Lessons in Pattern-Mixing feat. Alex Yampolsky
October 31st, 2012
Being affiliated with Michael Andrews Bespoke for more than five years, first as a client, then a part-time consultant, and now the head of Sales and Business Development, Alex Yampolsky has learned a thing or two about how to wear a suit.
He’s also learned a thing or two about what confuses and frustrates men when it comes to getting suited up. Near the top of that list: mixing patterns in suit/shirt/tie combinations. Stripes with checks? Plaids with paisleys? What’s too much?
Last week we caught up with the sky diving, Ducati driving, all-around adventure enthusiast to see how he pulls it all together and to share some pointers on pattern-mixing.
1. Color Story
For the sake of simplicity, we can start by breaking down a suited look into three components: Suit, Shirt and Tie (although other items can have patterns too, such as pocket squares and socks).
We can also break down all menswear patterns into three simple categories: Stripes, Checks (plaids, windowpanes, etc) and Repeats (dots, symmetrical prints, etc).
If you’re new to pattern-mixing, it’s easiest to start by following the “2 out of 3 rule”. Meaning two out of three components (suit, shirt or tie) can have a pattern, but one should be solid. Example: solid suit, stripe shirt, pindot tie.
If you’re a little more advanced and looking to wear three patterns together, it’s easiest to start by wearing one of each of the three types.
For example, in this look Alex pairs a subtle check suit with bengal stripe shirt and a repeat floral tie.
By differentiating the patterns on all three items, none of them compete or distract.
Another useful guideline for creating cohesion among patterns: carry one color throughout each of the pieces.
For example, each item Alex is wearing has some form of lavender (the subtle line in the suit fabric, the stripe on the shirt, the flowers on the tie, the striped socks, etc).
This brings the individual pieces together and creates a finished look.
- Purple stripe cutaway collar dress shirt by Michael Andrews Bespoke
- Grey windowpane suit by Michael Andrews Bespoke
- Forest green silk tie by Robert Talbott
- Sterling Silver tie bar by Tiffany & Co.
- Lavender cotton pocket square by Michael Kors
- Lavender stripe socks by Hugo Boss
- Brown suede captoe shoes by Scarpe di Bianco
2. Balance the Scale
When combining checks with checks, or stripes with stripes, the trick is to balance their scales.
Pair wide large-scale patterns with tight small-scale patterns to avoid a “blurring” distraction to the eye.
Alex also introduces a third scale here with the overly spaced stripes on the tie.
Because these extra-wide stripes do not compete with the width of either of the checks, it works well.
I love how the star socks (see top photo) introduce yet another pattern when he sits down.
- Red mini plaid dress shirt by Michael Andrews Bespoke
- Navy/black check suit by Michael Andrews Bespoke (Cloth by Ariston AR A811/192)
- Navy stripe wool tie by Theory
- 1″ tie bar from TheTieBar
- Navy silk pocket square by Polo Ralph Lauren
- Silver watch by Raymond Weil
- Brown leather wingtips by Scarpe di Bianco
3. Subtly Bold
Here’s a great example of using stripes in contrasting scale and prominence.
The wide red stripe on the suit is subtle while the thin stripe on the shirt is bold and eye-catcing.
The two together are easy on the eye.
The tie, pocket square and socks are each red with blue dots. Although somewhat kitschy, this adds personality to the look (which Alex has plenty of).
- Tortoiseshell sunglasses by Ray Ban
- Navy/red pinstripe suit by Michael Andrews Bespoke
- Blue contrast collar dress shirt by Michael Andrews Bespoke
- Red pindot knit tie by Brooks Brothers
- Red silk pocket square with blue dots by TheTieBar
- Red polka dot socks by Happy Socks
- Brown leather wingtip brogues by Scarpe di Bianco
4. Monochrome Patterns
Combining patterns is a great way to bring life to a monochrome outfit.
Here Alex pairs an oversized glenplaid suit with a gingham shirt and pindot tie, using a solid cardigan to break it up.
It doesn’t get much cooler than a murdered-out look with a black bike, black helmet, and black gloves.
Sure, a pretty girl on the back helps too.
Another case for the single monkstrap, as we touched on here.
- Charcoal wool zip sweater by Vince
- Grey shadowplaid suit by Michael Andrews Bespoke (cloth by Ariston)
- Grey gingham shirt by Michael Andrews Bespoke
- Black pindot tie by Thomas Pink
- Silver watch by Raymond Weil
- Black linen pocket square by Armstrong & Wilson
- Black leather driving gloves by Coach
- Black dress socks by Pantherella
- Black leather single monkstrap shoes by Scarpe di Bianco
Thanks for reading and special thanks to Alex (and Melissa) for participating!
Yours in style,
Photography by Alex Crawford.