Q: I have always heard the rule: Never wear two patterns together -- with one pattern, everything else should be solids. But in the ads I see striped shirts with patterned ties. Sometimes they even show three patterns. Who is right? How do you mix more than one pattern?
A: The idea of wearing no more than one pattern is too inflexible and old-fashioned. It stems from the fear that men might make Laurel and Hardy combinations. Combining two patterns of opposite scale and spacing is the basis for the graphic mixes we see these days on well-dressed men. It's not difficult to master.
The trick in combining two patterns is in the "scale." Scale referboth to the size of the pattern and to the amount of space between the designs. The scale of the two patterns should be of a decidedly different nature: one small and one large. So, if a shirt's stripes are close together (small-scaled), the figures in the tie pattern should be rather far apart (large-scaled). The reverse RTC is also true: A close-patterned tie works with a shirt with widely spaced stripes.