Once stuck with stark white shirts and stuffy brown suits as the only option for the office (think Jon Hamm in Mad Men), men have been liberated to wear almost any coloured shirt to work these days. And there’s even a choice to wear a tie – or not, in most workplaces. And a printed, coloured one at that.
Despite the freedom, many are stuck in a workwear rut: coerced into a safe coloured tie and white shirt combo, simply because you don’t wanna look too fashun to your peers. For others, rebellion against the bore has resulted in a neon tie with noisy patterned shirt collaboration that is far more sickly than it is sweet.
Here’s our ultimate guide to shirt and tie combos (that’ll score you a promotion). You take your job seriously and professional style seriously, so knock ’em dead at the next boardroom meeting.
RELATED: A Guide To Mixing Colours & Patterns
#1 Colour Contrast
Shirts in sky blue are very much corporate cool these days. And, in more recent years, light pink too. The best news? Both these pastels are the official colours for 2016. Which is why we’ve selected the two hues for this article. Let’s start by wearing pale pink or light blue shirts – using contrast tie colours.
Contrast colours sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. So for blue, look to orange, red or yellow but in a muted versions (not tangerine, please) so the shades are more like burned orange, burgundy and mustard or gold.
Pink? Well, the pastel shirt is feminine no-more with a masculine navy tie (pink’s contrast colour on the wheel). Go on, add some sass to your workplace style.
#2 Complementary Colour
Keeping with the blue shirt theme, finding a complementary, tonal or analogous colour option in a tie is an office win. Green is a complementing colour to blue. A forest green tie makes a refined and effortless statement at work, while basic neutrals – charcoal and brown – are ideal for men sporting a pattern jacket – be it, windowpane or chalk stripe.
Violet or purple (always in a deep shade) are tonal options for pink shirting. Just avoid red (to clashy) and pink-on-pink, which looks a little sickly sweet. Trust your aesthetic instincts with pink, and if you’re too saccharine, change it tout de suite.
#3 Knit On Print
Texture – in fashion – is designed to take a mediocre block colour and give it some much needed depth. Knit ties are the prima madonnas of texture, starring front and centre; upstaging even the most colourful and print shirt with their grainy kick.
Paired with a striped or gingham check shirt, neutral knit ties seem to work best; their graininess bearing an earthen, organic feel adding a natural element to the noise of the pattern underneath. Opt for green, navy, black or brown for a sure fire win in the office – especially if the shirt is already playing the coloured card well.
Knitted ties make a refreshing change from pervasive silk styles and will add a welcome lift to tailoring. For extra bang, go for a pure silk variety with two-tone knit; it will look interestingly flecked up close (great for client meetings) and coolly blended from far (toned down enough when presenting to the boardroom).
#4 Pattern Clash
Printed shirts are where things can get tricky. Striped shirts are more versatile and can usually be paired with a bigger or smaller patterned tie without the tie becoming lost. However, check shirts look better with a bigger patterned tie.
For the guy who wants to go bold, look to paisley and geometric prints. The key is sticking to the standard colour rules as stated above – complementary or contrast – and it’s a nice look when a portion of the shirt colour features in the tie print.
Stripes look great on check shirts too. Just keep the tie stripe big and bold stripe – to hold its own against the check shirt and ensure one of the colours on the tie used (somewhere) on the shirt. The same applies to polka dots.
Like any time you dress, be sure to check yourself before you commit to the look. If it feels awkward, too busy or forced, added a block coloured tie instead. And walk out the door.
#5 Pattern Perfect
Window pane check is more open to being match with another check, due to the scale being so large and the pattern so subtle. Small gingham check shirts are the most traditional and casual in the business world but don’t work well a checked tie.
Instead, opt for a block coloured tie and complements one of the check colours in your shirt.
Stripes are much easier to double-up. Just by changing up the direction. A vertical striped shirt looks great paired with a horizontal or diagonal striped tie. There’s a stark contrast between the two piece, which sees the two amicably take you into your office week, in style.
#6 Casual & Clean
Select a block coloured shirt – blue, green, grey or your favourite pastel hue – a tie. Shunning a patterned shirt, opt for a grenadine silk tie – made in a solid colour with the visual interest being the unique weave – finer than regular silk knit tie, but grainier than flat tie.
Monochrome shirt and tie combinations work – light blue shirt with navy tie – especially when the jacket is loud in print, colour or is textural masterpiece such as tweed.
Finally, your casual Fridays style arsenal needs a denim shirt – one with a cutaway or straight collar to retain business style. Rich in texture and in an array of indigo hues, all the cotton shirt needs now is neutral flannel tie – to align with the heritage denim shirt and rustic tweed coat.
Don’t be always be white shirt bore. By playing around with contrast and tonal colour mixing – and pattern on print – you’ll soon learn what works and what doesn’t.
The idea is to uncover a few go-to combinations that suit your skin tone and personal style, making getting dressed Monday morning, just that little bit easier. The one golden rule? Your tie should always be a darker shade than your shirt, without exception.