Color Coordinating Your Suits, Shirts and Ties


It is often said that nothing looks as great on a man as a well-fitted suit. However, many often forget that there are certain other elements, namely the shirt and the tie, that contribute to the way the suit sits on a man.

Men, typically, tend to wear suits to formal or upscale events. It is during times like these that they have the most trouble with adding the right clinchers to finish off the look in style. While figuring these things out shouldn’t be a fretful concern, most men have a tough time picking out complementary styles, colors and patterns.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Men need not stick to wearing the same suit-tie- shirt combination day after day and forever be stuck in the safe zone. That said, we don’t mean that putting these elements together haphazardly will be of any help.

What will work in your favor is finding a balance, and a combination that successfully reflects your personality and lifestyle. You need to figure out how to coordinate colors. Keeping the following pointers in mind at the time of putting your ensemble together should help you do that.

Subtlety Works

We’re all aware of the popular adage that propagates keeping things simple. This can work in your favor as you will rarely go wrong if you do so. While pulling out a few stops and being a little flamboyant every now and then can do you well, make sure you don’t overdo it. Always remember, simplicity is, was and always will be in style.

Light and Dark

This one is a simple and a foolproof combination and an all-time fashion favorite. Ties should be darker than the shirts and vice versa.

Size Does Matter

The size of your tie should be in accordance with the size of the collar of your shirt. Avoid wearing ties that are too small, skinny, wide or long.


It is always advisable not to mix patterns that are similar or equal in size. On the other hand, mixing large patterns with smaller ones tastefully will make for a visually appealing combination.


Once you’ve registered the above, understanding the concept of matching clothing items should seem relatively easy. Mentioned ahead are a few rules you always need to adhere to when matching shirts and ties.

When in doubt about the kind of shirt to wear, go white. White shirts work well with almost any tie.

Irrespective of how wonderfully you match your suit and tie, an awkward shirt will immediately make you look out of place. The following tips may help:

-Brown ties go well with light tan shirts.

-Burgundy or navy blue ties look good with light pink shirts.

-When wearing red, burgundy, yellow or navy ties, pair them with light blue shirts for maximum effect.

-In case of striped shirts, figure out their base color and coordinate with ties accordingly. Do ensure that the stripes on the shirt are in keeping with the stripes/patterns on the tie.

-To accentuate your solid, bold-colored ties, wear them with dark-colored suits.

-When wearing patterns, make sure that the sizes across your suit, shirt and tie are different. Nothing looks weirder than an attire with a similar pattern on every layer.

It’s time to delve a bit deeper and understand exactly how to coordinate colors in clothes.

The Dress Shirt

The dress shirt is one garment that you would want to match perfectly with your tie. That’s because once the suit jacket is off, the dress shirt is the singular surface upon which the tie would rest. A clash in the colors here would be disastrous and impossible to hide.

The easiest shirts to match are those in solid colors. As already mentioned, white shirts serve as a neutral base and can match any color. Light blue hues come a close second. Apart from these, off-white and pastel-colored shirts are easy to match.

Shirts in these shades are typically worn to black-tie and other formal events. So whether you’re looking to attend an official dinner party or wondering how to coordinate colors for a wedding or a similar important occasion, stick to the basic shirts and you will do well.

When wearing striped shirts, avoid matching similarly-sized stripes. When trying to work out the right difference between the size of the stripes on your shirt and tie, simply go for another tie without wasting time.

When it comes to wearing checks, try and match the informal/formal tone of the tie with the shirt. Club, foulard and paisley ties will work well, and so will solid wool knitted ties with square ends. With practice, you should be able to combine more advanced patterns with various-sized checks.

Apart from that, use your common sense and avoid wearing color combinations that are either too loud, too dull, or those that make you look pale.

The Suit

Dark, solid-colored suits, particularly gray and navy blue, go well ties in almost all colors. It is quite easy to match them as most tie manufacturers assume that they will, most likely, be worn with a suit in either of the two colors. If you have already matched the shirt to the tie, either a gray or a navy suit will complement your overall outfit.

An exception to this is when you wear ties in darker shades of blue with dark grey or black suits. While some can carry off such a combination with élan, such ties should ideally be worn with navy blue, blue or suits in lighter colors as that way, the color combination will seem more natural.

When combining a dark-colored tie with a dark gray or black suit, go for one in deep shades of purple and red.

Light-colored suits look great with dark-colored ties as the contrast complements the entire ensemble very well. Sometimes, pastel-colored ties look good too. Ties in bright colors such as red, orange, yellow and pink should be avoided.

When wearing pinstripe suits, remind yourself of the original rule related to wearing stripes i.e. garments with the same pattern should not be paired together. If you’re wearing a pinstripe suit with a think butcher stripe shirt, for example, you will do well to team it with a dotted or a foulard tie for a sharp look.


Mixing and matching colors and patterns are an art as well as a science. The above guidelines should go a long way in helping your master the basic principles involved in doing so successfully. Put them to good use and strut your stuff confidently. Once you get comfortable with them, you can go on to experiment and create more winning combinations for yourself.