How to Match Ties with Shirts

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It’s official – ties are back in fashion. If you’re old enough to remember being forced to wear one, that may not sound like good news. But today’s ties bring an air of understated elegance and sophistication back to men’s fashion.

In recent years, we’ve seen an androgynous flamboyance dominating the runways. Now neckties are introducing a retro nod to traditional notions of masculinity. This time around, though, you’re free to experiment with color, patterns, and styles. The accessory that used to be about blending in is now your opportunity to stand out.

The old rules are there to be broken but just keep on reading if you want some basics to work with when it comes to how to match ties with shirt, all while building your confidence.

Reasons to Wear a Tie

Sure, it’s no longer compulsory to wear ties to work or even weddings and funerals. And for those of you working from home, it may be tempting to drop any formality at all. But there are a few good reasons to make an effort to don a tie daily, as we will look at these below.

Ties give you confidence – A well-tied tie frames your face, especially on a video conference screen. It’ll make you hold your head up high, stand straight, and pull your shoulders back. How you dress is interpreted as reflecting your success, intelligence, and authority, so make it work for you. And watch how people begin to take notice.

Ties can make you more productive – Getting dressed is an essential part of the work routine. Don’t let it fall by the wayside just because you’re working from home. Looking smart is half of acting smart. And pulling your tie off at the end of the working day is an excellent way to signal separation between work and private life.

Lastly, how you dress isn’t just a reflection of you – Don’t be the kind of partner that doesn’t care enough to make an effort with his appearance. Being on the arm of a well-dressed man can do wonders for your other half’s confidence too.

Color Basics

Looking at the color wheel, colors close to each other are referred to as similar or analogous. You can’t go wrong selecting a primary color and picking out accessories in similar colors.

Colors on the opposite side of the wheel are referred to as complementary. Complementary colors can appear striking when combined but can also be “too much” if not toned down a bit.

Contrasting colors have three colors in-between. When combining contrasting colors, make one a significantly darker hue than the other.

Plain on Plain

Every man needs four plain shirts in his wardrobe: classic white, sky blue, pink, and raw denim (or chambray at a push). Your tie should always be a darker shade than your shirt.

For a sky blue shirt – Pair with similar colors of a darker shade like navy or dark green, or a complementary burnt orange, mustard, or shades of red.

For a pink shirt – Pair with a similar color like a dark purple or complementary navy tie. A contrasting green can make a statement if you’ve got the confidence to pull it off. Try a dark khaki, perhaps.

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Plain on Pattern and Vice Versa

Please don’t be scared of patterns; they can add interest and dimension to an otherwise dull wardrobe. When we talk of patterns, we’re talking anything from conservative checks (ginghams), dots, and stripes, to wild paisley and florals.

Houndstooth, plaids, and herringbone are very traditional men’s patterns but increasing the scale and mixing up colors can give them new life.

When pairing a solid tie on a patterned shirt, select a darker hue of one of your shirt pattern colors. So a navy tie works well on a blue and red checked shirt, as would a burgundy tie. For a patterned tie on a solid shirt, reverse the logic and select a shirt in a lighter hue of one of your tie colors.

And of course, your classic white shirt will go with any patterned tie, so if all else fails, get back to basics.

Pattern on Pattern

This is where things can go either terrifically right or horribly wrong. The right personality can carry off anything; let’s be honest. For those of us less bold, consider the below pattern fundamentals:

  • Patterns should contrast – you can wear stripes with stripes or checks with checks, but the patterns should differ in scale.
  • Your tie pattern should always be bigger than the shirt pattern. The one possible exception to this is a pin-dot tie, where the pattern is so small it acts like a solid.
  • Match a pattern detail in the tie with the dominant color of your shirt.

Some combinations that work well include: a boldly striped tie with a fine gingham shirt, a plaid tie with a striped shirt, a dotted tie with a gingham shirt.

Perhaps more important than the “dos” are the “don’ts” when pairing patterns with patterns. Greg Shugar, the co-founder of The Tie Bar, has some “no-nos” worth paying attention to as follows:

  • Never wear a plaid tie with a gingham shirt
  • Never wear floral on floral


If the idea of patterns still scares you, consider a knit tie in a solid color. The texture will add dimension without any threat of unintended optical illusions. Furthermore, the square end gives the tie a modern feel. Knit ties are travel-friendly too because they don’t crease. However, note that they tend to come in slimmer styles, so you won’t be able to use the same variety of knots as with a woven tie.

Concluding Thoughts

Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, “A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.” Admittedly he had a flair for the dramatic, but many a true word is said in jest. Embrace the tie, then sit back and enjoy the reaction that your tie and shirt combination bring about. Happy matching!

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