How to Coordinate a Shirt and Tie

How to Coordinate a Shirt and Tie

Many men tend to fall into one of two categories when it comes to coordinating their shirt and tie: They either play it safe (solid shirt, subtly patterned tie in a shade of the same color) or tend to be hopelessly uncoordinated (just because they are both blue, plaid doesn’t mean they match.) Judging by some of the looks sported in the typical office, many men need help making shirt and tie combinations.

Color Is King

Color is the biggest problem with most unfortunate shirt and tie combinations — as in, the colors clash, don’t coordinate, or are just too jarring to be considered attractive.

To combat this problem, turn to the color wheel. The colors on either side of one color are analogous; for example, green and purple are analogous to blue. The colors directly opposite are complementary, i.e., red contrasts with green and purple complements yellow. In general, you can’t go wrong if you choose a tie that has an analogous or complementary shade. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that your blue shirt will coordinate with your purple tie, since specific hues and shades can take a combination from “Wow!” to “Whoa” in no time.

You might need to experiment, then, to find the right color combination. Remember, your tie should always be at least a shade darker than your shirt. A blue shirt, therefore, would look great with a blue-purple, burgundy, or dark blue-green tie — but not a violet or light blue tie.

White Shirts: The Great Problem Solver

While you should always have a selection of dress shirts in a variety of neutrals, including blue and pink, white shirts are always a safe bet when it comes to choosing a tie. Almost any tie coordinates with a white shirt, and if you find a striped, plaid, or polka dot tie that you love but just can’t seem to make work with any of your shirts, a white shirt is a good choice.


No discussion of shirt and tie combinations is complete without talking pattern. When the pattern pairing is off, the whole look suffers. Just remember a few easy rules:

· Solid shirts: Anything goes — just remember the color rules.

· Striped shirts: Avoid ties with stripes of the same width. Choose a tie that has thicker or thinner stripes for contrast, or diagonal or horizontal stripes.

· Checked shirts: Your tie’s pattern should always be larger than the check pattern on the shirt. Large patterned shirts, such as tartans, are best paired with solid colored ties, while other patterns can work with gingham or windowpane plaid shirt; again, use the rules of color matching. Never wear a paisley or geometric print tie with a plaid shirt.

Coordinating shirt and tie combinations requires a bit of trial and error to discover your own style. If you follow the basic rules, though, you won’t make the most common mistakes — and will probably receive compliments on your shirt and tie combinations skills!