So with my last article on confidence being relatively well received, I thought I might as well cover a subject that is of a similar art – pattern mixing. Often attempted but very rarely executed well, it can be the difference between a great look and just being a peacock.

But why mix patterns in the first place? Surely it’s better to just stick with what you know and keep the pattern you’ve chosen anchored? Adding another will just create a world of unnecessary problems won’t it? Well, yes and no.

If you’re new to this menswear game or haven’t quite built up the confidence to move out of your comfort zone, then perhaps pattern mixing won’t be the one for you. It is tricky to get the hang of, and often comes down to a judgement call, so until you’ve experimented a bit or are more familiar with your own personal style and what suits you, this particular addition to the way you dress may not be for you (yet).

However, if you’ve taken some pointers from my piece on the ‘art of confidence’ and want to show off this new side of you, what better way than demonstrating your knowledge of pattern mixing and your ability to inject it into your every day looks.

The Art of Pattern Mixing

Now, as always, there are a few guidelines that should be followed. These tips will help you when it comes deciding how to put your look together and what may be a good idea to avoid.

The Same Pattern

Firstly, if you are new to mixing patterns then simply keep things in the same pattern. For example, stripes on stripes or checks on checks. The key here is to make sure that with each new pattern that you add to the look, the width or size of the pattern is different to what has gone before.

I love to play around with this in a formal setting with something like a navy pin striped suit. I tend to favour strong bold stripes (but not fat) because they communicate power and confidence, which also means I can wear a fine striped dress shirt and a rep tie without it looking out of place.

As I said, the key is to make sure each pattern is a different size to avoid people going cross eyed when they look at you. But overall, it’s a creative way to breathe new life into an ordinarily traditional look:

Pattern Matching Lookbook - Utilising Similar Patterns

Here are some example outfit combinations, using pieces currently available, that you could try for yourself:

  • Ralph Lauren Purple Label Aston Bengal Stripe ShirtRalph Lauren Purple Label Aston Bengal Stripe Shirt
  • Austin Reed Contemporary Fit Navy Wide Stripe JacketAustin Reed Contemporary Fit Navy Wide Stripe Jacket
  • Charvet Striped Silk And Linen-blend TieCharvet Striped Silk And Linen-blend Tie
  • Allsaints Arlington Boat Neck T-shirtAllsaints Arlington Boat Neck T-shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Cotton Stripe Jacket+eUniqlo Men Cotton Stripe Jacket+e
  • Monkee Genes Slim ChinosMonkee Genes Slim Chinos
  • Reiss Rake Fleck Print Shirt NavyReiss Rake Fleck Print Shirt Navy
  • Austin Reed 8cm Cut Navy Spot Silk TieAustin Reed 8cm Cut Navy Spot Silk Tie
  • Topman Blue Slub Skinny Suit JacketTopman Blue Slub Skinny Suit Jacket
Keeping It Tonal

Similarly, keeping things within the same colour family can help too. However, this does work better if you’re trying to incorporate different patterns such as stripes and checks.

By using patterns that are different hues of the same colour, it can create a very subtle look while still showing that you have a daring side. It’s a good idea to vary the pattern sizes, but not completely necessary in this case.

See my previous guides on colour for an idea of which colours are in the same family, although it should be pretty simple – pair navy with light blues etc. This also a great way to incorporate this season’s biggest trend: prints.

Pattern Matching Lookbook - Utilising Different Tonal Patterns

Again, here are some example outfit combinations, using pieces currently available, that you could try for yourself:

  • Polo Ralph Lauren Slim Fit Multi Check ShirtPolo Ralph Lauren Slim Fit Multi Check Shirt
  • E. Tautz Striped Knitted Linen SweaterE. Tautz Striped Knitted Linen Sweater
  • Nudie Jeans Thin Finn Dry Ecru Embo Skinny JeansNudie Jeans Thin Finn Dry Ecru Embo Skinny Jeans
  • Ascot Accessories Grey Paisley Silk TieAscot Accessories Grey Paisley Silk Tie
  • Diesel Slimmy White ShirtDiesel Slimmy White Shirt
  • Ralph Lauren Purple Label Prince Of Wales Check Cashmere BlazerRalph Lauren Purple Label Prince Of Wales Check Cashmere Blazer
  • Ps By Paul Smith Micro-stripe Stretch-cotton Seersucker BlazerPs By Paul Smith Micro-stripe Stretch-cotton Seersucker Blazer
  • Universal Works Navy Polka Dot PoloUniversal Works Navy Polka Dot Polo
  • Allsaints Cannon ChinoAllsaints Cannon Chino
In The Mixer

The final way to pattern match is one for the more advanced – just throw caution to the wind and don’t get too matchy matchy!

Use colours that complement each other, rather than in the same family, like a pink striped shirt with a navy check sports jacket. This season is going to be about expressing yourself and seeing just how much you can get away with whilst still looking put together and stylish.

So experiment! Have some fun with it. If this summer is all about prints on prints on prints, why not try out patterns on patterns on patterns as well? The only true golden rule is the first – vary the size of the pattern – otherwise you’ll look like a squiggly mess.

Yeah, you heard. A squiggly mess.

Pattern Matching Lookbook - Utilising A Mix Of Patterns

Again, some example combinations:

  • Reiss Dustin Bold Check Shirt NavyReiss Dustin Bold Check Shirt Navy
  • Hartford White Space Spot Print ShirtHartford White Space Spot Print Shirt
  • Topman Stone Yoke Pattern CardiganTopman Stone Yoke Pattern Cardigan
  • Topman Burgundy Engineer Stripe CrewTopman Burgundy Engineer Stripe Crew
  • John Smedley Forte Sea Island Cotton Polo ShirtJohn Smedley Forte Sea Island Cotton Polo Shirt
  • Asos Slim Fit Polka Dot ShortsAsos Slim Fit Polka Dot Shorts
  • Selected Change Check BlazerSelected Change Check Blazer
  • Hartford Paisley-print Cotton ScarfHartford Paisley-print Cotton Scarf
  • Z Zegna Paisley Pocket Square 56777Z Zegna Paisley Pocket Square 56777
Final Word

Hopefully these few rules and looks will have given you some ideas as to how you want to start incorporating pattern mixing into your wardrobe. As I said, only try this if you’re feeling confident in your person and personal style. If you think this might not be for you, stick to anchoring your patterns with solid colours or neutrals.

As always guys, let me know what you think – because this is all about collaboration and sharing after all!

Matt Allinson.