8 Shirt, Tie and Pocket Square Combinations that work and why

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How frustrating is it when you have elegant, refined articles of clothing in your wardrobe, but you have no idea how to pair them together. Where pattern, color, and heavenly forbid, textural considerations push you back further behind the start line.

As I have covered extensively with our blog, the notion of matching ties & accessories to your suits and shirts is part art, part science.  In this detailed article, I would like to provide inspiration by way of the countless dapper gentlemen that I have interacted with.  In each instance, we will go through the color, pattern, tonal and textural considerations that make their ensembles aesthetic and visually appealing.

But before we delve into that, I would just like to give you a quick summary of matching ties based on color, pattern, tonal and textural variations:


color wheel

When matching tie colors to suits and shirts, a color wheel serves as a great foundation. Color Wheels are largely divided into two camps: warmer colors, represented by orange, red and yellow, and cooler colors, represented by green, purple and blue.  Using this, we can create simpler color schemes that don’t involve a contrast of warm and cool colors, or we can use more sophisticated schemes where we are setting a warmer color against a cooler color, creating strong visual contrast that pops right off the wearer’s ensemble!

Monochromatic color scheme: The simplest of color schemes can also be one of the most elegant. A monochromatic color scheme involves pairing darker and lighter variants of the same color. An example would include pairing a darker blue tie against a lighter blue shirt.  This helps to create an elegant look without creating the contrast of a triadic or complementary color scheme (please see below).

Neutral Color Scheme: This involves largely choosing colors such as grey, brown, white and black that work with a multitude of colors and do not specifically provide more or less contrast with certain colors.

Similar Color Scheme: A relatively simple color scheme, this involves choosing colors that are adjacent to each other on a color wheel.  As an example, a light blue shirt can go really well with an olive green tie, or a purple tie can perfectly complement a blue shirt. These shirt and tie combinations can create visual interest without displaying stronger contrast, such as triadic and complementary color schemes.

Triadic Color Scheme: Now we are getting into bolder territory.  Triadic color schemes involve choosing shirt and tie combinations using triangles formed within the color wheel. Hence, blue, red and yellow form triadic color schemes, as do purple, green and orange.  While most will generally shy away from purple, green and orange, a blue, red and yellow color scheme is a great way to start experimenting more with color. Shirt and tie combination examples include a red or pink (red variant) tie with a blue shirt, or a mustard yellow tie with a blue shirt.

Complementary Color Scheme: The boldest of color schemes, a complementary color scheme involves choosing two colors that are diametrically across from each other on the color wheel.  Hence, an orange tie on a blue shirt provides strong visual interest and a huge element of contrast and pop!

Pattern Matching: The most important consideration when matching tie or pocket square patterns to your suits and shirts is pattern proportion. Hence, the spacing of the pattern on your tie or pocket square should be significantly different from that of your shirt or suit jacket. While one can start with larger patterns on their shirts and work their way down towards smaller spaced patterns with their ties and pocket squares, it is best advised to start with smaller patterns first, so as to create more visual interest. Examples of this include pairing a wider striped tie with a narrow striped shirt, or a shirt and tie combination including a larger spaced polka dot tie against a smaller, finely checkered shirt.

Tonal Considerations: An area not many stylists cover, tonality takes into account contrast within each item. Hence, a shirt with low tonality will display little contrast within the shirt, whereas one with high tonality will have two or three strong colors in one shirt. When matching ties or pocket squares to your suits and shirts, it generally looks more elegant to pair higher tonality accessories such as ties and pocket squares with a lower tonality shirt or suit. While wearing a higher tonal shirt and suit can work, an ensemble using lower tonal shirts and suits as a base will provide more contrast and a dapper look.

Textural Considerations: As with any other element of ensemble coordination, the goal here is to create contrast. While Silk Ties and Pocket Squares are the most prevalent in the marketplace, wool, cotton and linen accessories can help provide textural balance, in addition to being appropriate for the seasons!  Linen and cotton accessories exude an element of being airy, and are ideal for warmer months during the spring and summer seasons, while woolen accessories are heavier and more textured, with a somewhat subdued look, making them the perfect accessory for cooler months during Fall and Winter Seasons.

Example 1

Blue Chick Printed Silk Tie w/ Pocket Square

This blue and chick magnet motif works fantastically as it is a cross between a monochromatic and triadic color scheme.  The blue, red and yellow colored tie pattern provides for an intrinsic triadic scheme, while the blue background tie against the blue jacket and pocket square provides for a monochromatic shirt, tie, jacket and pocket square combination.

The pattern scheme works here, as the chick magnet motif of the tie pairs perfectly with the solid white shirt, with the subtle jacket pattern being well complemented by the floral patterned pocket square. Note that the floral pattern is different in type (pattern) and proportion (spacing), with the spacing contrasting with the smaller spaced chick magnet tie.

The low tonality of the shirt (white) helps to create significant contrast, with the higher contrast, visually intriguing tie popping right off the shirt. With respect to textural variation, the linen / cotton pocket square provides balance to the woolen suit, cotton shirt and silk tie!

The above ensemble creates a shirt, tie and accessories combination that is ideally suited towards the spring and summer months, for casual events such as the Kentucky Derby or a beach wedding!

Silk Tie: Amagansett Chicks, from The Dark Knot

Example 2

Woolen Plaid Tie, Paisley Pocket Square and Lapel Flower

This elegant ensemble pairs a bluish green tie against a white shirt and a grey suit. This forms a neutral color scheme, as grey and white are both neutral colors. However, the yellow and blue in the pocket square form part of a triadic color scheme with the tie, helping to provide contrast. The multi colored lapel flower helps to create a strong triadic color scheme, with mustard yellow, burgundy and navy providing fantastic contrast with the tie.

The subtle plaid pattern of the tie complements the solid shirt and grey jacket, while the heavier patterned pocket square helps to provide balance.

While the tonality of the shirt, tie and suit jacket are lower, the slightly heavier tonality of the pocket square and strong tonality of the lapel flower provide this ensemble with an elegant, yet strong look. The pocket square and lapel flower color schemes add enough intrigue to offset the more muted tie, shirt and jacket combinations!

Texturally, the woolen plaid tie sits well against the shirt, presumably woolen jacket, silk pocket square and felt textured lapel pin!

The above colors, patterns and textures form an ensemble that can be worn year around, across a range of settings and functions!

Lapel Flower: Amherst multicolored, from The Dark Knot


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Example 3

Blue Foulard Tie, Black Paisley Silk Pocket Square and Black Felt Lapel Flower

This elegant suit, shirt, tie & accessories combination pairs a blue tie against a white and lighter grey shirt and suit, providing for a neutral look with some pop. The black, grey and white pocket square helps to round off the ensemble, as does the black lapel flower with white trimmings, which perfectly complements the white background of the shirt and the lighter shade of the suit! (Sometimes, the tiniest details can help accentuate an outfit, such as they grey shade in the pocket square and the white trimming on the lapel flower!)

From a pattern standpoint, while I do believe that this outfit would look better with a plain white or very subtle patterned shirt, the solid lapel flower and the pattern spacing of the paisley silk pocket square contrasts extremely well with the tie, shirt and suit, with the solid lapel flower providing a classy finishing touch!

While the tonality of the shirt could be lower, the higher tonality tie and pocket square really complement the lower tonality suit jacket and lapel flower, providing for a great aesthetic balance.

Texturally, the lighter colored linen jacket and cotton shirt are ideally complemented by the silk tie, silk pocket square and felt textured lapel flower.  The above factors result in an ensemble with a shirt, tie and accessories combination that is ideally suited towards the summer months.

Silk Tie: Darien Novelty Squares Blue, from The Dark Knot

Pocket Square: Mamaroneck Paisley, from The Dark Knot

Lapel Flower: Amherst Black / White, from The Dark Knot

Example 4

Pink Striped Skinny Silk Tie w/ Linen Pocket Square

This combination provides for an elegant triadic /monochromatic color scheme, with the blue pocket square perfectly complementing the pink tie (triadic) and navy jacket (monochromatic color scheme). The light blue pocket square with stronger royal blue hand rolled contrasting edges provide for an elegant finishing touch.

The striped tie pattern sits perfectly against this solid white shirt and navy blue jacket, with the logo from the pocket square providing aesthetic balance to the rest of the outfit! Note that the fold of the Pocket Square, with a four point fold, helps to create more visual interest and intrigue.

With respect to tonality, this shirt, tie and accessories combination works well, with a stronger tonal tie sitting against a low tonal (white shirt), low tonal jacket and a low tonal pocket square.

Texturally, this silk tie is complemented by the cotton shirt, cotton jacket and linen pocket square.

The above ensemble has a shirt, tie and accessories combination that can work well in a formal work setting or a casual setting, preferably during the spring and summer months, given the lighter pink and blue pastel hues of the tie and pocket square.

Silk Tie: Avon Stripes Skinny Silk Tie, from The Dark Knot

Example 5

Blue Silk Tie, Grey Linen Pocket Square and Felt Lapel Flower

This exquisite ensemble is the epitome of a triadic color scheme. The solid blue silk tie pairs perfectly with this reddish / burgundy jacket (remember, red, yellow and blue form part of a triadic color scheme on the color wheel). Additionally, this is complemented by the lapel flower, further accentuating the triadic color scheme, with the pink, burgundy and blue hues. The pocket square provides a neutral look, with the shades of blue in the pocket square further complementing the color scheme. The white contrasting hand rolled edges of the pocket square provide further sophistication.

From a pattern stand point, the solid tie fits in well against the solid shirt and jacket, with the paisley / foulard pocket square motif providing pattern variation.

Regarding tonality, the higher tonal pocket squares and lapel flowers contrast nicely with the single tone shirt, ties and jacket.

Texturally, the linen pocket square and felt lapel flower provide great contrast with the silk tie, cotton shirt and jacket.

The above pieces provide for a great spring / summer ensemble to be worn during the day, the next horse racing meet or your friends beach wedding.

Pocket Square: Baldwin Abstract Grey w/ Blue, from The Dark Knot

Lapel Flower: Concord, Burgundy, Blue, from The Dark Knot


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Example 6

Navy Knitted Silk Tie and Grey Linen Pocket Square

This exquisite ensemble provides for an extremely elegant, yet refined look. The blue knitted silk tie, white shirt and navy blue plaid suit combination provide for the perfect monochromatic look, with the blue tie sitting well against the larger plaid navy suit. The paisley / foulard motif pocket square adds a neutral element with the grey, but the hints of blue add to the monochromatic look.

From a pattern standpoint, this ensemble works extremely well.  The solid knitted silk tie, and shirt provide a minimalistic base, with the navy plaid suit perfectly working up in pattern scale from the solid items below. The paisley / foulard motif pocket square provides pattern variation and proportion against the wider spaced navy plaid suit.

Regarding tonality, the tie stands out against the plain shirt, with the higher tonality pocket square contrasting nicely with the medium tonality suit.

Texturally, this piece is a masterclass, with the knitted silk tie, linen pocket square, woolen suit and cotton shirt all providing balancing elements to a texturally balanced tie, shirt, suit and pocket square combination.

This is an ideal look to pull off at a wedding or cocktail reception, or the next dinner party you are attending. Replace the knitted silk tie with a regular silk tie and you can also wear this outfit to the office (though it would lose some of its charm without the knitted tie!).

Linen Pocket Square: Baldwin Grey w/ Blue, from The Dark Knot

Example 7

Burgundy Foulard Silk Tie and Blue Linen Floral Pocket Square

This extremely dapper, classy ensemble serves up the perfect triadic color scheme.  The burgundy tie and blue shirt combination reflect a triadic scheme (burgundy is a darker variant of red), with the blue pocket square (with burgundy hand rolled contrasting edges) perfectly complementing this.

The floral patterned pocket square and foulard silk tie work very well with the solid blue shirt and black suit. The wider pattern proportion (spacing) on the pocket square adequately balances the smaller pattern proportion of the silk foulard tie.

Regarding tonality, the higher tonal pocket square (contrast between navy, light blue, white and burgundy elements) matches up well with the medium tonal tie and solid shirt and suit.

From a textural standpoint, this dapper outfit is a masterclass, with the linen pocket square, silk tie and metallic tie bar combination pairing up exquisitely against the cotton shirt and high quality woolen suit.

The above ensemble has created the perfect balance of shirt, suit, ties & accessories for year round wear. This elegant outfit can be worn to work daily, to a business presentation or meeting, a wedding / cocktail reception or on a night out with friends. The overall color and textural balance, combined with its elegance, lends to a versatile, year round look!

Silk Tie: Glastonbury Circles Burgundy, from The Dark Knot

Linen Pocket Square: Lake George Blue w White, from The Dark Knot


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Example 8

Grey w/ Red Foulard Silk Tie and Pink Linen Herringbone Pocket Square

This dapper ensemble provides for a beautiful monochromatic / neutral look. The grey and red foulard / floral silk tie provides for a neutral and monochromatic look, with the red(darker variant of pink) pairing perfectly against the pink shirt, and the grey providing a solid neutral match with the light grey shirt. The pinkish / burgundy pocket square contributes towards the elegant monochromatic look, as does the red lapel flower.

The foulard / abstract silk tie and pocket square combination pair perfectly against the solid light pink shirt and solid light grey suit, with the closely held herringbone pocket square pattern exquisitely balancing the wider spaced foulard / floral silk tie.

With respect to tonal considerations, the higher tonality tie complements the light solid shirt and the medium tonal pocket square.

Texturally, this shirt, suit and accessories combination provides a perfect balance, with the silk tie, linen pocket square and lapel flower sitting appropriately against the light cotton shirt and woolen suit.

The above ensemble can be worn year round and is highly versatile, but would look sublime during the spring and summer months given the lighter colored shirt and pocket square!

Silk Tie: Berkshire Grey w/ Red, from The Dark Knot

And that's a wrap for this detailed article. I hope you found this information helpful!

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