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Suits: A Guide to Pattern Mixing

Suits: A Guide to Pattern Mixing


Mixing patterns can be a daunting task. Done well it reveals your sartorial sophistication. Done poorly and you look like you dressed in the dark. So if you’ve just begun your style journey this may not be for you, yet. On the other hand, if you feel confident and want to add a new dimension to your personal style, then pattern mixing is the perfect way. The secret to mixing patterns is to approach it gradually. Start simple and add complexity as you gain confidence.


Two Similar Patterns:

If you are a beginner then start with two similar patterns. For example, stripes with stripes or checks with checks. The key to mixing similar patterns is each should be a different size. So if you are wearing a shirt with narrow stripes add a tie with broad stripes. If you are wearing a plaid suit add a shirt with small checks. The reason is two similar size patterns cause the eye to lose focus, creating disharmony in your outfit and leaving people straining to see you clearly.


Two Different Patterns:

The next step is mixing two different patterns. There is only one rule which is to avoid wearing small patterns together. Matching small patterns creates the same problem as mixing two similar patterns of the same size. You can mix large with large or small with large but never small with small. The photo shows a classic combination of a striped shirt with a polka dot tie. As you can see the patterns add interest and depth to this man’s appearance.


Mixing three patterns when two are the same:

Once you’re comfortable mixing two similar patterns and two different patterns, it’s time to put them together. The important thing here is to ensure the two similar patterns differ in scale while the third pattern is strong enough to act as a focal point. As you can see in this photo the smaller checks of the shirt compliment the larger plaid pattern, while the polka dot tie acts as a powerful centre piece to this fantastic outfit.


Three patterns and beyond:

This is pattern mixing at its most complicated and perilous. Matching this many patterns is based on practice, instinct and experience. It can produce some truly stunning combinations but should only be attempted once you are confident with the previous steps. In this photo, Ralph Lauren has managed to combine checks, stripes and a patterned tie with ease.

As you can see, pattern mixing is one of the hardest skills to master. Having read this, some men will remain happy using one pattern at a time. Others will embrace the challenge and through practice and experience add another dimension to their style. Whatever your approach, I hope this guide has revealed the opportunities pattern mixing offers and helps you craft your own unique style.

About the Author

Stephen Brister is the Managing Director of men’s accessories brand at H&B London. This article was previously posted on the blog site – The Mitchelli.

James Nguyen
James Nguyen


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