What did the hat say to the scarf?

What did the hat say to the scarf?

You go around while I go on ahead.

Q. Since I generally remove my coat and scarf before I start my work, I have never focused on whether they are coordinated. Having just received two nice bright scarves for Christmas, I now spend a minute of my morning trying to decide between my 4 choices. Does it matter, and assuming you’ll say yes, how can I decide quickly?

A. Because rules of color coordination are pretty much the same no matter what garments you are working with, it should be easy for you to decide quickly. Whether you are choosing what color shirt and tie to put together with your suit or blazer, or what color open-collared shirt looks best with your chinos, or which color scarf works with a topcoat, your thinking should be similar.

As a reminder, the rules for colors in your clothing are:

  • They all begin with one garment in a base color, and proceed to adding a second color that coordinates (goes well with) the base color;
  • They are all based on the concept of repeating a color (using the same color in more than one item in your combination);
  • If one garment is a pattern instead of a solid, make sure that at least one color in the pattern “picks up” (repeats) some color in the basic garment;
  • When working with three items – such as a shirt, a tie, and a jacket – the jacket is usually the base color, the shirt adds the second (often contrasting) color, and a print tie ideally ties it all together by repeating both colors;
  • It is best to feature no more than two colors in your mix.


Just as with men’s suits, topcoats and raincoats are generally a quiet, neutral color, most often navy, black, gray, or khaki. If your coat is one of these, almost every solid-colored scarf will work nicely with it, either in a contrasting color or in a lighter shade of the same color.

Popular scarf colors include all shades of the rainbow plus the neutrals: white, gray, tan, and black. While you literally can reach for any solid-color scarf and know it will work, some of my favorite color combinations include a white, light blue, or burgundy scarf with a navy coat; a red scarf with a black coat; a yellow or ivory scarf with a khaki trench coat.

Choosing a patterned scarf is only slightly more complicated. Here’s how. One color in the pattern should be a contrast to the basic coat color and one color should repeat the coat’s color.

As examples: a classic Burberry’s plaid scarf (khaki, black, and red plaid) would work especially well with either a khaki trench coat or a black topcoat. A blue-and-red paisley patterned scarf is a handsome accessory with a navy coat. A yellow-and black checkered scarf looks sharp with a gray coat.

Incidentally, any color other than black would look good with navy.

If you have a favorite color, this is the place to indulge in wearing it. Most men’s clothing is quite limiting as to color; well-dressed men do not wear suits in bold, eye-catching colors. But bright colors are totally acceptable in neckties, sweaters, and scarves. So, feel free to wear any bright or pastel color that you like or that you think looks good on you.

It takes little time to put together an edgy combination. So, if you want to step up your look with a coordinated coat and scarf mix, go for it. But the truth is, you really don’t need to give it much thought. As you say, you remove them both at work.

Unlike a mismatched or poorly-coordinated suit, shirt, and tie trio that everyone sees, I seriously doubt that anyone will notice. If you like the scarf, wear it.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

Categories: Male Call