Shirts and Ties
If you work in a conservative office, you already know you need to wear a shirt and tie on the job...but the combinations are entirely up to you. It's easy to play it safe--you can't go wrong with any tie on a white or blue shirt --but you can have a lot of fun mixing and matching. You want to choose a shirt and tie that suit you, and in which you'll be comfortable and confident. Yes, shopping for work clothes is less than exciting, but once you take the time to figure out the sizes, styles, and colours that work best on you, dressing yourself every day will no longer be a guessing game.
Finding the Shirt
- Collar Style: Since a collar frames your face and showcases your tie, you'll want to choose one that is flattering. Generally, the larger the man, the larger the collar should be. Short necks are suited to spread collars, long ones look good in straight collars.
- Collar Fit: If you've got to wear button downs to work every day, you'll need to be comfortable. Be sure that you can fit two fingers between your neck and buttoned collar before you buy it. Don't want to bother heading to the dressing room? At least try on your favourite shirt and put it to the test at home before continuing to shop for that size. If you're searching for a shirt for a full suit , don't let the shirt collar overpower the jacket collar.
- Patterns: If you're new to the shirt and tie matching game, you may want to confine the patterns to your neck tie. But if you're a little tired of wearing plain white or blue button downs, subtle pinstripes, checks , or even polka dots may add new dimension to your look.
- Colour: Don't be afraid of colour! Yes, it can be scary to try and sort out what hues complement each other and so on, but taking even a minimal risk on a shirt with a different colour collar can liven up your look. Try less traditional shades like pink or canary yellow to really get outside your comfort zone.
Finding the Tie
- Shape: As with shirt collars, bigger ties suit bigger guys. But just because you're slim doesn't mean you can get away with a super skinny tie--that look should be reserved for fashion and advertising jobs only.
- Knot: A Windsor suits a full face, whereas a four in hand is nice for longer one. Also try to tailor your tie's knot and width to that of your collar.
- Colours: You may think that bright colour wouldn't be appropriate in a conservative office, but as long as you skip patterns , you can get away with just about any shade you fancy in a tie. In fact, bright colours may help your reputation--red is universally considered powerful, while deep blue is perceived as conveying strong will and compassion.
- Skip it: If you're trying to rock a casual shirt , like a polo , keep your tie at home. This sort of casual look , even when paired with a jacket, looks silly with a tie. Speaking of casual , avoid wearing ties with jeans . Even with a proper dress shirt, this rarely works.
Putting the Two Together
- Balance: It's important to find a balance between light and heavy patterns when combining a shirt and tie--only one can lead. So if you've got a fine pinstripe on your shirt and you want to do a patterned tie, pick something bold. Small stripes, checks, or dots on a finely printed shirt will look busy.
- Colour: Your tie should be darker than your shirt, and will usually be in the bolder colour. As for mixing shades, there should be at least one colour that carries over from the shirt to the tie. If you're still daunted, know that you can't go wrong with just about any colour tie on a white or blue shirt.
- Patterns: If you really want a swirly patterned tie to stand out, put it against a finely chequered or striped shirt. If you want the bold stripes on your shirt to steal the show, pair it with a small dot or pinstripe to create contrast. Trust your gut on what "goes" together, and when in doubt, go for a solid shirt.
- White shirt and any coloured or patterned tie.
- Blue shirt and any coloured or patterned tie.
- Small-striped shirt and big-striped tie in coordinating colours (same with checkers).
- A boldly patterned tie in a muted colour on a solid shirt.
- A brightly coloured tie in a conservative pattern on a solid shirt.
- Cuffs should just peek out from under your shirt sleeves.
- French cuffs fold over themselves and require cuff links .
- Cuff links are small enough to have a little fun with. You can even get cartoon characters !
- Keep cuffs (especially French ones) clean and crisp looking.
If You're Really Stumped
Take a look around. Chances are, there are plenty of great examples right in front of you: check out a store front window, take a peek at a Men's Vogue, or grab a sales flyer from a department store. Any man pictured in a suit will have been very carefully coordinated by the experts, and should be a good visual reference for shirt and tie combinations (and suits and belts and shoes). Bonus: if you're checking out a looks from a store, you can just walk right in and buy exactly what you see.