They’ve gone to plaid

They’ve gone to plaid

Q. My wife got me some plaid shirts. What ties go with them?

A. Not every plaid shirt can (or, at least, should) be worn with a tie, but there are many that match nicely and create a good look. This is definitely the perfect time for those ever-useful knit ties that I am so fond of. The ties’ solid colors will not clash and often are the deeper shades that you find in the subtler lines of a plaid. Depending on the season, knit ties can be made of wool (in cold weather), cotton (in warm weather), or silk (all year ’round). Their informal style works well with the casual nature of almost every type of plaid shirt.

Other solid-color ties that are not knits and are made of silk, wool, cotton, or linen also work with plaid shirts when they are in keeping with the time of year and are not shiny or dressy. I know that men’s fashion magazines show plaid shirts worn with patterned neckties (sometimes even plaids with plaids!), but I urge you to show good judgment and avoid the many mistakes that accompany these overly busy combinations. They can sometimes work, but they involve perfect color matching, subtle tie patterns, and nothing that conflicts. I can see no good reason to tempt fate and look for possible trouble when it is so easy to stay with simple choices.

The fabric makes a big difference in plaid shirts, that is, whether it is a rough, casual flannel shirt or a dressier smooth cotton fabric. Flannel plaid shirts are not usually worn with a tie. They go best with very casual pants such as chinos and jeans in more informal or dress-down Friday settings. But smoother cotton plaid shirts can be dressed up with a tie and layered under a blazer/sports jacket.

The size of the plaid is another factor to consider. Large-scale plaids are always more casual and informal than small plaids. Then, too, there is one specific type of plaid shirt that is dressier than all the others, called a tattersall. It’s an overall pattern with thin lines of two or more colors, forming small squares, usually on a white background. When men complain that their clothes are boring and too much the same, I recommend that they look for interesting variations on the basics to insert into their wardrobes. Plaid shirts are a good start, and a tattersall plaid can be an excellent option.

Keep in mind that moving to the less formal does not mean dressing sloppily. Men who stand out from the crowd for being well dressed when they are “dressed up” are the same men who stand out for looking great when they are in casual clothes. To dress down your good-looking plaid shirt, you might wear khaki cotton pants, corduroys, or maybe well-kept jeans.

For a note of style while “dressing down,” don’t overlook the basic rules of color coordination. As a reminder, one of these rules is to repeat colors. If you want to wear a sweater with your plaid, it definitely needs to follow this rule, or be very neutral. To go with khaki pants, be on the lookout for a handsome plaid shirt that includes khaki as one of the colors in the plaid, or perhaps a bit of yellow or orange. They all look especially good with khakis. To be a bit dressier, but still casual, you can wear a plaid shirt that has some blue in the plaid with a blue blazer and well-tailored dress pants. Either look is great with a button-down collar plaid shirt, a casual tie, and well-polished loafers.

With the holidays coming up, plaid also is a very nice look for “casual neat” parties . . . on you, or for the ribbons on presents.

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