What ties go best with my new Armani suit?

What ties go best with my new Armani suit?

Q. I took your advice and bought a suit for the fall now when prices are lower. So now I have an extremely fine Armani double-breasted suit of black-and-white houndstooth check. What I don’t know is what ties should I wear with it, and what shirts beyond white can I wear with it? (I don’t know if it matters, but I have dark hair and eyes).

A. That sounds like a great purchase; now you just need to be sure not to overdo it with loud components. So, how do you accomplish a pleasing balance? Work with certain rules in mind.

Rule #1:  No more than one item in an outfit should be eye-catching. When a suit is as “busy” and fashion-forward as a checked Armani, the rest of the combination should not scream for attention. Black-and-white houndstooth is already bold enough, so if you go too vivid with your accessories, you could look too self-involved. Everything else in your combination should be subtle. You might choose a slightly-patterned shirt – if you’re good at that sort of thing – but, to be on the safer side, select a solid-color shirt (it need not be white) and reserve your use of pattern for the necktie. (A lot of men are going open collar these days, but the fact that you’re asking about ties shows you realize that a double-breasted suit would seem rather naked without a tie.)

Rule #2:  Avoid wearing a check with another check; they are bound to fight with each other. Your houndstooth suit would pair nicely with a solid-color shirt, and you may also carefully try a very quiet stripe. As to ties, a solid, a subtle stripe, a small paisley, or a spaced all-over foulard would work well. But stay away from all competing checks and also polka dots. You might wonder, why not a dot? Dot ties are wrong for a different reason. Either they are too large and clown-like, or, if they are small, they are high on the formality scale of dressy “diplomat/boardroom” type ties. Since a houndstooth check is generally recognized as a “countrified” pattern, the two do not go together. This idea of keeping the “spirit” of your various elements in harmony with each other is a subtle point that usually only the best-dressed men understand.

Rule #3: Steer clear of traditional button-down collar shirts. The style is too conservative/academic to be paired with your offbeat/fashion type suit. Instead, choose either a point-collar or a spread-collar shirt . . . yet another example of “spirit” harmony. 

A helpful note: With your dark eyes/hair (especially if you have Mediterranean coloring), avoid muddy colors and earth tones. Instead, you want to emphasize clear, light colors in the shirts you wear to contrast with (and flatter) your features. You’re never wrong with a crisp white (as you suggested) or light blue shirt. Two other shirt colors, soft yellow or pale pink, are also good choices,.   

If you are getting the idea that there is more to this coordination business than the simplicity that people assume in men’s professional dress, you are right. But don’t give up. It is a very satisfying skill once you have mastered it, one that others in-the-know appreciate.

What’s interesting is, with knowledge and thought, your combinations will actually be better than what one sees in fashion magazines these days. I know they are showing noticeably-patterned suits worn with bold-patterned shirts and even bolder-patterned ties. But I don’t recommend it. Professional fashion stylists can get away with this because we look at what they have created and figure that they must know what they are doing; so it is probably right. But, in truth, it often isn’t. Being different doesn’t always make something right. Balance and proportion do. Not discord. If a look seems jarring to your eyes, it certainly may to others.

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

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