You’re suited up to impress someone…
Their eyes go to your face – then down…
And their expression says, ‘Ugh.’
What’s wrong? Is there food on your shirt?
No. There’s a CLASHING TIE on your shirt.
When you don’t know what you’re doing, matching shirts and ties can be a stab in the dark. When you DO know what you’re doing, it becomes a game.
Today we’ll look at 5 basic dress shirt types and the best tie options for each one. Read on to find out how to choose the perfect tie with confidence every time.
This article was brought to you by The Tie Bar – a great new brand offering luxury quality menswear at affordable prices.
How To Match Ties And Shirts Perfectly
Matching colors is simple when you use the color wheel.
Complementary colors are colors that sit directly across from one another on the color wheel. The most common version of this in the shirt-and-tie world is a blue shirt with an orange tie. Remember the colors probably won’t be as bright as you see here!
Triad colors are three colors that are equidistant from each other on the color wheel. For instance, blue, yellow, and red or pink are often used together in shirt and tie combos. A blue and yellow tie looks good on a pink shirt, while a red and yellow tie works on a blue shirt.
Analogous colors are colors that border each other on the color wheel. You’ve probably seen me pulling off analogous colors – I have a blue-green tie that I pair with a lot of blues in my videos.
Of course, you don’t have to follow the color wheel exactly – just use it as a guide, and you won’t go far wrong.
Pattern matching has two basic rules.
#1. Patterns Should Contrast
That means they should be different sizes, not necessarily different shapes. You can pull off a tie with wide stripes on a shirt with narrow stripes, but you can’t pull off a tie with dots the same size as the stripes.
#2. Smallest Patterns Inside, Biggest Patterns Outside
The smallest patterns should be next to your skin, with the bolder patterns on your outer layers of clothing. Think about it – how often do you see someone with a wide-striped shirt and a narrow-striped tie?
There ARE exceptions (pindot ties, which have a tiny pattern, tend to go with more than you’d think) but it’s a good general rule. To remember it, imagine you’re defending a fortress – you put your biggest, boldest warriors on the outside, and the smaller ones on the inside.
5 Dress Shirts And Ties To Pair With Them
We’ll assume you already own enough basic white dress shirts… let’s broaden the scope.
Chambray is the refined cousin of denim. It has a light denim feel, with a lighter color and a softer plain weave instead of denim’s tough twill weave.
Do Wear: solid knit ties. The bulky texture compliments the rougher look of chambray.
Do Wear: patterned wool ties – the combination of the subtle texture and pattern will stand out well against the texture of the shirt and retain a casual feel.
DO NOT Wear: Silk ties or any tie with a sheen – these will be too formal and look out of place against the casual shirt.
#2. Classic Check
This is a very versatile shirt – formal enough for the office, relaxed enough for smart casual. It’s arguably one of the most versatile shirts to pair a tie with, too. Almost anything goes.
Do Wear: solid ties of any material. The pattern on these shirts is subtle, but just enough to keep plain ties from looking boring.
DO Wear: regimental or university stripes. These ties have bold but consistent patterns, so they look great against smaller strips or checks.
DO NOT Wear: foulards (the definition of a foulard tie is a ‘wallpaper tie’ with a symmetrical repeating pattern), club ties or other fine repeating patterns. The patterning is too small against the check and won’t have the necessary contrast.
The classic striped dress shirt often doesn’t appear striped from a distance. The stripes are so fine so as to blend together to the viewer (thicker ‘candy’ stripes are edging towards the casual end of things.) Up close these fine stripes add a fair amount of interest, as you’re able to distinguish the very subtle pattern.
DO Wear: any solid, classic stripe or foulard. The stripes are fine and forgiving, so most patterns, even fine geometrics, will give a nice contrast against this shirt.
DO Wear: casual neckties. This shirt may look very formal, but it can be dressed down. Experiment – for example, knits can look great with a striped shirt when worn with the right jacket.
Herringbone is the elegantly interesting cousin to the plain white or plain colored dress shirt. Herringbone is a pattern in just one color – the pattern is created by a V-shaped weave characteristic of twill fabrics.
DO Wear: almost anything you want. The herringbone pattern in shirts is so subtle that unless you match the tie exactly to the shirt, anything will look fantastic. It’s a formal shirt, so why not try a bow tie?
DO NOT Wear: casual ties such as knits. While this shirt is patterned, it is a very refined pattern and looks more formal than anything we’ve talked about yet. Knit ties or chunky wools will look very out of place against this shirt.
This is another weave which gives the impression of texture. The mini houndstooth is slightly less subtle than the herringbone weave, but the same basic rules apply.
Do Wear: Any pattern from bold stripes to subtle geometric patterns, or even a herringbone tie! Solid colors are fine too, although patterns will create more visual interest as the shirt reads as a solid color from a distance.
Do NOT Wear: Knits or any obviously casual-looking tie. Again, this is a formal shirt – pairing a knit tie with it would be like serving baked beans on bone china.
Gingham is very similar to the classic check, but a little less business and more party – and that’s not just because of the hint of picnics. It’s because it has a much bolder check. Gingham is characterized by an alternating check, typically with thicker lines than a classic check.
DO Wear: solid ties of any material; the rules of the classic check apply.
DO Wear: regimental or university stripes – aim for a bolder pattern than with a finer checked shirt.
DO NOT Wear: foulards, club ties, or other fine repeating patterns – just like with classic checks. However, you can see the versatile pin dot is doing a fine job in this example.
Have you got all that? Would you like me to make it even easier for you?
Head over to thetiebar.com, click ‘Match shirt and ties’ on any shirt or tie, and they’ll instantly show you a gallery of options.
(Protip: this is a fun way to while away some time even if you’re not planning to buy… though, for just $19 a tie and $55 a shirt, you might get tempted…)