The Do’s and Don’ts of Mixing and Matching Patterns

Mixing and matching patterns and colours is an art. But that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult, intimidating or avoided. While you might associate the mismatched looked with overly trendy subcultures and view them as unnecessarily avant-garde, the right combination of different colours and patterns can make for a smart, effortless look.

If you bear in mind a few simple rules, you’ll be throwing together unique outfits (without looking clownish) in no time.

DON’T wear head-to-toe stripes. We know that stripe-on-stripe action isn’t exactly mixing and matching, but stripes have evolved quite a bit from their Breton days (think James Dean and Audrey Hepburn). We’re now seeing horizontal stripes, vertical stripes, thick stripes, thin stripes…But this isn’t a Dr. Seuss book. Avoid wearing horizontal stripes on top and vertical on the bottom (and visa versa) and consider the width of the stripes when you’re trying to incorporate two separate pieces.

DO pay attention to scale. If you’re putting (for example) stripes and checks together, the scale should be roughly the same. By that, we mean that if each line is a quarter inch apart, the size of the squares in the checks should be nearly the same. This is a product of symmetry naturally being quite aesthetically pleasing.

DON’T mix and match more than three items…especially if you’re new to all of this. It’s when you start mixing stripes, polka dots, and floral patterns than you run the risk of looking over-the-top as opposed to put-together.

DO layer! Instead of making things more difficult by trying to coordinate patterned trousers with a bold, striped top and paisley tie, use sweaters, jacketslinen shirts and oxford shirts to subtly introduce glimpses of several patterns.

DON’T go crazy with colour. When mixing and matching patterns, it’s best to stick with one all-over tone (like blue, gray, or black) and then introduce small pops of colour in a pocket square, tie or in shoe laces.

DO consider the occasion. Is a funeral or wedding the appropriate place to experiment with patterns? Probably not. Of course, any look can be made quite refined but if you’re just beginning your mix-and-match journey, play it safe and save your polka dot and checkered outfit for a weekend out.

We could go on and on when it comes to what to do and what not to do. Most men – once they start mixing and matching – find that they ‘just know’ when the look is right. And you won’t know until you try

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