Coordinating Outfits

Good coordination is about color, style, and pattern.

You may think just buying a suit and wearing it with a plain shirt and tie is all that's required for getting dressed for business, but coordinating outfits takes a bit more work than that. Even for casual wear, you want to get a good match of color, fabric and style so that you always present yourself as a man of quality.

Tailors and Coordinating Outfits

Buying clothes that worked well together was easier when most men went to tailors for their suits and shirts. They could even buy ties on site. A good tailor not only cuts clothes to suit a man's figure, he helps the customer select fabrics and colors that are flattering as well as fashionable. Back in the day, when a tailor's reputation depended upon his clients looking good, he would never dream of letting them choose clothes that didn't flatter them, even if they loved something. In the Jeeves and Wooster stories, the loyal valet Jeeves always gets rid of Wooster's ridiculous fashion faux pas, much to that man's distress. Jeeves wants his master to look good and proper.

Since no one uses a tailor exclusively anymore, a man has to rely on his own good fashion sense to put together a coordinating outfit. Moreover, it's not necessarily that easy. Some men will only wear ties in the same color as their shirts, as this is the only way they feel confident that they are not wearing a mismatching outfit. Others stick exclusively to basic monochromes. There's nothing inherently wrong with either approach - fashion is as much about feeling good as looking good - but if you're going that route because you don't feel confident trying something else, you're not putting your best self forward.

How to Coordinate Outfits

Part of being able to put together coordinating outfits depends on understanding your body type. This isn't always easy, because you may be a combination of two different body types. Your body type can be athletic, tall, short, heavy or thin. When you have identified your type, you can shop for suits and separates so that even as you mix and match, styles will all work together.

Color, of course, is an important aspect of coordination. The average business attire is easy to coordinate, because jackets and trousers already match, and they come in few variations - mostly black, navy, gray and sometimes brown. Mostly, these are worn with a white shirt, or blue with the navy suit, and so it's only in the tie and handkerchief where a bit of color and variation is allowed. Many men like the "power" color of red, which goes with all business attire except brown. However, with so many beautifully colored and patterned neckties available, why would you settle for plain old red? If you want a multi-colored or patterned tie, look for one that has a color in it that picks up a color in the suit.

Casual attire lets you play a bit. In the 1940s and 1950s, tropical shirts were the leisure attire of choice. While they might seem to clash with jackets or cardigans, the trick then, and now, is again to match them via style and one aspect of color that goes with the item. So a dark green sport jacket cut to allow the lapels to rest on it, enhancing the shirt, would top a wide-lapel tropical shirt in shades of green and red.

Jeans and Coordination

When jeans mostly define modern casual wear, it does make a man's life a lot easier. Dark wash jeans, cut well through the hips, sets off everything from plain T-shirts to tailored silk dress shirts. Coordinating outfits with jeans is all about matching good styles. You can't wear black-tie jackets with jeans, and you shouldn't wear shades of blue shirts too close to the blue of the jeans, nor should you wear light colored shoes. Nevertheless, if you start with a good pair of jeans and some bright ideas, you'll be well-coordinated with almost no effort at all.

Coordinating Outfits