One of the keys to having a good sense of style is effective pattern mixing. The fact is that most men simply don’t know much about patterns, let alone how to mix and match them. That’s why in this 2 part series I want to introduce you to the topic of pattern mixing so that you can begin to put together aesthetically pleasing ensembles all on your own.
In part 1 of this article I will discuss some of the more common kinds of patterns that you will find in menswear. This will by no means be an exhaustive list, but it will contain many of the patterns that you are likely to encounter. Then, in part 2 of this series I will discuss how you can mix and match these patterns effectively to add some sartorial punch to your outfits.
Let us begin.
Patterns are an effective (and simple) way for you to inject some personal flair into your wardrobe. Whether it is a subtle pinstripe suit or a pair of loud madras shorts, patterns can say a lot about you and your personality. Depending on the type of patterns you choose and how you combine them, you can give off a vibe of subdued refinement to unabashed ostentatiousness and everything in between. Although there are almost an infinite number of different patterned garments out there, the following categories I have outlined represent the major types of patterns you will see in menswear:
Stripes are probably one of the most basic patterns you will see in menswear and they can come in a dizzying array of varieties. Here are some of the more common ones you will run into:
This pattern consists of vertical stripes of equal width in a solid colour that can alternate on white or a different colour. The vertical stripes themselves are approximately 1/4 of an inch in width. You will typically find this pattern on dress shirts but they can also be included on casual shirts as well.
This pattern consists of extremely thin (less than 1/18 of inch) vertical stripes of equal width. The spacing between the stripes themselves can vary considerably. Pinstripes are commonly found on suits but can also be found on dress shirts.
As the name suggests, this pattern is found on traditional rugby shirts and jerseys. The pattern consists of horizontal stripes in alternating colours. Although traditional jerseys have 5 or 6 stripes, modern renditions can come in many more stripes or no stripes at all.
This one is actually a bit of a misnomer as “Repp Stripe” technically isn’t a pattern. Repp actually refers to a subtly raised weave of silk, with the pattern of woven stripes being optional. However, it is common to call a diagonal pattern of stripes on a tie “Repp Stripe” so that’s why I’ve included it here. Technically, diagonal striped ties are going to be English or American Regimental Striped Ties or College Striped Ties.
Other types of stripes that I did not mention include: chalk stripes, candy stripes, hairlines stripes, dress stripes and awning stripes just to name a few. Didn’t I say that stripes can come in a dizzying array of varieties? For a more detailed examination check out this excellent link over at Ask Andy About Clothes: http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/forum/showthread.php?86994-Common-Shirt-Stripes-Defined
Next to stripes, dots are probably a pattern that most men are familiar with. Although you are more likely to see dots on things like ties and pocket squares, there has been a recent trend of including this pattern on casual button up shirts. Here are some of the common dot patterns you will see in menswear:
A pin dot is a geometric pattern of very small tiny repeating dots. This pattern is usually found on neckties, but as I mentioned above this pattern has now become popular on casual button up shirts as well.
Bird’s eye is an extremely subtle dot-like pattern. In fact, from a distance you wouldn’t be able to tell that the pattern consists of a sequence of tiny (albeit conjoined) dots. This pattern is excellent for adding texture to neutral coloured suits and blazers. Nailhead is another pattern that is similar to Bird’s Eye.
A polka dot pattern consists of larger (think dime sized) dots arranged in neat or scattered fashion. This pattern is common for ties and pocket squares, although much like the pin dot pattern, it is becoming more common to include them on casual button up shirts.
Checks are a pattern of vertical and horizontal lines forming squares of various sizes. Much like stripes, checks can come in many different varieties with as many different names. Here are some of the more common check patterns you will run into:
Gingham is a checkerboard pattern that is distinguished by even-sized checks of a single colour on a white canvass. This is a classic and versatile pattern for dress shirts and casual button up shirts.
Also known as “Glenurquhart Check”, this pattern consists of vertical and horizontal lines forming both large and small checks. This pattern is usually created with more muted tones and generally consists of two dark and two light colours alternated with each other. This is a classic pattern for suits.
Also known as “Madrasi Checks”, this pattern and fabric originates in India and consists of different coloured stripes running horizontally and vertically, forming uneven sized checks. This pattern is noted for its loud colours and since the fabric consists of light weight cotton, it is most amenable for the summer season. Madras patterned shorts have become quite popular over the past few years.
Some check patterns that I did not mention include: windowpane, tattersall, tartan plaid, mini-check, and graph check just to name a few. To learn about more check patterns check out (heh) the following link: http://www.alexander-west.com/styleguide/?p=288
The following are some other popular menswear patterns that didn’t neatly fall into one of the 3 categories described above. They are the following:
Also known as dogstooth, this pattern is usually woven with wool and consists of jagged, four-pointed shapes (most often in black and white). While houndstooth is technically an irregular “check” pattern, it is not readily identifiable as such to the casual observer and that’s why I have included it here. The houndstooth pattern is a classic in menswear and is commonly found on coats and jackets.
Herringbone is an alternating chevron pattern which resembles a sort of broken zigzag. The pattern is called herringbone because it resembles the skeleton of the herring fish. Much like houndstooth, this pattern is often woven using wool and is commonly found on coats, jackets, and suits.
Although the pattern itself originated in Persia and India, it is named after the Scottish town of Paisley. This pattern is distinguished by its droplet-shaped vegetable motif. The motif itself is actually a representation of the growing shoot of a date palm. This pattern is commonly found on neckties and pocket squares but can also be found on casual button up shirts.
Now that you’ve become acquainted with some of the major patterns that exist in menswear, you are now ready to learn how to mix and match them effectively. Be sure to check out part 2 of the article to learn more.