Your Essential Guide to Jackets, Shirts and Ties

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The jacket, shirt and tie is an age-old combination. From tailored classicism to contemporary smart-casual styling, these days your options are endless. The process of matching jackets with shirts, shirts with ties and so on can prove difficult at the best of times. Here’s our essential guide to take you through the basics from daily styling to the perfect colour matches.

Check out more Style Guides from The Idle Man.

Layering your look is all about contrasts. Texture, print and colour are your key toys to play with and while there are rules, always feel free to experiment. With the rise of smart separates rising up over classic suiting, matching your jacket and shirt is key. With or without a tie, your shirt and jacket combination should lead your look.

While a jacket and shirt are the mainstays of many a man’s wardrobe, it’s not all that simple. As the lines continue to blur between smart and casual dressing, your wardrobe needs some quick fix pieces to see you through all event eventualities. Long gone are the days when there’d be one failsafe blazer propping up your outfits.

mens street style jackets and shirts
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The Basics

When it comes to having the perfect wardrobe, a good foundation is essential. Every guys who takes his style seriously should really own these capsule wardrobe staples below:

  • White shirt
  • Checked shirt
  • Navy blazer
  • Pique blazer
  • Linen Blazer
  • Printed Blazer
  • Knitted Tie
  • Colour Statement Tie

The obvious go-to styling options for smarts seasonal dressing is moving back towards a complete mono look as the shirt, jacket and tie effortlessly match. Alongside this is the continued rise of smart separates. This brings the option to inject some bright, seasonal colour into the wardrobe, keeping things commercial, without it looking too scary and garish.

What’s exciting though is the growing acceptance towards flexi dressing. The stereotypes of smart dressing continue to warp as suiting and separates are paired more often with t-shirts, smarter polos and more often than not denim.

The continued downtrending of suiting, in sales and the marketplace, means that brands and the consumer are constantly looking for new ways to wear.

– Justin Duffy, Menswear Consultant

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How to Style

Formal Styling

Wedding season is here as the summer months slowly come creeping in, so look no further for some dapper formal outfit inspiration.

When it comes to ties. A textured tie is a constant winner, but an eye-catching woven print can’t really do any wrong either. A textured pin-spot, a diagonal stripe and a classic birds-eye are good options to consider. Ties can be the downfall of many men so, of course, ensure to avoid novelty christmas ties or the likes.

Material is also essential. Avoid excessive shine. As already expressed, textured ties look great so there’s no need to stay too classic.

textured ties men
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Casual Styling

Leaving a tie out of the mix means you can afford to get snappy with your collars. Lose the structure of your jacket, double up on pockets or wear a T-shirt. The options are limitless. Casual combinations are vast and the rules sparse.

Go for a trend-led collar like a Cuban, to hit up that 50s cool. Lightweight knitted polos are a great product to introduce at this point; somewhere between a tee and a button-down, you can still keep it polished without sacrificing your casual cool.

Knitted or cotton jersey shirts are also great textures to play with. A linen or pique jacket on top is great with a printed summer scarf to add more dimension.

In fact, if you’re not feeling the classic tie look, in smart or casual situations try the air tie to give some fashion flourish. Buttoned up shirts look polished without a neck tie and can be dressed up or down.

idle man blazer and denim shirt
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T-shirts are worn more and more with smart separates, while it’s quite a laid back approach to styling, it’s best to stick to a block colour or plain white. A crisp white tee speaks for itself and goes perfectly with a plain or patterned blazer. Graphic t-shirts are a big no-no.

Japanese workwear is always a good inspiration source for casual jacket and shirt styling. Introduce denim and indigos, panel details and amazing textures to upgrade your spring style.

Hybrid Styling

This is menswear today. For a flexible style that takes you from work to drinks, hybrid dressing is the answer. Mix up your typically smart pieces with the casual for an effortless and on trend look.

Blending smart and casual pieces has to look fluid. Collarless or mandarin collared shirts go a long way here. They’re inherently smart-looking but the lack of collar and tie make them an almost in-between piece. With an unstructured blazer, coach jacket or denim jacket on top, this look is hybrid at its best.

Still a little overwhelmed? Check out this video with a few more tips on layering.

Well, number one is fit. The jacket has to fit properly and the proportions should always match your body type.I’m a fan of tunics and collarless shirting so I’m bias to that but as far as matching pattern to your outfit, it’s always best to have the pattern as the focal point and keep everything else kinda muted.

If it’s a patterned tee with red, yellow and green, I would do black pants and black blazer or maybe even a grey trouser with a black leather jacket depending on the weather. Oh! And if your not sold on collarless style shirting than try an air tie

 – Joshua Washington, Founder and Designer of Edwige Pierre.

Extra Info: Lapels and Collars

If you’re going for a jazzier lapel shape, like a Fish Mouth, Sword or Shawl, avoid an elaborate shirt collar. Keep it Regular, Spread, Tab or Button Down. Equally if your shirt collar is Point, Pinned or Stand, stick to a simple Notched or Semi-Notched lapel.

blazer lapels diagram
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Layering Guide

Layering with Print

There’s no need to fear the print on print on print once kept within reason.  Don’t be mixing up a whole flurry of different patterns because it will most likely end up looking like a hot mess.

Honing in on one pattern can be a foolproof way to manage this look. However let’s say you go for a stripe on stripe. You’ve got to make sure your stripes match or are from the same family. Don’t bring a Riviera stripe up against a Pin stripe or a Feeder stripe to play with a Breton stripe. Match stripes in varying weights, jacket against shirt.

Other easy pairings include the spotted shirt and striped blazer, the striped shirt and grid jacket and the checked shirt and striped tie.

idle man blazers and shirts
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Shake things up with a conversational printed shirt and a grid jacket. Maybe rock a gingham shirt with a paisley jacket? A good tip is to mix graphic and decorative to avoid a big busy ordeal. A minimal print next to a more elaborate pattern is the best way to work around this. As long as your colours are in tune, you’re good to go.

idle man paisley blazer checked shirt
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Layering with Texture

Lightweight layering in the warmer months is just as opportune as in winter. With warmer weather comes wondrous textures from linens to silks to seersuckers. A hatched shirt under a seersucker blazer gives the illusion of pattern. Pattern through texture is strong.

Linen is always your friend. In light beiges, dark navies and even robust pinks, both shirts and jackets in linen should work heavily into your summer sartorial rotation. Pastel linen shirts in yellows, blues or pink are classic and always look sharp. Try seersucker over linen with a knitted tie to create depth to your torso dressing. Apply the colour rules and you’ve got a clean, fresh look for any event.

idle man texture blazer jersey shirt
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Determining your end use is a solid starting point. How smart does your look need to be? Is it work or play or maybe both? Although styling margins are getting more fluid, a jacket and shirt combo still slots in wherever you need it.

Layering with Colour

For all you Adobe-heads out there, this is the time to think tools namely the eyedropper. As you may have noticed, we’ve finally got some serious sun on our backs; it’s time to duck out of the navy-grey abyss.

colour wheel
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Colour combinations should either compliment or contrast. If you look at a colour wheel, the colour directly opposite your selection is the complimentary, while those adjacent are the contrasts. There are, of course, also shades and levels to contend with.

You don’t want to be mashing up all the most pigmented variations. Let’s take a classic pale blue shirt, for example. Contrast or compliment? Contrasts are usually stronger. Balancing three tones can be risky (although achievable) so a beige linen blazer counteracts the peril of garishness. With your light blue shirt (a wardrobe essential), go for a dark toned red (maroon) or green (forest).

Here are three easy tactics to match your jacket and shirt based on colour:

Tonal Colour

Playing with pigments can an outfit make. First, choose a colour. Let’s say we’re going all out and working with pink, for statement’s sake. Now option saturation levels of this shade. Marry your brights and your pastels and for tip-topping off, find a tie that highlights the base colour too. To be more specific, take a pastel pink shirt, a washed raspberry blazer and a dark raspberry rose tie.

pink shirt jacket men
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Tonal dressing is massive and more often associated with casual looks. It can be seriously strong in smarts and suiting though too.

Statement Colour

Working with a statement colour is the easiest approach. Essentially you could keep it really simple with grey or navy blazer and a bold toned shirt.

Work one big colour and play it up with offsetting neutrals. Draw attention to the chosen tone with complimentary colours or highlighting trims and details. For example, if you’re going for a summer-ready yellow shirt, take a beige linen blazer with some yellow fleck to it. Alternatively, big it up with a complimentary colour.

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Colour Blocking

This is a bold one. Top-to-toe color-blocked looks are a risky business, for sure. We’ve all seen it, a myriad of super-brights laid over a black shirt, creating a bit of an eye-sore. It’s not necessarily a bad move though. Like most cases in this guide, do it right and you’re all set.

So here’s how to do it ‘right’. We’re going back to the almighty colour wheel now. Match similar colours (sitting next to each other) with either a complimentary or a contrast. To make life breezy here are a few fun suggestions for colour blocked combinations:

  1. Red, Orange and Blue.
  2. Yellow, Green and Navy.
  3. Pink, Grey and Yellow.

That should get the ball rolling. Other things to consider are fabric and saturation. Like in tonal colour dressing, it’s important here to also play with your levels. If all the chosen colours have the same saturation and texture, it’s gonna look a bit tacky, dare we say.

colour block jacket shirt tie men
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Five Rules to Remember

  1. Don’t go overboard. The weather’s not so shabby but there’s no need to go crazy on your colours or prints. Carefully consider how to level out bright tones and bold patterns.
  2. When in doubt, go for classic colour combinations.
  3. Fix your fit. An ill-fitting blazer can throw your look. The easiest point of measure is the shoulders. The shoulders of your jacket should match your actual shoulder width.
  4. A two-button suit is always a winner – you really can’t go wrong.
  5. Don’t wear a suit jacket as a separate.

A Final Word

Don’t forget those details. Fancy hardware, stitching or pockets can add the subtlest elegance or flash (in a good way) to your look. The tiniest details can really elevate an outfit and up your style credentials at lightening speed. So experiment with you’re style this summer, we’re all sick of seeing carbon copied men parading the same looks every year – go wild!

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The jacket, shirt and tie is an age-old combination. From tailored classicism to contemporary smart-casual styling, these days your options are endless. The process...
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