Monday, May 2, 2011

Patterned Shirts With Ties

I have been reading through several emails this week concerning patterned shirts.  Stripes, plaids, and some of the more aggressive layouts seem to be on the minds of several people... enough to ask my unqualified opinion, apparently... so I will attempt to provide a bit on this.

Men's clothing should be about (among other things) contrast, control, and a bit of strategic spice.  "Matching" can be a bad move, though there are some exceptions.  With some of the more forceful shirts, the key is contrast... dumb the tie down a bit pattern-wise, and you'll be in safe territory (if that is the territory you prefer).  I recently unearthed a striped shirt that is only safe for warmer months, and I usually wear something tame with it.

Warm weather

A recent email from a reader said "Your blog's trademarks are poorly written sarcasm and horribly taken photos".  Quite true, but he also forgot to mention my biggest feature: bad advice.

These shirts are odd ones.  On the left is an old Brooks Brothers outlet find with white collar and white French cuffs (something like $6, because nobody wanted it).  To the right, a Ralph Lauren Rugby shirt ($16 on Newbury St.) with a round collar, the fit of which I have never really liked.  Trade, anyone?

Below, ol' greeny (Ralph Lauren Store, also Newbury St... $29) is a bit more difficult for ties with the green, purple, and yellow, but as all patterned shirts do, it looks good with a navy 3-piece suit.

I usually wear something solid with it, like a purple.  For busier shirts, a tame tie will nearly always work, and in winter (the two on the right) flannel works nicely.  The black tie on the right is from the (proud new father of a lovely wee daughter) Mr. Midwester's Style Share. 

The obvious solution to buying somewhat pricier shirts: be patient, and NEVER pay the retail price.

If you are attending a Christmas or winter boozer, this may do.

Try out different patterns or solids, but keep it simple and geometrically dissimilar (gettin' sciency!)

If you are still a bit self-conscious, remember that a jacket or sweater will conceal this argument a bit.

Stripes on stripes (dissimilar in widths) work...

I checked the date on this photo... March 17, 2011

And unlike the loud, drunken, and unsolicited opinions with which a gal in a New Hampshire pub berated me, stripes and spots go very well together, thank you very much.

Stripes and polka dots

Louder shirts should not be left unworn in closet or drawer depths.  They do go well with suits and are generally seasonal.  Today, I had a revived shirt worn with whales (my father's tie from the 1980's).

Slightest pattern to the suit to fit the busy shirt

Old Brooks Bros. shirt, made into contrast collar/cuffs
My advice is to try out different combinations, and see what you like, what works, etc.  I hope that this post answers some of the emails you sent.


  1. Screw the haters and keep doing your thing, that´s why people come here regularly. Insightful post, as ever.

  2. That critic has his/her head up the old you-know-what....Your photos are fine and your sarcasm is appreciated.
    I am not a big fan of the patterned shirt..I am usually just a boring lawyer with white or blue shirting...on occassion a yellow...or pink...

  3. An excellent post, YWP. Too many fellas play it safe in shirt selection. I'm with you on the bold combinations. Though I don't often wear a jacket, I like to pull things together with a sweater vest.

  4. Excellent. I wouldn't wear every combination you depict as it wouldn't be appropriate for my office, but the idea of patterned shirts with ties is very sound. The Brits tend to pull it off with more success, IMO, which perhaps is not surprising.

    Ignore the critics. It's usually just bitter envy that drives them.

  5. The green stripe number scared the devil out of me, but you pulled it off very well. The tartan was another surprise. great job, as usual.

  6. That's some tricky shit man. Even out of my fuzzy ass league.


Let's keep it clean... but if you DO have to get foul, at least give it a bit of wit. Also, advertising disguised as comments will be deleted, unless it is clever.