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While a suit makes a man, his tie, unfortunately, can be his undoing. The suit-tie combination of a gent tells so much about him, his aspirations, priorities, and of course his style quotient.
It is imperative to find a perfect combination not just to project your personality and lifestyle but also to make sure that you avoid the formal wear faux pas many men commit. The good news is that you only need to understand the principles of matching and master some basic steps to play with colors, patterns and fabrics.
Principles of Matching
First thing first, the proportion of your neckwear must be apt for your body and its color and pattern must work well your suits and shirts. Necktie proportion is related to its length and width in regards to the wearer’s clothing style and body build. For example, a large man wearing a large suit that has wide front should opt for a wider than average tie to balance the look. In addition, the length of the tie must reach his belt buckle.
Similarly, smaller neckties are the best options for a petite man. Necktie proportion is more challenging for average Joe. For an average-sized man, the width of the tie must range from 3 to 3.75 inches; anything thinner or wider will need a more potent fashion sense and is more testing to pull off.
Next comes the color of the tie. There are two factors you need to consider when determining the right necktie color:
If you want a sophisticated but toned-down look, pairing lightly patterned and semi-solid blue and green tie with a cool blue shirt is a great option. Opt for bold colored ties if you want to draw attention to yourself. A stark contrast of red or orange tie with a light colored shirt is a perfect example here. A red tie especially is called a ‘power tie’ and it is a great choice if you want to capture the wandering eyes of the people around.
If you have a fair skin and light colored hair, opt for pastel and monochromatic ties to keep it low. Quite the opposite, men with light skin and dark hair can go for color combinations that are of high contrast. For men with medium to dark colored skin and dark hair both the styles work well.
Finally, you need to focus on the necktie pattern. For most men matching strong patterned neckties is a difficult task. Although they are hardly worn to full effect, these neckwear gems can add life to your otherwise boring outfit when worn correctly.
The thumb of rule to follow here is that the tie’s colors should not clash and its patterns must not conflict with your shirt or suit’s patterns (in case you are mixing patterns).
The Dress Shirt
One basic rule of matching your suit, shirt and tie is to match the tie and shirt first. Why? Because while you have the option to peel off the suit jacket by lunchtime, you're pretty much stuck with your shirt-and-tie combo. And the color clash, if any, is impossible to hide.
Solid shirts are easiest to match. Opt for white, light blues, pastel and off-white that match almost anything. If wearing striped shirts, remember that you need to avoid similarly sized stripes. You can even combine a solid tie with a patterned shirt or vice-versa.
Check fabrics are more casual; your tie therefore should be more playful in tone such as paisley, foulard, and club ties. Additionally, you can opt for solid wool knitted ties that come with square ends.
Dark solid colored suits are your safest bets as they work with most suit-tie combinations. For example, grey and navy blue suits are easiest to match as most ties are made to be worn with one. The only exception here is when you’re pairing dark grey or black suits with dark ties that have blue tints as they hardly complement your dark grey or black suits. Instead, reserve your blue tinted ties for midnight blue, navy blue, or lighter colored suits. Dark tinted red or purple tie looks best with a grey or black suit.
To stand out in the crowd, try pairing men’s 3 piece suits in darker shades with bold and rich colored ties that have a small repeating pattern. Although a solid tie can be worn as well, it usually looks too bright and has something informal about it.
You can successfully combine light colored suits with pastels, provided you have light skin and hair with little contrast. The rules of pattern mixing mentioned above also apply for striped suits, i.e. it should not be mixed with same size patterns.
Matching Suits, Shirts & Ties: Major Takeaways
Mixing or matching the right suit-tie combination is both an art and science. While some of the rules mentioned here are unbreakable, there are ways to experiment on your own. You can occasionally violate the rules and yet look sinfully stylish. Know the rules and break them like a pro but never overlook the necessity of the right suit-tie combination – it is empowering; something that allows you to express your taste and personality without even wasting a word.