I’ve been watching a little of the AMC series “Mad Men” and I am struck by how simple is the color palette of the man in the grey flannel suit. These guys look sharp, from the parts in their hair to the creases in their trousers. (And take it from me, sartorially, times in advertising have changed……) Now, I can’t condone the behaviour of the characters on the show, but I can tell you that this is a great “starter” look. Everything fits and everyone is fairly squared away.
Ok, you think, been there, done that. Now what?
You’re ready to enter the headier air of pattern mixing. Today, the absolute basic truth behind mixing it up: it’s all in the scale.
Let’s ignore colour for the moment and concentrate on my photo above. I’m wearing 4 visible patterns (can’t see my socks which were horizontal striped navy and white, or my braces which were fanciful Trafalgar Limited Editions…) Chalkstripe suit, bar stripe shirt with white collar and cuffs, striped silk knot cufflinks, spotted bowtie. The pocket square was plain white linen. I think this works. Why? How? (Click here for another image. Pattern1Detail)
The regular stripes of the chalkstripes contrast with the wide/thin combination of the stripe on the shirt and both are alluded to by my silk knots — which appear on the solid white of the cuff.
The spots on the bowtie play off the white collar and cuffs of the shirt, the chalkstripes and my pocket square without introducing a wider-width striped tie and getting everyone all upset. You could wear a plain grenadine tie as well. But I like the spots (they are all white, the camera coloured them in somewhat.)
Example 2 is me in an odd jacket and trousers.
Here I’m wearing a brown Prince of Wales Plaid (with blue overcheck), light blue gingham check pocket square, a tan and light blue striped shirt, and a light blue, tan and navy triple striped tie. (The trousers were solid slate worsted twill.)
Again, it’s the scale of the patterns that allows me to play them against one another. The finely striped shirt with the bolder striped tie, the complex but medium scale plaid jacket and the simple gingham check square. (Click here for another look: Pattern Detail 3)
So where do you start? A good rule of thumb is to start small at the center and work your way larger as you go out toward the shoulder. So, you may opt for a pencil stripe shirt, a medium patterned tie (slightly larger spots or a repp regimental stripe tie) a chalkstripe suit (or glen check suit) and finally, a solid color linen or a very large patterned silk for a pocket square.
Far enough away from most of the rest of your ensemble, your socks are up for grabs.