An Introduction to Color and Pattern Management

Anthony Orange and Blue into the Sun Anthony Orange and Blue sitting Photo: © TNG

Winter is here. Seriously, did you see the crazy storm that the East Coast got hit with? It’s here!

Bring out the thick black overcoats, gentleman. Bring out those thick grey sweaters and that same tired scarf we’ve had for years…or not.

The monotony of black and grey can turn normally stylish gentlemen into amorphous figures that blend into one another other. For some reason, people tend to care a little less about their image when it’s freezing– so let’s change that. Let’s discuss how to play with color and patterns to add some fire to your winter outfit.

When looking for new pieces, instinct says, “grab a solid in navy or grey.” Thing is, instinct forgot about all the navy and grey that’s currently in your closet.


Blue Green pants w/ Dots Photo: © TNG

I know, it’s scary thinking about mixing stripes and florals or geometric shapes with textures, but it can be done. This is where pattern and color coordination come into the mix.

First, consider the scale of your patterns. When we talk about “scale,” we’re referring to the size of an individual pattern. The basic rule of thumb is this — never have two patterns of the same scale or color immediately next to each other.

Have you ever looked at a person’s clothes and gotten dizzy? I don’t know the scientific term, but think it’s, “optical illusion”. Yeah — that’s bad scale management.

Wearing an individual pattern on its own is easy. But when you start to add more to the mix, you can quickly cross the line between “stylish” and “optical illusion.”

Anthony Sitting With Laptop Photo: © TNG

You want to create separation among the pieces of your outfit. You should be able to tell where one garment ends, and another begins. Like with all things, this “rule” can be bent or disregarded if you know what you’re doing and are brave of heart.

Let’s say you decide to wear a very big pattern, a windowpane for example. A windowpane is large, bold, and allows for greater separation, promoting good scale management.

Polka dots on the other hand, while a very popular pattern, can easily overwhelm an outfit. I always suggest controlling visibility by throwing on one of those solid color sweaters that we just talked about.

This accomplishes a few things. First, it lets you control the visibility of the pattern —  duh. Second, it adds an anchor to your outfit, calming down the pattern’s fierceness. Third, it creates balance throughout your outfit.

Anthony Prince of Whales Suit Photo: © TNG

If you’re not ready to jump into the realm of patterns, that’s okay. You can also find success by playing with color families to distinguish yourself.

Colors should be cohesive — they need to make sense. Just because you can physically wear purple and red — don’t. The easiest way to accomplish this is by picking a dominant color in your outfit and playing off that. Go for similar, but not the same. Think Peter Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) from Mad Men in his signature blue tonal suits. This is masterfully done, playing with light and dark tones to add depth.

A word of caution — If you are going to play with tones, don’t match things perfectly. In fact, get some style points by adding an accent color, something to contrast your suit. You don’t want someone thinking that you got your outfit from a premade box-set. God those are the worst!

Sticking with the Mad Men theme, Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt) is another character to inspire your outfits. He wears grey, tonal suits, but always uses color to accentuate the look. My personal favorite accent color is maroon. For example, a maroon tie, lifts a grey suit beautifully.

Anthony Walking Down Stairs Photo: © TNG

If you don’t want to go for the tonal look, then consider the complementary route. Take a color like blue, because we all have blue, and think of colors that pair well with it like brown, orange, mustard yellow, red, or PINK. Yes gents, I advocate wearing pink in winter! (As long as it’s in the right weight for winter. No linens, please).

Having an eye for pattern and color coordination can be difficult. But with practice and ripping apart your closet, you begin to understand what goes with what and how to balance your outfit properly. Be bold, take chances. The worst thing that happens — you find out that you don’t like it, and you never do it again. The best, you’re the guy who other people look at, wondering how you dress that well when they can’t even match their f****** socks.
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