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How to Pair a Tie with a Shirt

How to look sharp for every occasion.

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You know what’s cool with a shirt and a tie? The boss special: a printed, holiday tie with a roomy white shirt. Or, the Regis Philbin: a reflective, shiny bright tie like a lighthouse beacon. Or, the Craig Sager: a purple paisley ditty paired with a neon pink shirt. Those are fun. Those are cool. And, unfortunately, they’re stylistically terrible. To separate yourself from the statement pieces, flex some nuance. Go with an interplay of colors, patterns and textures, but don’t go full on Office Space, gameshow host, or sports broadcaster. You’re you, remember? And that’s cool enough as is. Here’s how to do the shirt and tie right.

Mind the size. Some forethought: If you plan on wearing a blazer, match the width of your tie to the width of the jacket’s lapels. Also, the size of your tie knot should be an appropriate match for the collar on your shirt. Different fabrics can produce bulkier knots, so everyone should be comfortable tying the Four-in-Hand, Half-Windsor and Windsor knots.

Consider the color. When picking a combination of shirt and tie colors, there are a number of different routes. Though most tie colors will pair with a white shirt, there are other combinations depending on the occasion. You can opt for a monochromatic pairing, picking a tie that is a darker shade than your shirt (e.g. a gray shirt and a black tie, a light-blue shirt and a midnight-blue tie). Another option is to couple similar colors (colors next to each other on the color wheel). Also in this case, opt for a tie that is a darker shade to create contrast (e.g. a light blue shirt and a dark green tie). For a bolder pairing move, combine a complementary colored tie with your shirt (opposite on the color wheel).

Experiment with Patterns. It is easiest to match a patterned garment with a solid accessory, or vice versa (e.g. a solid shirt and a striped tie, a checked shirt and a solid tie). Consider your tie patterns: dots, stripes, checks, repeated patterns, paisley. When matching a patterned tie with a patterned shirt, things get a little complicated. If you are matching different patterns, vary the proportion of the patterns for contrast (e.g. a gingham shirt with a wide-striped tie). When matching similar patterns, vary both proportion and orientation of the pattern (e.g. a vertical stripe shirt with a diagonal stripe tie, a checked shirt with a larger diagonal check tie). As for matching different patterns (e.g. a checked shirt and striped tie), make sure proportions are noticeably different to create variation.

Fabric Matters. Ties come in a range of materials — cotton, silk, wool, cashmere — and each have a different feel and texture. The pairings can also be appropriate for different settings: a wool tie against a cotton shirt can be appropriate for the winter months, where a woven cotton tie is more casual. A knitted cashmere tie has noticeable texture that will stand out against any shirt you couple it with. As with patterns, vary texture between your shirt and tie to create contrast (e.g. a smooth shirt and a textured tie or vise versa).

Get the Look


Put New Knowledge into Practice


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Knitted Wool Tie by Canali $145
Checked Cotton-Jacquard Shirt $310

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Ribbed Silk Tie by Turnbull & Asser $180
Navy Cotton-Blend Shirt by Canali $335

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Striped Silk-Twill Tie by Etro $225
London Stretch Cotton-Blend Shirt $385

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Checked Wool and Silk Tie by Brunello Cucinelli $275
Striped Cotton-Poplin Shirt by Charvet $545

Want the Look for Less?


An Option for the Budget-Conscious Buyer


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Dotted Linen Silk Tie by The Tie Bar $19
Ludlow Spread-Collar Shirt by J.Crew $88

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