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The Approach to “Do these go together?”

“No.”

That’s usually the answer to that question. Having quality clothing is the first major hurdle in putting together a nice wardrobe. The old t-shirts, acid washed jeans and awful hoodies have all been exorcised from your closet (or at least mostly.) and you’ve replaced it with the right stuff. Dark denims, button ups, new plan tees and some sport coats.

But now what? Now you have a closet full of nice things and a single all consuming question burning a hole in your soul. “Does this go with that?”

Though question that doesn’t have an easy answer. Patterns and colors are tricky, a lot trickier I think than just making the right purchases. But if you can master the pairing of patterns, colors and styles you’re going to save yourself a lot money and time in the future.

See a lot of people go out and buy outfits. Maybe they seen something a mannequin was wearing or a model from a catalog and they pick up that exact combination of clothing. That’s not the problem. I do that. Everyone does that. You take your inspiration where you can. The problem is when you don’t know what to do with that outfit you bought after the first wearing. The pieces you bought should be able to mix with out items. Not every thing in your closet but it certainly should be able to work with a handful of them at least.

 (Hmm, I wonder who could best help me illustrate that point. Oh… I know, annoying celebrity and hipster troll Russell Brand. Look at the cowboy boots paired with hipster uniform. The skinny pant legs are choking to death on the boots. That sort of outfit screams for a dressed down shoe. Katy Perry, i’m so sorry this happened. I’d be happy to comfort you, make out with you. Whichever.)

The time and money savings come into play when you master the use of color and pattern. Now when you make a purchase you know exactly what it can work with and what it won’t. You can key in on items that will benefit things you already have.

 (This will be the best purchase you ever make. Doesn’t have to be J.Crew. It just has to look like this. It goes with anything. It instantly dresses up any outfit. If you have spare money in your pocket and don’t own something like this then you know what your next purchase should be.)

But how does it all work you ask? Big question with no easy answer. All I can do is explain what works for me and how I go about doing it.

Step One- Who are you?

Without going into great lengths about how a person develops a personal sense of style let me just ask you this: what do you like? When you see a person and comment to yourself about how good their outfit looks what is it that you are looking at?

Who are you? What do you like?

That’s the most important step in my opinion. You can’t put an outfit together that you’re happy with if you don’t know what you like?

Step Two- Inspiration

Great style, just like any art, isn’t born in a vacuum. You need to feed your creativity and creativity loves nothing more that a plateful of other people’s creativity.

Here are a few things I do for inspiration:

*Skim catalogs- People get paid to put together eye appealing combinations.

*Wander the mall- You get lots of people into a relatively small space so you can see a lot styles on actual humans. Also, you get to see what your clothing options are first hand and try them on.

*Attack the blogs- Fashion and style blogs do a lot of the footwork for you. Since it’s kind of our hobby to scope out the new styles and trends you can always turn to us to find out what’s happening. I have a great blogroll on this site of all the people I trust regarding style. Check them out too.

*Celebrities- I’m not saying that you need to follow what every celebrity does every minute of every day like a creepy Perez Hilton type. What I’m suggesting is that there are probably one or two celebrities that come to mind when you think of people with good style. Don’t think of it as following the fashion of any particular person. Because realistically a lot of what they wear is out of an everyday price range. But there are affordable equivalents and if nothing else at least you can see how they’re pairing things up and be inspired by that.  People that come to mind when I think great male fashion are James Franco, Justin Timberlake, James Dean, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dennis Hopper and the list goes on. I’m not copying their style, I’m inspired by it.

*Women- I’ve said it before. It’s been said by my fellow style bloggers like Barron over at Effortless Gent and Megan Collins over at Style Girlfriend is a living breathing example of it. Women have been raised to instinctive do things with patterns and colors that men do not know how to do. There are a lot of reasons to pay attention to women. There is no color that strictly belongs to them alone. You’ll look great in any color if you wear it right. By looking at well-dressed women you get the chance to see what colors look well with each other. Also, women are just beautiful. So that works in your favor too.

(There is not a single thing wrong with what’s happening in this picture. Nothing should stop a man from finding himself in the same color pairings she has on.) 

Step Three- The Hard Part

(I’m mean, its not as hard as bull’s eyeing womp rats back home in your T-16. But you’ll look ace if you pull this off too.)

Now you have to put it together. And this is where color and pattern can seem intimidating. Let’s talk about color first.

You hopefully know by this point what colors you like and which ones you don’t. With that in mind there are certain things to consider regarding the colors you’ve picked.

*Complexion- In my opinion it’s not that critical but it’s worth taking into consideration. Your skin is going to look a certain way against the clothes you put on. Pale skin looks best against earth tones because it adds warmth. It looks exaggerated when paired with hard contrasting colors like black or super strong vibrant tones of just about any color. This is where people come up with labels for you and say things like “You’re a summer”. Honestly, I’ve always felt you’ll look best in the color that makes you feel the most confident. Complexion is worth mentioning but I don’t take it that seriously.

 (If you happen to be a vampire or have any plans of taking your life in that direction these shirts are not for you. Also, I hate Express.) 

*Analogous and Complimentary Colors- I’ve mentioned the Color Wheel before. It’s a pretty helpful tool to get an immediate rough idea of what colors will pair up or contrast the way you want.

Complimentary colors are colors that have opposite hues to each other. They stand out against each other. For example if you picked up some dark purple chinos and you want a color for the shirt that will really stand out and be noticed you could pick yellow. Little less contrast for you; do orange or green for the shirt.

Analogous colors are, basically, ones that have similar hues and thus blend well instead of stand out. Hipsters do it all the time with shades of brown and earth tones.

*Patterns- I’m only going to talk about the most basic two patterns a guy will wear for simplicity sake.

Stripes are basically just vertical lines running up and down your shirt. If the shirt has more than three colors I’d be nervous about using it. Too many colors and it gets problematic to match the whole outfit together. Pay attention to the color of the stripes. The colors you see there are the ones that you’re going to work the outfit around. Target one of the colors and match your tie, pocket square, suit jacket or whatever else you want with that color. That’s how you make a shirt with multiple colored stripes work. It has to be part of the outfit. It has to fit in and the rest of your clothes do that by finding a common thread with the shirt and pulling it in.

 (The reason your brain is reacting the way it is to what Macy’s did here is because their floor team chose to bring out the white in this outfit rather than make the colors work together. The vest just reinforces the fact that this shirt is too busy.) 

But what doesn’t work is wearing other clothes that have a lined pattern to them with the striped shirt. The lines will either match up too perfectly creating an odd visual or they will end up disjointed and make for a confusing pattern to look at.

Something else to consider with stripes is that they accentuate the shape of your body. People say they help slim you and add length to your body. True, but all those lines are going to be running over your body and if you don’t like the shape of your frame stripes are only going to show it off more. If you do like your frame then stripes will help show that off too.

The other popular basic pattern is Gingham. It’s a checkered pattern that usually consists of white, some color and a lighter version of that same color. I prefer this pattern over stripes. I find it more visually appealing.  It works on the same principle as stripes, wear items that will bring out the colors. There are just less colors to deal with. The only thing to be careful with when wearing Gingham is ties and jackets. You can, if you want, wear checked ties and jackets with a Gingham shirt but you have to avoid letting the size of the checks match between the two items. If they do they blend into each other and outfits become jarring to look at when it’s not clear where one item starts and the next ends. I would only go so far as a checked tie though. I keep the outer wear solid when wearing Gingham.

 (Here’s a dapper fellow wearing a very subtle checked sport coat with a Gingham shirt. It’s all brought together nicely by the ceramic golden knight’s head he’s drinking out of.) 

One of the easiest things you can do is skipping having a pattern on your shirt all together. Let the shirt be a solid color and use patterns in your outer wear and accessories. I find that a little bit of pattern stands out even more when put against a solid canvas. Same rules apply, bring out the colors in the pattern, keep it simple and don’t let patterns get lost within each other.

(Red and off white tie bringing it all together while I defend humanity from this vicious Pine Tree’s lurid advances. No mean’s no Pine Tree. Keep your branches to yourself!) 

But that’s just some basic guidelines I follow when putting my outfits together. They help me be consistent and keep me on target for having the most versatile wardrobe possible. My approach to colors and patterns has served me well. I’d love to hear yours.

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