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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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Should you tuck your shirt in or not?

It’s one of those choices that seem straightforward. When one is required to look smartly-dressed, the shirt goes in and when a casual look suffices, the shirt remains untucked. Yet, if it was that simple, the outcome wouldn’t so often look so unflattering. Rather than choosing only on the basis of the smart/casual factor, consider also the actual length of the shirt, the visual effect of an un/tucked shirt on your silhouette, as well as how well your choice blends in with the rest of your outfit. The three need to be considered together, as one will affect the other.

3016Let’s start with the shirt’s length. This should not reach further below the level of one’s mid-buttocks (and not much higher either). A shirt, whose length extends beyond that level is too long for the person’s height. If worn untucked, it’s too likely to result in a sloppy look, making wearing it tucked in, the better option. This will hide the fact that it’s too long.

On the other hand, when a shirt is so long as to result in the ‘excess length’ bunching up under your trousers, it’ll feel somewhat uncomfortable, especially if the trousers are tight-fitting. Depending on the thickness of the trousers’ fabric, the result could also be rather unsightly. If it’s too long, just don’t buy it.

However, even if a shirt is in the right length, wearing it tucked in or not, could also be matter of wanting one’s legs to appear longer or shorter. This, in relation to the upper body. Leaving a shirt untucked will visually extend the torso, especially when the shirt’s colour isn’t similar to the trousers’, consequently, minimising the legs’ length (visually). This is usually an option more suitable for taller men, whose legs tend to be very long in comparison to the upper body. By making these look shorter, one creates a better balance between the upper and lower parts of the body, effectively creating a visually more proportionate silhouette.

In contrast, shorter men, whose legs tend to be short in comparison to the upper body, will look better wearing their shirts tucked in. By leaving more of the trousers exposed, one creates the illusion of longer legs. An untucked shirt risks visually accentuating the imbalance between the upper and lower parts of the body.

Finally and equally important, is considering the overall style of one’s outfit and how each individual piece (and how they are worn), contribute to the desired style. Wearing a shirt tucked in will not automatically result in a more professional or dressy look. It could still maintain the casual style in an outfit.

However, whether the way you wear your shirt ties in with the rest of the outfit, also depends on how casual or versatile the other pieces are. For example, on a pale pair of jeans and sports shoes, a shirt is better worn untucked otherwise, the smarter look of the tucked in shirt will clash too much with the laid-back effect of the jeans and sports shoes. Similarly, if wearing a sport coat, a tucked in shirt will compliment the overall style better than if worn untucked.

Final note

There was a time, not so long ago, when it was considered trendy to wear one’s shirt partly tucked in. David Beckham often sported the look himself. As is usually the case with trends, they have a short lifespan. Nowadays, a partly tucked in shirt will just look like a job half-done – it’s either one or the other.

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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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Five summer pieces to get rid of

The first drops of autumn rain have fallen, the roads are clogged again, and my Facebook wall is overflowing with posts bemoaning the abrupt end of what seemed to me, like a year-long summer. Now that it’s time to put away the shorts and T-Shirts to make space for the trousers and cardigans, here are five summer pieces you should definitely be saying ‘adieu’ to. 

Sleeveless tops

The blistering heat is the best excuse for exposing as much flesh as possible and boy do we see a lot of it in summer. Whether it’s to lay bare one’s biceps for all to admire, or merely out of compliance with the pigeon racing club’s dress code, sleeveless tops were definitely last summer’s most popular piece among younger men, regardless of how toned or not they are, or hairy or smooth. Although no type can be considered elegant, some are more modest than others, in that at least, they cover the nipple.  

Short-sleeved office shirts

A favourite among male civil servants (need one say more?) the short-sleeved office shirt is one of the most unflattering pieces a man could wear. First, short-sleeved shirts are intended to look more casual than the long-sleeved version. Wearing one to the office and often, with a tie, results in a clash of styles that gives a look that is neither casual nor smart but simply sloppy. Second, short sleeves should never reach below mid-biceps, for any lower, gives the impression of an over-sized garment.

Cargo shorts

When going on an expedition, those side-pockets sure come in handy but how much stuff does one need for a walk along the promenade? Because of the bulk at the bottom created by the side-pockets, cargo shorts make one’s legs look thinner than they actually are. So as to keep the lower and upper halves of the body looking proportionate, shorts should more or less follow the legs’ natural width.  

Three quarter length trousers

The popularity of three quarter length trousers faded nearly as quickly as they were put on the market. Nonetheless, a few pairs sill linger, worn by those who never throw anything away unless it’s really unusable. These trousers not only look incomplete but also make the legs look shorter – much shorter. 

Synthetic sandals

Why ruin an outfit with cheap-looking, synthetic footwear? Yes, these are very comfortable sandals, which is why they are so popular in northern Europe, where pragmatism reigns supreme but comfortable as they are, style-wise they leave much to be desired. If you don’t want closed shoes, opt for a pair of soft leather sandals instead – and don’t forget to get a pedicure regularly. 

Final word

Those are the five major causes of summer style eye-soars or five reasons to be glad summer is over. Are there any other pieces you think should be added to the list?