How to Mix & Match Patterns in Men's Clothing

When you put together an outfit, you likely use some degree of color matching. White shirt, blue pants. Green pants, khaki jacket. But what happens when you need to mix and match patterns? After all, you don’t want the patterned clothes you have to go to waste simply because you always have to pair them with solid colors. But, you don’t want to clash, either. Here’s exactly how to mix and match patterns in men’s clothing.

Know Your Patterns and How They Typically Match

It starts with knowing what constitutes as a “pattern,” and how these patterns typically look in your outfit. Let’s lay that groundwork right now:

  • Solid. Really, it’s not a pattern, but it’s worth mentioning here as a good “foundation” upon which you can build other pattern matches because of its neutralizing effect.
  • Plaid. This is a complex pattern of lines—both thin and thick—that form various squares. With plaid, it’s vital that you step back from the piece and get a sense of the overall color being presented. Keep in mind that plaid patterns tend to use lines to blend colors together and create “new” colors. You can largely ignore these when it comes to matching, as a rule of thumb.
  • Checks. These are somewhat similar to plaid in that they utilize a repeating crisscross pattern, and similar rules apply.
  • Stripes. This is one of the most basic patterns. Try to gauge what looks like the solid color “underneath” the stripes, as this will be your cue for matching the piece.
  • Floral. Floral patterns are ornate, evocative, and very difficult to match because they will contrast with just about anything else you wear. Try to only match these with subtle patterns.
  • Dots. Speaking of subtle patterns, dots can be very subtle depending on their size, which makes them quite versatile. For example, “whale” or marine-style dotted patterns give the overall appearance of being a “solid” piece. For this reason, dots can be a highly versatile option for matching with other patterns.

The Rules of Matching Patterns

Matching patterns is all about contrast and complement. If you can achieve a balance between the two, you can pair almost any two patterns. Here are some rules of thumb for doing just that:

  • Contrast subtle and expressive. Florals, plaids, and madras patterns tend to be highly expressive. If you want to both contrast and complement these pieces with another pattern, it would be best done with a more subtle piece, such as a thin stripe Henley.

  • Patch the basic colors. Ornate patterns can have lots of colors, but there will still be one overall “theme” to the piece. That color theme is what you want to use as your direction for matching. For example, the light green-blue theme of these Patch Madras Shorts works well with white.

Shop Patterns from Vintage 1946

Now that you know how to mix and match patterns in men’s clothing, it’s time to update your wardrobe! Start matching your patterns by browsing the collections here at Vintage 1946.