Become a master with some simple steps.
Pairing ties and pocket squares is an art that – when executed well – provides a wonderful playground for self-expression in an otherwise uniform outfit. Making a good combination of patterns and colours seems a very daunting task to many men (I get questions about it regularly!), but it is actually a rather simple undertaking that boils down to one thing: harmony.
Colour Matching: A Harmonious Clash
If you are familiar with the colour wheel, it is your friend here. Your tie and pocket square should be a harmonious clash, and the quickest way to this is not to match the primary colours, but to match secondary colours and have the primary colour of one accessory be a complementary colour to the other. For an example, let us look at two pictures from John Rainier (thedressedchest on Instagram):
In the left image, the tie has pink as the primary colour and blue as the secondary colour. The pocket square is the reverse, and it works nicely. In the right image, the tie is a solid brown. The pocket square uses brown as a secondary colour, and a selection of earthy tones which are all complementary colours.
In terms of colour coding, it really is that simple: keep your primaries different, match one or more secondaries to the other accessory’s primary and make sure the colours complement each other.
Something else you can do is match your pocket square colour to your shirt, so long as your tie is visibly different to your shirt. John does a good example here:
You will also have seen this example on many, many men: the classic example of a plain white pocket square in a presidential fold to accompany a formal suit. The uniform of black tie events:
This can be slightly more difficult than pairing colours, but it is still rather simple with some guidelines that help simplify the choice. You can choose to have either the same pattern across tie and square, or utilise different patterns. The way to arrange your accessories slightly differs depending on your choice:
You may elect to have the same pattern on your tie and pocket square; for instance, say you have decided on paisley. In this case, simply make sure one accessory has a larger pattern than the other.
Let us say you have decided on a gingham tie but you want a floral pattern on your pocket square. In this case, the way to make it work is to make each pattern a different size.
Putting It All Together
For an example, take this previous combination of mine:
I complicated matters one step further by wearing a patterned shirt. The patterns on the shirt, tie and pocket square all differ; because of this the transitions are smooth and there is a harmonious clash.
Colour wise, the tie has red for a primary colour while the pocket square has red for a secondary. There are blues for both secondaries, and there is blue in the pattern of the shirt too. This makes for a smooth transition between all three patterns. The yellow of the pocket square is complementary to blue and red, which creates the harmonious clash we are looking for.
Next up for me: a better fitting jacket.
You Can Mix Plains with Patterns Too
It does not all have to be about patterns. You can also match a patterned tie with a plain colour pocket square or vice versa, just follow the harmonious clash idea. In this case the purple and white pattern played nice with the orange. The sweater provided a solid ground for the transition.
Not keen on wearing a pocket square at all?
You could just say stuff it and use the breast pocket for your iPhone…
A Parting Word: Avoid the Pre-packaged Tie and Pocket Square Set
The cardinal sin of accessorising is to have your tie and pocket square exactly matching. There is no better way to broadcast ‘I am clueless and I bought this as a matching set because it looked like a good deal’ than to have your tie and square cut from identical cloth.
That’s all for today!
Thanks for reading. I hope this takes the rocket science out of the equation!