A pictorial essay on pattern mixing

How do you mix two, three, and four patterns? Which patterns look good together? Which patterns clash?

Consider the two images below:


The image on the left shows three patters, all of which are stripes. Also, notice that the scales of the stripes are also quite close. The mixture of the three similar patterns (stripes) has resulted in disharmony.  It’s too busy and our brain perceives this combination as clumsy.

Now, consider the image on the right. In this picture, a striped jacket is paired with a shirt with micro-check. They don’t clash because the scales are different. The third pattern, the tie with dots is not only a completely different type of pattern but also the scale is dissimilar to the other two. The result is a harmonious combination of three patterns.

Therefore, the first rule of pattern mixing is scale. Do not mix patterns of the same scale. In other words, mix patterns of varying scales.

Next, consider the following two images:


The image on the left shows all three items of clothing, jacket, shirt, and tie as checks. Also, the scales of the three items are very close. The result has been a jumbled image and it’s not looking particularly attractive, This is what is called “pattern clash.”

Now, consider the image on the right, the same jacket as the first image is here paired with a shirt with micro-checks. As the scales are very different, they do not clash. Next, a solid colored tie completes the ensemble quite nicely.

One may ask after considering the second image, “is it not possible to add a check necktie instead of a solid tie?” Yes, possible but use caution. Mixing three checks is probably the most difficult undertaking and it can be done with practice.

The photograph below shows my attempt to mix four patterns; three checks, suit, shirt, and pocket square; and one stripe (tie). I also use color to my advantage so that the patterns do not clash.

Given below is another example of mixing four patterns. The suit is glen plaid check, the shirt is a micro-check, the tie is print pattern, and the pocket square is also check.

As shown in the above example, bold check suit, micro check shirt (not visible in the photo), small dots on tie, patterned pocket square. From a distance, the tie and shirt appear solid. The checks on shirt and tie are only visible from up close.

The above is another glen plaid suit. The shirt is graph check, the tie is patterned (not check) and the pocket square is of medium check.


Consider the two examples presented above. The first, on the left, is a sold colored suit, a micro-check (candy check) shirt and a solid tie (looks like silk knit, which provides additional texture). The patterns do not clash.

Now consider the example on the right. A light colored herringbone patterned jacket worn with a darker shirt with micro-check. The tie is of dark color with dots (polka dots). Here also the patterns do not clash.

Now let’s consider the following two:


The jacket on the left is of bold hounds-tooth design. The shirt is a micro-check (graph-check). The jacket and shirt, though both are checks, do not clash because of the variations in both pattern and scale.

In the second example, an upward slanting check jacket is worn with a darker single-color shirt—they don’t clash. The tie is also an upward slanting check but of higher scale and therefore, they do not clash.

Below is another example of mixing four patterns: Light blue pinstripe suit, blue/white Bengal stripe shirt, multicolored/patterned necktie, and patterned pocket square.

The above is another good example of successfully mixing four patterns.

In the above example, three patterns; suit, tie, and pocket square. The shirt is of solid color.

Therefore, we can summarize that successful pattern mixing requires varying type and scale of patterns. Also try to utilize the fabrics texture to your advantage, such as, mixing smooth with rough fabric, etc.

What I am wearing today (23 February 2012)

A dark blue suit with very light red pinstripe, a shirt with red graph-check over pink background, a maroon necktie with white “fleur-de-lis” motifs, a reddish check pocket square, and a reddish brown oxford brogue. Also, today I am wearing my second (and last) Favre-Leuba Sea King, 1970 model, the same year I had appeared for my SSC examinations.


What I am wearing today (22 February 2012)

Today I am wearing a black 2-button suit, a white shirt, a yellow tie with black polka dots. and a white cotton pocket square. Originally, I wanted to wear the same suit and tie combination with a medium blue shirt. I changed to the white shirt when I was informed that this evening I will be attending a contract signing ceremony with a customer. The signing ceremony concludes with a dinner. The white shirt is to make the ensemble more formal for the evening function. I would always recommend a dark suit for anything after dusk.

Today I am also wearing a simple black cap-toed oxford, as shown below:

Even though the Swiss had invented the quart movement watches, their success in the manufacturing of mechanical watches rendered them blind to the possibilities of quart movement watches. The Japanese quickly adopted the quart movement and unleashed an attack on Swiss mechanical watches by flooding the market with cheap quart watches. This happened in the early 70’s. The Swiss watch making industry was caught completely unaware and as a result many excellent Swiss watchmakers went bankrupt. Today I am wearing a wrist watch that became a victim of the Japanese onslaught.

Today I am wearing a mechanical winding Favre Leuba Sea King. It’s a very simple but elegant watch manufactured around 1960.

Today I am also wearing a belt instead of the more frequent suspenders/braces.


What I am wearing today (19 February 2012)

Today I am wearing a double-breasted blazer (what the purists may refer to as a Reefer Jacket), white self-stripe trousers. blue/white gingham french-cuff shirt, blue knit tie, a tie bar, white linen pocket square, and tan/white spectator (also known as correspondent) shoes. The watch is a simple quartz.

A number of attractive combinations are possible with a navy double breasted blazer. More will come later.

Below is a closeup of the spectator shoes:

Mixing patterns

One can always wear an ensemble of plain colors. However, it is likely to soon become quite monotonous. Similar to one’s ability to mix colors, pattern mixing is also an art that can enhance an ensemble.

The secret of pattern mixing is to keep the pattern scales different. Given below are some examples:

Four Patterns: A green broken herringbone tweed is overchecked in red, orange and blue. It’s combined with a pink and blue checked shirt worn pinned, a burgundy on brown club necktie, and a silk paisley pocket square with a blue ground.

Two checks:

A pink and white check shirt and a green and white check tie. The patterns are not clashing because the difference in scale of the shirt and tie.

Mixing patterns and textures:

A self stripe linen suit, a blue/white linen gingham shirt, a blue textured silk knit tie, a blue/gold printed silk pocket square.

Mixing four patterns:

The photo below shows a check suit (glen plaid) paired with a check (gingham) shirt. Mixing of these two pattern is possible because both patterns are subdued and of uneven scale. The check tie and check pocket square is also not clashing.



How to coordinate colors

Color is what we see through our eyes by the help of light. Light reflecting from various objects around us are processed through the sensors in our eyes and we perceive them as colors (unless someone is color blind). Depending on the color of the objects, the frequency of the reflected light changes and these various frequencies are what we perceive as different colors. Human beings can detect electromagnetic radiation in the range of approximately 390 nanometer (nm) to 750 nm. This range of wavelengths is known as “visible light”.

The colors of the visible light spectrum


wavelength interval

frequency interval


~ 700–635 nm

~ 430–480 THz


~ 635–590 nm

~ 480–510 THz


~ 590–560 nm

~ 510–540 THz


~ 560–490 nm

~ 540–610 THz


~ 490–450 nm

~ 610–670 THz


~ 450–400 nm

~ 670

In order to distinguish colors with acceptable accuracy, we use certain terms:

  1. We use hue as the name of the pure color
  2. The term Value is used to indicate the darkness or lightness of a color. Value is expressed as shades, tints, and tones.
  3. The third term that we use is Intensity, which means the degree of purity or strength of a color. In other words, how intense or muted the colors are. Two other terms related to express intensity is saturation or chroma.

Below is a color wheel.

There are three primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue. All other colors are made by mixing these three primary colors.

Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors: Mixing red and yellow produces orange (secondary), red and blue produces purple (secondary), etc. Mixing two secondary produces a tertiary color.

Colors opposite to each other in the color wheel are known as complementary colors, for example, red and green are complementary colors. Similarly, color near each other in the color wheel is known as analogous colors.

It is also important to understand some other aspects of color: hue, tone, tint, complement tint, and shades.

Hue is the pure color, as explained before. For example, red color.

Tone is hue mixed with small amount of gray or opposite color in the color wheel. So, tone will be darker than hue.

Tint is hue mixed with white (it will lighten the color)

Complement tint: Tint plus small amount of gray or opposite color in the color wheel.

Shade: Hue plus some black to darken the color.

How to coordinate colors of an ensemble

Core colors

Core colors are the dominant colors in a color scheme of your ensemble. It’s the color of the principal item in your ensemble, For example, the color of your suit.

Accent colors

Accent colors are the second and sometimes third color used in a color scheme. The accent colors in the color wheel may be complementary, triad, analogous or neutral.


The first or primary triad colors in the color wheel are red, blue and yellow. These are called pure colors because mixing them with each other and/or with white or black can make all other co-colors.

The second or secondary triad colors in the color wheel are orange, green and purple.  Made by mixing two primary colors together.  Mixing red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green, and combining red and blue produce purple.

Complementary Colors:

Are those colors directly opposite one other in the color wheel.  When placed next to each other, complementary colors intensify each other and make the colors seem brighter.

Analogous colors: (also known as adjacent colors, harmonious colors, and related colors),

are Colors, which lie next to each other on the color wheel (contiguous colors).  They harmonize since they each contain some of the same color.

Warm and Cool: 

Colors with low wavelength are known as cool colors (violet, blue, green), while colors with high wavelength are known as hot colors (yellow, orange, and red).

Families of analogous colors include warm colors (red, orange, yellow) and cool colors (green, blue, violet). Designers often build color schemes around two or three related colors.

Neutral: shades of white, black, gray or tan.

Black, White, Gray, Tan, and Brown are not separate colors on the color wheel, but are made up of different percentages of red, yellow and blue. To make neutral colors mix either all three primary colors, or mix a primary and secondary color (secondary colors are made from mixing two primaries).

Color Selection Table

Use the table below to coordinate your colors:







WHITE (neutral)

All colors

(Same for all colors)

White, black, gray,

BLACK (neutral)

All colors

GRAY (neutral)

Darker or lighter gray, red, blue, yellow and green

TAN (neutral)

Blue, purple, burgundy, cranberry, turquoise, brown, orange, green,


Blue, green, orange, yellow,


Orange, gold, rust

Yellow, red, brown, tan

Blue, green, purple



Blue, yellow

Purple, orange



Red, blue

Orange, green



Orange, green

Blue, red



Green, purple

Yellow, red, brown



Purple, orange

Blue, yellow


Use the following table to select your ensemble colors:

Jacket Color

Shirt (and/or pocket square)

Tie (and/or pocket square)

Trousers (for blazer of sports jacket)


Navy white, blue, yellow, pink blue, gold, yellow, burgundy, red, purple gray, tan black, brown, cordovan
Gray white, gray, yellow, pink, lavender, blue black, white, gray, green, blue-green, burgundy, navy, any primary or pastel colors gray, black, navy black, brown, or cordovan
Brown white, ecru, blue, yellow tan, black, brown, rust, orange, red, gold, yellow, green, burgundy tan, gray, a different shade of brown brown or cordovan
Tan blue, ecru, white tan, brown, rust, orange, navy, black, navy, gray, brown, darker tan brown, black or cordovan
Olive white, ecru, gray, pale yellow, pale blue burgundy, rust, green, tan, yellow gray, tan, navy, brown brown or cordovan
Black white, light gray, yellow, blue black, white, grey, blue, olive, burgundy, any primary or pastel colors gray, tan black

And finally: Search the Internet with the keyword “color wheel”. From the results (in image mode) select a color wheel you like and take a color printout. Stick this printout on your wardrobe. Each time you are selecting a suit/shirt/tie combination, use the color wheel to determine your colors. I do it every day.

May your life be colorful.