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Coordinating patterned shirts & bow ties

It might be easier to coordinate a patterned bow tie with a shirt in a solid colour (or the other way round) but for an equally elegant and more playful look, the combination of a patterned shirt with a patterned  bow tie is an option to consider. Of course, it will only work so long as the combination doesn’t result in a psychedelic concoction. Here’s how to avoid just that.


Key to coordinating two patterned pieces successfully is to keep them distinguishable and for this, you’ll need to aim for contrast between the two.

First, consider the shirt and bow tie’s background colours. Whilst these needn’t be completely different, they should differ in intensity, with one being considerably lighter/darker than the other.

white shirt + bow tie



Second, for best results, opt for different patterns  altogether, with one being denser or more elaborate than the other. Similar patterns, even if one is denser than the other will simply cancel each other out, when what you want is to have one of the two pieces (typically the bow tie) as the centrepiece, with the other complementing it.


Although your shirt and bow tie should be distinguishable from each other, for one to complement the other,  there should be a link that ties in the two with each other, just as the two together should tie in with the rest of the outfit.

purple shirt + bow tie.JPG

The best way to achieve this is to opt for a bow tie in a background colour that is identical or very similar to one of the colours in the shirt’s pattern – ideally that which stands out the most. Alternatively, you could also introduce another colour into the scheme while keeping one of the bow tie’s pattern’s colours similar to the shirt’s background colour.

blue shirt + bow tie.JPG

If your shirt only contains two different colours – that of the pattern and the background colour – and especially if these are neutral colours, you could also consider a bow tie in a completely different colour scheme, as long as it contrasts and pairs well with the shirt.

Final word

Mixing two different patterns needn’t result in a chaotic look. Just keep the shirt and bow tie distinguishable yet complementary.


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How to wear spotted patterns

Patterns are one of very few means available to men to create unique outfits, without edging on the eccentric. At the moment, the spotted pattern (or polka dot pattern) is one of the trendiest patterns in menswear but admittedly, is not always the safest of options. Here, we look at how to add the pattern to an outfit, depending on the look one’s after, considering the pattern’s colour and size in particular.

When you think of polka dots, ‘cute’, ‘vintage’, and ‘fun’ is probably what comes to mind and the pattern certainly adds a playful tone to an outfit. It’s ideal for when you’re after a look that’s not corporate or too serious. In addition, being a less common choice, at least when compared to other patterns such as stripes and plaid, the spotted pattern offers an opportunity to render an outfit even more unique.

True, not any type of outfit. You wouldn’t wear a spotted shirt or tie for a job interview at a bank or a law firm, or even most professional events (unless related to the creative industry). However, other than such events, it’s a pattern that lends itself well to both casual and smart casual outfits. The end result will depend a lot on how prominently the pattern features in the outfit. The more prominent the spotted pattern, the bolder the outfit will look, which will in turn determine how appropriate or not it is for the event it is worn to.

Probably the first thing to consider about a pattern is its motif’s size. The larger the spots, the bigger the impact, meaning the more playful (nearly comical) the end result. To tone down the impact of the pattern, opt for a top layer in a solid colour. That way, you’ll conceal much of the area covered by the pattern. Wearing another patterned item but in a different pattern will also de-emphasise the effect of the spotted pattern but caution as to avoid a clash between patterns is recommended. Alternatively, just opt for a very subtle pattern that consists of very small spots. This is a more versatile and often elegant option.

On the other hand, if you want a bolder and more adventurous look, go for a larger motif, and for a statement-look, leave as much of the pattern as possible exposed, mainly by wearing it as a top layer, such as a sport coat or a shirt worn without a jacket. Even trousers will work but ideally these will be in smaller spots since unfortunately for polka dot lovers, clowns love their fancy spotted trousers.

In addition to the size of the spots and layering, the pattern’s colour-scheme will also affect how much the pattern will stand out from the rest of the outfit. Generally, the more colourful and brighter the palette, the less formal a garment will look whilst those in a darker background colour and with a minimalist colour-scheme, will look dressier. Of course how casual or dressy the outfit will end up looking will depend a lot on what you coordinate the piece in a spotted pattern with. However, since you should aim to keep your patterned piece as the focal point, it will inevitably influence the end result.

As much as patterns are great to add a dash of one’s unique style to an outfit, without proper coordination, it’s easy to get it wrong and end up with a look that is too characteristic of the unflattering associations made with that pattern. Often, it’s safer and visually more attractive to opt for smaller patterns when worn as a top layer. Bigger patterns should ideally be worn as an inner layer and with pieces in a solid colour. Often, less is better.

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How to coordinate braces with outfits

Braces do more than simply keep your trousers from sliding down. They are also a style-piece and for that reason, should be coordinated with the rest of your outfit. In this post, we’ll be looking at how to include braces in an outfit, giving particular consideration to colour and pattern.

Coordinating colours

An interesting outfit always includes one piece that stands out. It’s the centre-piece around which the rest of the outfit is built. Since braces aren’t everyone’s choice, they inevitably make a style-statement and will often end up being the centre-piece, regardless of how fancy or plain their design. That’s why it’s best to start with your braces and combine your other pieces with the pair you intend on wearing.

Serving as the background behind your braces, your shirt is the first element to coordinate with your braces. Neutral colours, white especially, are the easiest to pair with. Consider no other colours when putting together a formal outfit, opting for minimalist braces in black, white, or your suit’s colour.

However, for a more casual look, one could opt for an unusual shirt colour keeping the braces and trousers in a different colour for contrast, preferably a neutral colour. The same can apply if going for trousers that are either patterned or in an unusual colour. In that case, the shirt should ideally be in a neutral colour, acting as a buffer between the two interesting pieces of the outfit (braces and trousers).

men's braces white shirt

If the shirt is in a solid colour, contrast can also be achieved with patterned braces. In this case, choose one of the least dominant colours in the pattern and coordinate your shirt accordingly. Generally, braces and shirts in identical colours make a rather dull combination.

If your outfit also includes neckwear, braces in a solid colour can be combined with a tie or bow tie that are also in a solid colour, which is identical to the braces’. This is often the preferred combination for very formal outfits but will only work if worn on a white shirt. For a more interesting look, go for neckwear that is either in a shade similar but not identical to your braces’, or if in a different colour altogether, keep the braces in the same colour as your suit’s or trousers’ (if not wearing a suit).

When coordinating different pieces, it is generally best to stick to a maximum of four different colours, of which one can be a bright or unusual colour, the rest being classical/neutral. Also, if wearing leather braces, these should be in the same colour as your shoes – just like belts and shoes.

Coordinating patterns

Patterns add a playful tone to an outfit, making them more appropriate for smart casual or casual outfits, unless very subtle.

When wearing patterned braces on a patterned shirt, the only way to avoid a chaotic look is by aiming for contrast – just as with solid colours. Whilst the colours should always tie in, the patterns should vary considerably in intensity. If your shirt’s pattern is on the denser side, go for braces in a looser pattern, or the other way round. Again, to keep the two pieces visually distinct, opt for a shirt in a background colour that also features in the braces’ pattern but not prominently.


When coordinating patterned braces with patterned neckwear, going for the same pattern throughout will result in a too coordinated look, of the matching curtains and quilt kind. Ideally, opt for different patterns and again, in varying intensities. This will keep each piece visually distinct and balanced enough to keep the focus on only one piece.

Generally, unless it’s black or navy, going for neckwear and braces in different colours, even if just slightly will add texture and depth to an outfit, also making it visually more exciting.

Final Word

Of course these tips are not rules set in stone but are intended to make it easier to wear braces as a style-piece, as opposed to merely functional. That said, they should still serve their main purpose, that of keeping your trousers in place. Therefore, wearing braces and a belt together is the equivalent of wearing white socks on formal shoes.

Also, although the absence of belt loops makes a trouser waistband look neater (when worn without a belt), it is not unusual for men to wear braces on trousers with belt loops. On the other hand, if you only wear braces, it’s worth going for trousers that are intended to be worn with braces, as opposed to belts.

despite traditionalists wincing at the thought of wearing braces on trousers with belt loops, unless your aim is to impress one, no one will reproach you for doing so.

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Bold patterned shirts

Men who wear bold patterned shirts can be divided into two groups: those who are confident and have an eye for style, and those who are merely over-confident. Five minutes of people-watching, especially in tourist hot-spots, are enough to convince anyone that rocking a fancy shirt requires more than just self-assurance. What makes an outfit that includes a bold patterned shirt visually interesting and tasteful, as opposed to one that’s fit for a circus-clown, is a proper combination of all the individual pieces. Here’s how it’s done.

Make the shirt the centre-piece

A bold patterned shirt makes quite a statement, so you want to keep the shirt the focal point. It’s the cardinal rule for wearing such an eye-catching piece well. Crucial to avoid, is a clash between your shirt and the other pieces you’re wearing. Therefore, start with the shirt and build the rest of the outfit around it, keeping everything else simple i.e. in a solid colour.

True, it’s possible to wear different patterns together, as long as each pattern varies considerably in density from the others. However, in the case of bold patterns, more often than not, when worn with another pattern, the result ends up looking chaotic.


Combining colours

Bold patterns usually consist of a multitude of colours, some more than others. Yet, there’s always one that is dominant and that’s usually the brightest and/or the one that draws the eye first, even if it’s not the background colour.

Your safest option is to combine your bold patterned shirt with pieces in neutral colours, such as navy, grey, beige, etc. depending on the shirt’s colour scheme. An alternative would be to combine it with trousers or shorts in the shirt’s dominant colour. However, when this is a brighter or a not very common colour, such as orange or yellow, it’s best to exercise caution. The last thing you want is a look that’s reminiscent of 1970s disco-fever. Here, you’ll be better off combining it with a muted colour that balances out the shirt’s bright colour scheme.

Combining it with a suit/sport coat

Bold patterned shirts are essentially about fun and personality and therefore, are ultimately casual in style. Some designs will look more casual than others. Besides the print and fabric, how casual a shirt looks will often also depends on the colour. Neutral and darker colours tend to give a shirt a dressier look, especially if the fabric has a satin-effect that makes the shirt look more luxurious. In any case, bold patterned shirt remain casual in style and are considered inappropriate for formal events, as well as a corporate environment.

However, that doesn’t mean they cannot be combined successfully with a suit or sport coat. Although a corporate suit would still contrast too much with the shirt’s style, one that is less structured and in a modern cut makes a great option to consider for a smart casual event. The same applies to sport coats. One in a Neapolitan cut (softer structure) and with elbow-patches (if you don’t mind them) will add a good dose of the elegance factor without looking too formal.

Final word

Bold patterns are subjective. What to some might qualify as bold, might seem less daring to others. However, the tips above apply to any patterned shirt from the fanciest patterned designs to the simplest.

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A guide to men’s ties – Part II

Trump’s victory has left many bewildered. On Facebook and Twitter, personal analyses of what led to his victory are abundant but my guess is that many voters were won over by his power tie – what else? That iconic red tie was selected intentionally to portray him as a man of success and authority, because in the West, those are two qualities we associate with red. Of course, it’s not what really got him elected but because of its associations, colour is definitely an effective way of influencing people’s judgement.

In the second part of our guide to men’s ties, the focus will be on colour and pattern, specifically, what they are associated with, and which suit colours they can be best worn with.

Colour associations 

Against a light shirt and dark suit, which is the combination most men wear, the only distinctive element is the tie. It’s what sets a man apart from the rest and the first – if not the only – thing people will notice about his outfit. Since colour affects how people feel towards something, before even having really tried it or experienced it, a tie can influence people’s judgement about a person they do not really know. Therefore, it’s worth choosing a tie colour in a way that facilitates a favourable judgement, especially on occasions, such as job interviews, when such judgement could make a real difference.

Less aggressive than a red tie but one which also stands out and can represent vitality is green, such as bottle green. Like red, it’s a colour that tends to look too strong for a professional outfit – unless it’s a patterned tie. However, a grey or navy suit and light blue shirt will tone down the colour’s intensity for a more muted look. 

On the contrary, pastel colours are associated with tenderness and tend to have a calming effect. Consequently, a sky blue tie can give a man a softer look. Outside office politics, pastel ties are a great option for summer, especially on a light grey suit.

 Similarly, a yellow tie can make a man look more radiant and approachable. However, yellow is a colour that looks too dull on a white or light blue shirt, especially against a fair complexion, making it a better option as a background colour for a patterned tie, worn with a grey or blue suit. 

You might have noticed how most uniforms tend to include navy and/or burgundy. They’re two classical colours that tend to denote experience and therefore, reliability. Being easy to combine with grey, green, and blue suits, they are also the two most versatile tie colours a man could opt for. Burgundy is also one of the very few colours that pairs well with a black suit.

For the opposite effect, opt for a purple tie. However, it doesn’t mean it’ll make you come across as inexperienced. In terms of tie colours and menswear in general, purple is considered a modern colour and for that purpose, a rather bold option. Therefore, a purple tie can be associated with youth or a modern outlook. It’s a colour that is best worn with a navy, green or grey suit. 

In addition to black, silver and gold are other options to consider for evening events. Like anything that sparkles, they can be too dressy for the office.


Like colours, patterns can also be associated with specific attributes and these can be further emphasised by one’s choice of tie colour. There are various patterns typically used in ties, each giving a different twist to an outfit.

Diagonal stripes are definitely a favourite. In addition to having a slimming effect, diagonal stripes can look both modern, interesting, and yet, still conservative enough to avoid an outfit from appearing too playful, something that’s not easily achieved with a tie in polka dots.

Paisley and plaid are two other options but which are not as popular as diagonal stripes, possibly because they can look too fancy or even slightly old-fashioned. However, that depends a lot on the colour scheme. A high contrast colour scheme can give a tie a more modern, bolder effect, whereas darker colours with minimal contrast can make it look like a more conservative option.

When combining colours, one should ideally limit himself to a maximum of three different colours (i.e. suit, shirt, and tie in a different colour). In the case of a patterned tie, that number can be exceeded. However, the tie’s colour scheme needs to tie in with the rest of the outfit. Therefore, one of the tie’s colours should be identical to that of the suit with the shirt acting as a buffer, usually in white or light blue but sometimes also pink.

Final note 

As mentioned earlier, the tie is often the first thing people notice about a man’s outfit. It’s very much the focal point. Consequently, it’s worth making the effort to not only make sure the size and length complement your frame but that the colour and pattern keep the outfit looking coherent, and if need be, enhance the message about yourself you are trying to get across.