Pick the right shirt and tie combinations for the office

Many men seem stuck in a workwear rut: coerced into a safe coloured tie and white shirt combo, because you don't want to look too high fashun to your peers.

For others, rebellion against the bore has resulted in a neon tie with noisy patterned shirt collaboration that is more sickly than it is sweet.

Here's our guide to shirt and tie combos that will knock 'em dead at the next boardroom meeting.

1. Colour contrast


Shirts in sky blue are very much corporate cool these days. In recent years, light pink too. The best news? Both these pastels are the official colours for 2016, and we've selected them as the key hues for this article.

The golden rule? Your tie should always be a darker shade than your shirt, without exception.

Let's start by wearing pale pink or light blue shirts and using contrasting tie colours.

Contrasting colours sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. So when wearing blue, look to orange, red or yellow but in a muted versions (no tangerine, please) so the shades are more burned orange, burgundy and mustard or gold.

Pink? Well, the pastel shirt is feminine no more with a masculine navy tie (pink's contrast colour on the wheel). 

2. Complementary colour


Keeping with the blue shirt theme, finding a complementary, tonal or analogous colour option in a tie is an office win. Green is a complementing colour to blue. A forest green tie makes a refined and effortless statement at work, while basic neutrals – charcoal and brown – are ideal for men sporting a pattern jacket, such as windowpane or chalk stripe.

Violet or purple (always in a deep shade) are tonal options for pink shirting. Just avoid red (too clashy) and pink-on-pink, which looks a little sickly. Trust your aesthetic instincts with pink, and if you're too saccharine, change it tout suite.

3. Knit on print

Knit on print.

Texture is designed to take a mediocre block colour and give it some much needed depth. Knit ties are the prima donnas of texture, starring front and centre; upstaging even the most colourful and print shirt with their grainy kick.

Paired with a striped or gingham check shirt, neutral knit ties seem to work best; their graininess bearing an earthen, organic feel adding a natural element to the noise of the pattern underneath. Opt for green, navy, black or brown for a sure fire win in the office – especially if the shirt is already playing the coloured card well.

Knitted ties make a refreshing change from pervasive silk styles and will add a welcome lift to tailoring. For extra bang, go for a pure silk variety with two-tone knit; it will look interestingly flecked up close (great for client meetings) and coolly blended from far (toned down enough when presenting).

4. Pattern clash


Printed shirts are where things can get tricky. Striped shirts are more versatile and can usually be paired with a bigger or smaller patterned tie without the tie becoming lost. However, check shirts look better with a bigger patterned tie.

For the guy who wants to go bold, look to paisley and geometric prints. The key is sticking to the standard colour rules as stated above – complement or contrast – and it's a nice look when a portion of the shirt colour features in the tie print.

Stripes look great on check shirts too. Just keep the tie stripe big and bold stripe – to hold its own against the check shirt and ensure one of the colours on the tie is used (somewhere) on the shirt. The same applies to polka dots.

Like any time you dress, be sure to check yourself before you commit to the look. If it feels awkward, too busy or forced, added a block coloured tie instead. And walk out the door.

5. Pattern perfect


Matching prints – stripes on stripes or checks on checks – can be just as complicated as conflicting. Let's start with checks.

Window pane check is more open to being matched with another check, due to the scale being large and the pattern subtle. Small gingham check shirts are the most traditional and casual in the business world but don't work well with a checked tie. Instead, go for a block coloured tie and complement one of the check colours in your shirt.

Stripes are easier to double-up by changing up the direction. A vertical striped shirt looks great paired with a horizontal or diagonal striped tie. There's a stark contrast between the two piece, which sees the two amicably take you into your office week, in style.

6. Casual and clean


For the minimalist, looking neat and clean will keep you feeling confident. Crafting a tonal and textural look is the path to take here.

Select a block coloured shirt – blue, green, grey or your favourite pastel hue – a tie. Shunning a patterned shirt, opt for a grenadine silk tie – made in a solid colour with the visual interest being the unique weave – finer than regular silk knit tie, but grainier than flat tie.

Monochrome shirt and tie combinations work – light blue shirt with navy tie – especially when the jacket is loud in print, colour or is a textural masterpiece such as tweed.

Finally, your casual Friday style arsenal needs a denim shirt – one with a cutaway or straight collar to retain business style. Rich in texture and in an array of indigo hues, all the cotton shirt needs is neutral flannel tie – to align with the heritage denim shirt and rustic tweed coat.

Final word

Don't be be a white shirt bore. By playing around with contrast and tonal colour mixing – and pattern on print – you'll soon learn what works and what doesn't.

The idea is to uncover a few go-to combinations that suit your skin tone and personal style, making getting dressed Monday morning just that little bit easier. The golden rule? Your tie should always be a darker shade than your shirt, without exception.

This article first appeared in D'Marge