Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Pillars of Style, Part II: Pattern Coordination

Back in June I started a series called "The Pillars of Style." It's time to expand on fit, and this, Part Two of the series, deals with pattern coordination. This subject in and of itself is a huge can of worms, so I'll be breaking it down over a few entries. First, let's make one thing clear:

In theory, any patten can work with any solid. This means solid shirt with patterned tie, patterned shirt with solid tie, patterned jacket with solid shirt, etc. These are your training wheels, and it's difficult to mess up unless you have Ray Charles' eye for color (don't worry, Part Three on color coordination is forthcoming). Try it out, but let's put on our big boy underpants and learn a slightly more advanced lesson.


Some guys looks amazing in a striped shirt paired with a repp stripe tie while others look schlubby. The same goes for men wearing windowpane pants with a gingham shirt. How do you make it work? You keep scale in mind.

"Scale? What the hell do you mean by scale?"

A pattern's scale is its size, its proportion. Take, for example, two sport jackets. One has pinstripes (meaning that the stripes are very thin, as if they were drawn with a freshly sharpened pencil) that are 1/8" apart, while the other has chalk stripes (stripes that look like they were drawn in -you guessed it- chalk) that are 1/2" apart. Both are stripes, but the chalk stripe pattern is of larger scale than its pinstripe brother. Got it? Good.

Take a look at the shirt/tie combination in the photo above. This is textbook stripe-on-stripe coordination, and it looks boss as hell. All the wearer did was realize that he had a striped theme going, and he varied their scales. Narrowly-spaced stripes look great against thick, wide stripes. The same theory applies to checks; small checks look great against big windowpanes, which are a type of check. Having two like patterns of different scales allows you to have an intelligent theme to your ensemble while not making the viewers' eyes have to work to differentiate between the two patterns.

Next time, we'll mix two different patterns. Stay tuned.

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