Hey Sid!

Pairing Shirts & Ties

Hey Sid!

You ask, Sid answers

Submit a question at heysid@sidmashburn.com

“Greetings from your old stomping grounds! I just hopped back into the "wear a jacket and tie to work" world, and I am finding myself struggling to match my ties with my dress shirts. How do you go about pairing your ties with your non-solid dress shirts? Dos & don'ts with striped shirts? checked shirts? Many thanks.” – Arden in Jackson

 

blue small bengal + navy/sky/green stripe, zoomed in

 

Hey there Arden. It's always great to hear from a fellow Mississippian. Last time I was in town I ran by the Big Apple Inn and grabbed some tamales. I'm sure you know about the Mississippi tamale thing – but my friend Julia Reed who sadly just passed away started a big weekend every year that she cooked up as a fundraiser. I regret that I never went... that woman was off the charts. Life lesson: say yes when you can. Anyway, if you don't go over to the Big Apple Inn for the tamales, go for the jukebox – it's killer. But enough about Mississippi – let's get back to the question at hand: how to match a patterned shirt and tie.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the shirt-and-tie look should have an ease to it... not too stiff or robotic. One way we address this is by making the specs of each piece simpatico with each other. The length on our shirt collars is 8cm, and the width of our ties is 8cm. (8cm is also the width of our jacket lapels if you're keeping score at home.) That symmetry creates a natural coexistence between the two garments. Like they're siblings, or at least really good friends. This gives that ease that we're talking about... and with ease comes confidence... and confidence makes it easier to jump into the pattern-on-pattern game. Long story short - the symmetry sets you up for success.

As far as matching goes, I don't blame you for being a bit timid. Shirt-and-tie combos can often fall on opposite ends of the spectrum... either bland or bad. But I promise that pairing patterns isn't that hard, and with practice you will get the hang of it. And you can usually rely on someone in your life to call you out when you get it wrong. My universal "only one lead singer" philosophy applies here... the more pronounced the pattern, the quieter you'll want the accompaniment. Bolder shirt, quieter tie. Quieter shirt, bolder tie. Beyond that, here are a few reliable, north star combinations to get you started.

Graph check shirts with thin lines (like this one) look great with almost any tie – paisley, foulard, repp stripe, club, dot, solid...go for it!

Checked shirts with a bolder pattern or color (think gingham) look great with club, dot, or solid ties.

Checked shirts with wide, bold patterns (windowpanes or plaids) look great with dot or solid ties.

Striped shirts with thin lines (university or bengal stripe) look great with repp stripe, club, dot, foulard, or solid ties.

Striped shirts with bold lines (think banker or awning stripe) look great with club, dot, or solid ties. And sometimes a simple bar stripe in repp> can be good, too.

And remember that when in doubt, a solid silk knit tie is your friend. They go with pretty much any pattern and never go out of style. (Note that ours are a little narrower at 5.5cm – they're so versatile they don't even need the symmetry! Trust me - you don't want an 8cm knit tie.)

Lastly, since you said you're also getting back into the "jacket and tie" world, a little unsolicited additional advice. While you don't want to have more than one lead singer, you do want to HAVE a lead singer. That can be your shirt & tie combo, or your blazer, or even your pocket square. While there is a time and place for all four of those to be solid colors (usually formal occasions,) it's a hell of a lot more fun to mix and match. So go for it! And remember that it's just a tie... by wearing one, you're already ahead of the game.

Have fun. Let us know how it goes. Go eat a tamale for me.

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