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Feb 23, 2015
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Here's an unfortunate fact of life: suits, ties, and shirts don't just come in black and white. For most of us, that's a problem because it forces us to think about what shirt colors might work well with what suit, and what tie patterns look great with your ensemble.

Being noobs with the color wheel, we know for sure that not all color combos mesh well. So how do we know which ones work? We have here some of the more common mistakes, oh rookie suit-wearer, that guys make when choosing a proper suit-tie-and-shirt combo. Avoid these, and you'll, at the very least, avoid looking like a walking faux-pas.


1)   PAIRING A BLACK SUIT WITH A SHIRT-AND-TIE THAT HAS TOO MUCH GOING ON

The black suit is designed for formal occasions. If you wear it with a shirt that's too casual or a tie that's too playful, it sort of loses its essence. If you're feeling fashion-forward, you can choose to go with funky shirts but if you're feeling safe and you want to wear the suit to its strength, go for strong, solid-colored shirts and ties.


2)   PICKING A TIE BEFORE THE SHIRT

The tie should complement the shirt, and not the other way around. Here's a general rule: Once you've picked a shirt, the tie should be darker than your shirt to allow it to stand out.


3)   TRYING TO MATCH THE SUIT TO THE TIE OR SHIRT FIRST

Your first order of business when creating an ensemble should be to match the shirt and tie first. Why? Because you can remove a suit easily at any point in the day. The shirt-and-tie combo, you're pretty much stuck with it. Pair the shirt-and-tie first, and then look for the appropriate suit.

Although there are also times when a simple suit-and-shirt works better: 


4)   GOING WITH BOLD COLORS AND DARING PATTERNS RIGHT AWAY

It's easy to look at a magazine fashion spread and tell yourself that you can pull off those fashion-forward looks right away. You've got to start somewhere simple if you haven't been dressing up recently. For starters, the easiest base shirts to wear are white and light blue. As for ties, you can opt for subtly-patterned ones so that you won't look like a cocktail waiter. Or worse like Craig Sager.

Get well soon, though, Craig! We hope your recovery goes well. (But we sure hope your sense of style changes.)

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5)   GETTING STUCK WITH NEUTRAL COLORS

Conversely, you can get stuck with the light-colored shirts mentioned above too much, and you become too predictable. Here's the next step: choose pastel shirts. They're still fairly light to look at but they have more pop. A good rule of thumb to follow when you're adding colored shirts to your get-up: Make sure the tie doesn't compete for attention. Adding a busy-looking tie to an already strong-looking shirt can sometimes make you look like you're begging for attention.


6)   CHOOSING A SHIRT-AND-TIE COMBO WITH THE SAME PATTERNS

Here's one big no-no. When playing around with patterns, don't wear a tie and a suit with "matching" patterns. Don't wear stripes with stripes, or checkered ties with a checkered polo. Instead create a subtle contrast by matching stripes with checks or other different patterns.  

Now, just as you shouldn't wear a striped shirt with a striped tie, you also shouldn't wear a striped suit with a striped shirt or tie. 


7)   NOT MATCHING THE TONE OF THE SHIRT-AND-TIE WITH THE SUIT

This one's not so tricky. If your shirt-and-tie looks light and casual, go for lighter colors such as light grey, light brown, or blue. For more formal occasions, and your shirt-and-tie looks pretty darn serious, make sure to match its tone with a suit in navy, charcoal, or black.  

Here's another tip: The darker your suit is, the easier it is to find a matching shirt-and-tie combo.

And another: Will the guys from Suits wear your suit? If the answer is yes, then by all means, go with it.


8)   NOT BEING MINDFUL OF PROPORTIONS

The width of your tie should complement three things: the width of your shirt collar, the width of your suit's lapel, and your own body type. If you have a slim build, pick a slim tie. If the width of the tie is far bigger or smaller than either the shirt collar or the lapel, then it's time to pick another tie.


9)   BEING TOO EXPERIMENTAL

Follow the three-color rule. Count the main colors in your ensemble (just the main ones and not the differing hues and shades that may be present in your get-up). If there are more than three, simplify.

Got all these? Now, celebrate like these well-dressed men from San Diego!

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