How to Match a Tie with a Dress Shirt

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

So I’ve hammered home the point on this blog about matching ties to your shirts and suits.  While we have elaborated on the basics of color and pattern theory, digesting information that is novel and in bulk can sometimes be slightly overwhelming, to say the least. 

Hence this guide.  Let’s simplify it this time.  We have different types of shirts – Solids, Stripes and Checkered.  How on earth are we going to find a matching tie (which is at least more complex for the latter two than the plain solid!) so that we don’t have Sartorialists from generations gone past rolling in disgust.  

So that we can avoid looking like Craig Sager and gravitate more towards looking like Daniel Craig.  For those of us that like Shake Shack, our pot belly’s may not help this cause, but our inner and developing sartorialist most certainly can! So here we go, a guide on how to match a tie with a dress shirt.

Choosing Tie Colors Color Wheel

Color Wheel

First, and of utmost importance, let’ s re-visit the color wheel.  Why, you ask?  Because color coordination continues to confound even the most brilliant of men. 

It incidentally also happens to be why I started our tie line, The Dark Knot – by helping gentlemen dress better through providing matching recommendations for suits and shirts with every tie, and why I was inspired to create this blog in the first place! 

The issue, whether we like it or not, with combining shirts and ties is that unless we want to err on the side of conservative and introduce little color to our ensemble, we, as discerning, dapper gentlemen, will at some point have to get comfortable with the concept of a color wheel if we are to introduce variety and flair into our wardrobes.   

The color wheel represents a comprehensive range of primary (blue, red and yellow), secondary (orange, green and purple) and tertiary (blue-green, yellow-green and red-purple). 

Below are the major color schemes going from lowest intensity( color contrast) to highest intensity (color contrast):

A monochromatic color scheme involves choosing variants of the same color. For example, try mixing a navy blue tie with a lighter blue shirt. Another example would be matching a burgundy tie (darker version of red) to a pink shirt (lighter version).  However, unless you consider yourself really dapper and are willing to experiment with different textures, opt for a different colored suit!

A similar color scheme involves opting for colors that are adjacent to the color of choice on the color wheel.  Similar colors are easier on the eyes, provide harmony and are less contrasting than triadic and complementary colors.  

Triadic colors consist of colors that form a triangle on the color wheel.  Hence, blue, red and yellow are triadic, as are orange, green and purple. This is where we start to introduce the concept of harmony, where we are balancing warmer colors (red, orange and yellow) with cooler colors (blue, green and purple), which aids in the creation of aesthetic appeal. For almost all men, triadic colors are something that they have experimented with in the past, abeit unwittingly!  Hence why a red tie looks great against a blue shirt, as would a darker, mustard yellow. 

The Dark Knot Tip: Remember, always try and keep the tie color at least a shade darker than the shirt, as the outer most layer (the tie) should pop off the under layer (shirt). 

Complementary colors are the most strikingly contrasting colors and lay directly opposite on the color wheel.  Hence, blue’s complementary color is orange, red’s complementary is green and yellow’s complementary is purple. 

With respect to shirts and ties, it is often easier to pair triadic colors than complementary colors, unless you are experienced and extremely bold! A complementary color scheme is the boldest and is therefore best reserved for social functions, unless you are extremely confident and believe that you can pull it off in a professional / work setting!

Are you confused as to which tie colors go with which shirts and suits? The Dark Knot has an extremely valuable filtered search option, where you can find ties based on matching shirts, matching suits (patterns and color) and even the type of occasion you are looking to wear the tie for!  This filtered search option can be found on The Dark Knot's Tie Collection page.

The Dark Knot Tip: What really looks sharp is to pick a tie with a hint of the shirt color in it.  So, if you are wearing a pink shirt and opting for a navy blue tie, a navy blue tie with a hint of pink in it will help to bring the shirt-tie combination together.  The below suggestions will help in selecting a tie that allows for sufficient contrast at the same time, so that your ensemble has an element of both contrast and familiarity to the naked eye!

Printed Silk Red and Blue Tie against a Blue Shirt

The Dark Knot's Nantucket Fish Red w/ Blue Tie sits perfectly against this light blue shirt, as the secondary color of the tie (blue) matches the dominant color of the shirt (blue)!

Solid Shirts

The solid shirt provides the easiest canvas against which a gentleman can paint his fashion sense.

The easiest of the solids (i.e the easiest of the easiest) is a white shirt.  If you can’t pair a tie with a white shirt, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog! 

Whether you opt for a stripe, abstract, checkered, plaid or animal motif print tie, a white shirt will afford you flexibility to pair with any of your choices.  However, given that a white shirt is considered as the most conservative shirt out there, spice up your ensemble by choosing a tie with some kick and flair!

Your ability to mix and match tie colors to your shirts can really be accentuated with a solid blue or pink shirt. 

Blue Shirt – With a solid blue shirt, you can opt for the following:

  • Use contrasting colors, such as  solid red tie (or pink) or better yet, a burgundy tie (shade darker, contrasts well against the blue)
  • Another alternative for contrasting colors is to use an abstract mustard yellow tie, especially in the fall season, would pair up well with a solid blue shirt
  • Complementary color schemes, such as an orange tie, are perfect if you really want to be dapper and make a statement.  How about taking it a step above with something whimsical, such as an orange animal motif print tie?
  • A variant of a complementary color scheme would be to use an orange / red tie i.e a striped coral tie sits perfectly against a blue shirt!
  • Similarly, a small neats/ abstract coral design would pair well with a blue shirt
  • A way to embrace a similar color scheme would be to choose a dark, olive green tie, against a blue shirt, especially during the fall season (dark green mimicking fall foliage colors). This would present more harmony than complementary or color schemes, make your outfit look more muted but leave an elegant and tasteful aesthetic. 

If you are looking for ties to match your solid blue shirts, you can find a great selection of ties that fit this criteria using our filtered search option here

Burgundy Woven Silk Tie with Light Blue Shirt

The Dark Knot's Stafford Squares Burgundy Tie sits perfectly against this light blue shirt, as part of a triadic color scheme. Burgundy (a darker variant of red) pairs up perfectly with this light blue shirt, creating a dapper, elegant and clean look!

Pink Shirt – with a solid pink shirt, you can opt for the following:

  • For a contrasting color scheme, while a royal blue tie can be worn with a pink shirt, for a more sophisticated look, opt for a navy blue tie. This element of a dark contrasting (note: not complementary) color against a pink shirt, in particular, will yield a rich, elegant aesthetic
  • For a complementary color scheme, an even-keeled green shade will pop off well against a lipink shirt.  A bright green tie could potentially provide too much contrast.
  • A similar color scheme would allow for a purple tie against a pink shirt, especially if it is light pink, and provide harmonization of color without appearing overly monochromatic.  This would be a great selection if you are aiming to look well dressed without garnering much attention i.e elegant and sophisticated.
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A solid light pink shirt with a solid purple tie

A solid light pink shirt with a solid purple tie resembles a similar color scheme, thereby providing harmony and elegance without being strikingly bold.

Feel free to check out The Dark Knot's video on Matching Tie Colors to your Suits and Shirts:

Striped Shirts

Now it’s starting to get interesting!  While an appropriately selected Solid tie will work well against a Striped Shirt, we all know you aren’t reading this blog for the super basics. 

You want to up your game?  Well, you’ll have to experiment.  Even if it means looking like a clown several times in the process until you’ve figured out your sense of color and pattern coordination.  So what works with a striped shirt?

Remember, the key with mixing two patterns is to vary the spacing between the patterns, if not necessarily the pattern itself.  Hence, with a striped shirt, you can wear a striped tie, as long as the proportions differ. 

With a narrow striped shirt, a wider blocked stripe tie with the appropriate color combination will have you looking dapper without breaking your head! Conversely, a wider striped shirt would be well complemented by a narrower striped tie.

The Dark Knot Tip: If you are mixing pattern types, polka dot ties and abstracts that are more widely spaced apart will sit well against a narrowly striped shirt.  Conversely, smaller motifs such as animal motif prints or more intricate abstract patterns will pair up better with a wider striped shirt. 

With slightly more experience, you will be able to see that varying the proportion of the pattern makes a significant difference in your ensemble’s overall aesthetic. 

By wearing a wider spaced tie, such as polka dot or geometric foulard silk tie, against a finely striped shirt, you will be able to see a discernable difference in how the tie stands out, versus say a small intricate abstract design against a narrowly striped shirt, even if the color coordination has been spot on.

If you are looking for ties that match your striped shirts, The Dark Knot's filtered search tool is extremely valuable for finding ties that match various shirt patterns. This tool can be accessed at with our tie collection page.

Burgundy & Silver Polka Dot Silk Tie

The Dark Knot's Newport Dots Burgundy / Silver Silk Tie pops off perfectly against this finely striped shirt!


Checkered Shirts

With a checkered shirt, given that a large portion of checkered shirts on the market are smaller checked, like gingham, your best option is to opt for an abstract with wide spacing such as a polka dot tie or a wider, blocked striped tie.  With a wider checked shirt such as a window pane, you are best off opting for a smaller abstract or motif tie.

If you are looking for ties that match your checkered shirts, The Dark Knot's filtered search tool is extremely valuable for finding ties that match various shirt patterns. This tool can be accessed at with our tie collection page.

Small Checkered Shirt with Pink Striped Tie

The Dark Knot's Wilton Stripes Pink w/ Blue Striped Tie sits perfectly against this small blue and pink checkered shirt, as the pattern spacing of the striped tie is much wider than the small pattern spacing of the checkered shirt!

Feel free to view The Dark Knot's video on Matching Ties Patterns to your Suits and Shirts:


So to summarize:

  1. Pick a tie with a hint of the shirt color in it, to help bring the ensemble together.
  2. If your shirt is a medium to light color, always opt for a tie that is a shade darker than the shirt so that it doesn’t get lost in the ensemble.
  3. Use color wheels to determine whether you want strikingly opposing colors on the wheel (complementary), colors that provide contrast without being too strong (triadic) or colors that provide less contrast and more familiarty (similar and monochromatic color schemes).
  4. When mixing and matching two patterns, ensure that the patterns are of different proportion.  So a thin striped shirt should be matched with a wider, block striped tie, polka dot tie or a well spaced apart abstract design.
  5. When pairing a patterned tie with a checkered shirt, opt for a non-checkered tie as it will be overwhelming
  6. The best suggestion for pairing two patterns together is to scale up the size of the pattern e.g thin striped shirt with a wider spaced abstract tie, or a small checkered shirt with a wider spaced abstract or striped tie.  If the shirt design is widely spaced, an intricate tie design such as animal motif prints or closely constructed abstract design can work well too.

Thank you for having read this article!  I hope you have found it informative, and that you have had as much fun reading it as I did writing it!

Are you looking for a range of essential, go to ties that you can wear throughout the week, whether its for daily work, an important meeting, a presentation or date night?!? Please feel free to view our Essential Tie Collection.

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