Here at Leviner Wood, we are constantly being asked about coordinating ties and shirts with suits and sportcoats. So today we introduce Prof. Roy G. Biv, a man who rides the spectrum, a guy who knows his colors and isn’t afraid to use them. He will pass along a few tips on what goes with what and what you should avoid under most circumstances.
We say most because sometimes it is an advantage to look a little under the weather and other times that Aloha shirt really can be appropriate. As an example, we cite Mr. Woody Allen.
But onto the good Dr.’s pearls of wisdom. There is a reason that we have adopted blue and gray as the most typical colors in business dress. Most men look good in both. Cary Grant wore navy blue, dark gray and, later when his hair went silver, lighter gray with white shirts and a light silver-blue tie to great effect. The whole taken together was a big arrow pointing right at his famous, tanned and very Cary Grant face. Dressing in neutrals and even monochromatically may not be earth shaking, but it can be very sophisticated and solid shirts, most often white or pale blue, are considered the most formal (and safest to wear.)
But let’s say that you wake up one day and discover that your custom created suits and shirts, although perfectly fitted and appropriate to any situation, are all charcoal gray, white and navy, like those in which our man above is unfailing found. You decide that a little color, a little fun, just something different for God’s sake, would be nice. After all, while your custom clothing bespeaks quiet elegance, there is nothing wrong with standing out from the pack every once in a while.
You’ve got to hand it to that fellow above, he will be the best dressed prisoner in the yard. But there is a lot to take away from that photo. Notice the subtle match of the blue overcheck in the brown trouser with the blue shirt with contrasting collar and the burgundy and blue tie. He is using complimentary colors from the color wheel that work well next to each other. That’s the reason that your olive cords look great with that orange cashmere sweater vest and that Lauren is fetching in our brown heather cashmere number worn with blue jeans. (Our shipment of sweaters is here!)
So that’s the first hint: stick to complementary colors and neutrals at the beginning. Here’s a brief listing using the common sportcoat/suit colors of blue and gray for your reference. Study it carefully, although it is only good for extra credit questions.
A blue blazer/suit can be easily worn with a shirt of white, blue, yellow or pink. You’ll know if the shirt color is right for you by standing in the sunlight and holding it next to your face. If it washes you out and makes you look like you work far too hard like Mr. Allen above, it’s the wrong color.
Choose a base accent color in the tie of blue, gold, yellow, burgundy, red or purple. Wondering if the tie and shirt match? Trust your eyes or head for the nearest floral department — if the florist put them together, they work. (Even a blue blazer, red sweater, purple stripe shirt, solid navy tie? Yes, but only for creative types or weekends out. Jeff wore most of this the other day and looked great.)
A grey suit or gray based sportcoat can be worn with white, gray, yellow, pink, lavender or blue shirts. Compliment the shirt with a tie that has as its base (and most prevalent) color: black, white, gray, green, blue-green, burgundy, navy, or any primary or pastel color.
Here’s a basic color wheel to start you off. Just remember that wearing two primary colors together gets to be a bit much. (Christmas green and red for example.) Instead think of contrast first and complimenting with an accent color next.