to: (1) Pattern Type and (2) Pattern Proportion. Of these two, pattern proportion is by far the most critical. If you are pairing two patterns, irrespective of whether they are similar or different, it is of utmost importance that the proportions differ. Remember, the goal is to create visual contrast between the shirt, suit and tie, and so pattern proportion is as critical as color coordination.
~When first starting out with matching patterns, starting with two patterns and a solid will allow you to build a great foundation upon which you can further understand our pattern theory.
~When choosing an appropriate necktie, you can create the most visual contrast by picking a shirt with a smaller scaled pattern and matching it with a tie with a wider spaced pattern, thereby creating the right balance of pattern proportion.
~Pairing a low tonal shirt (muted, and appears as one color from a distance) with a higher tonal tie, will accentuate contrast and have you looking more elegant.
~Introducing fabric variation with respect to your neckwear will give your ensemble extra kick during warmer and cooler months. Silk is considered the most formal piece of neckwear, but can also be worn to less formal occasions. It is considered the most versatile piece of neckwear.
~Linen and Cotton Ties are ideally suited towards Spring and Summer months, because of their lighter weight properties and casual look, and they are ideally suited towards dressed down beach weddings.
~Woolen Ties are heavier in texture and best suited for Fall / Winter Seasons. Due to their textural variation, depth and level of sophistication, they are a perfect complement for lighter weight woolen suits. However, they can also be worn during less formal settings, such as with a tweed jacket in a more casual setting.
~Knitted Ties are at the less formal end of the neckwear spectrum. While silk knitted ties can be worn year round, woolen knitted ties are ideal for fall and winter months.
About the Dark Knot
The Dark Knot provides the market with 120 luxurious silk tie designs across both woven and printed silk. Each of our ties comes with a card with recommendations for matching suits and shirts. In conjunction with our philosophy of helping men dress better, we feature a content rich men’s formal wear style blog as well.
Please use the following discount code at checkout for 20% off for all Menprovement readers: MENPROVEMENT20
To check claim this 20%, on an already discounted range of collections, specifically selected and chosen with Menprovement readers in mind, go to The Dark Knot Menprovement Collection some of the styles of Tie featured in this post, as well as some other ideas that might be better suited to your personal style.