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5 Ways to Successfully Combine Patterns

If you stick to mostly plain colours or one pattern because you’re afraid of getting it wrong but would like to experiment more, then here are some simple guidelines on how to successfully mix your patterns:

1. When wearing two patterns the same vary the scale of them


Wear one bold stripe and one narrow stripe or one large Princeof Wales check with a tiny houndstooth check. Tie them in with the colours and if you're wearing stripes, you could also go for one vertical stripe and the other one horizontal or diagonal.

As you can see, this is demonstrated below with the t-shirt and casual trousers and also in the classic combination of finely striped shirt with the bold diagonal striped tie.

 T shirt and striped trousers - casual pattern mixing for men

Striped linen & cotton blend t-shirt - Saint Laurent at Mr Porter - £300
Striped linen drawstring trousers - Freemans Sporting Club at Mr Porter - £230

Thin stripe shirt and bold stripe tie - how to successfully mix patterns

 Sky blue striped cotton Oxford shirt - Emma Willis at Mr Porter - £230

2. Bring different patterns together by using similar colours


By using harmonious colours in your pattern mixing, it allows you to be braver (see below!) without looking like you got dressed in the dark. It also works well to tie everything together if you're wearing more than 2 patterns.

I think the stylist has got away with mixing two bold patterns together in this casual outfit because there's blue and yellow in both items. In the formal outfit, the brown of the tie goes with the check in the jacket and the pocket square follows through with this, whilst also bringing in the teal tone of the jacket.

Floral shirt over striped t shirt - how do I mix patterns together

Short sleeve open collar Batik print shirt - Beams Plus at End Clothing - £115
Graduation stripe pocket t-shirt - Beams Plus at End Clothing - £79

Check blazer with patterned tie and pocket square - mixing patterns for work

Windowpane check wool, silk and linen blazer - Hackett - £675
Kristin Texeira for Drake's "The Roof" Pocket Square - Drakes - £65

3. Let the pattern get larger from the base layer to the outer one


If you're wearing 3 or 4 patterns together, I find the easiest way to do it, is to start with a smaller pattern as the base layer, and then a medium one in your top layer and a large one for the accessory. I also find it works well to have the underneath layer in a lighter colour than the top one, though this isn't necessarily a hard and fast rule. You can see this rule at play with both these outfits below, the more casual and the more formal.

Casual outfit of stripes with checks - pattern mixing for men

Grandad collar pinstripe linen blend shirt - Brunello Cucinelli at Mr Porter - £420
Striped linen blend bomber jacket - Mr P at Mr Porter - £295
Washed linen and silk blend scarf - Brunello Cucinelli at Mr Porter - £410

Blazer, shirt and tie combining different patterns

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4. Counteract busy prints with widely spaced prints


If you're wearing a full on busy print, then put it with a widely spaced print to create a coherent look. This way one print can do the talking whilst the other whispers.

In the image below, the spaced out print of the shorts gives a quieter background to the busy feather print of the t-shirt. In the more formal outfit mixing 4 prints together (impressive!) the spot tie has a quieter pattern to counteract the others.

Feather print t shirt with print shorts - pattern mixing tips for men

"Rio" feather print t-shirt - Reiss - £45
All over print chino shorts - Scotch & Soda - £99.95

Four patterns together - how to mix patterns

Photo Robert Spangle for GQ magazine

5. Let one pattern stand out by using a darker or brighter colour


If you put a brighter or darker colour against a more subtle pattern or paler colour, it becomes the point of reference for the eye.

You can see below that the pale blue stripes of the jacket and t-shirt allow the bright yellow check scarf to stand out. And in the other image, the jacket is the focus against the pale spot tie, and pale shirt. Although the shirt is plain in this instance, it could easily have had a subtle fine stripe and it would still work well with the rest of the outfit.

Patterns with bold colour scarf - pattern mixing rules for men

Light blue striped Ortega jacket - Legends at Opumo - £100
Multi coloured block check cashmere scarf - Drakes - £265
Striped slub cotton jersey t-shirt - Faherty at Mr Porter - £65

 Bold coloured jacket - pattern mixing tips for men

Photo Robert Spangle for GQ magazine

If you'd like some help putting together patterns and / or outfits, contact me to find out about a wardrobe edit or personal shopping trip.  I'd love to help!

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