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What is too “matchy-matchy”?

28 July 2009

Everyone knows that matching your tie to your handkerchief shows a lack of style, even more obviously a lack of imagination. Personally, I don’t even like matching a tie to my socks – still seems ever so slightly affected.

So I’ve come up with my own Matching Table, in an attempt to regulate this abstract area.

matchymatchy

Let’s take socks as our constant, with everything else in the outfit being the variables. Matching your tie with your socks is relatively affected (in my opinion). Matching your jacket lining with your socks is pretty odd. In between is a range of options, from the obvious to the obscure. Pick the range that you think is acceptable, according to your own personal taste, and I’ll tell you mine later.

Obviously we are talking about coloured socks here. Plain socks – blue, grey, black, probably brown – should match the trousers rather than anything else.

Here’s the table, from most obvious to most obscure. Matching your socks to your:

[Obvious]

Dominant colour in tie

Dominant colour in handkerchief

Shirt

Secondary colour in suit (overcheck, coloured stripe)

Braces

Secondary colour in tie

Secondary colour in handkerchief

Cuff links

Tertiary colour in tie, handkerchief or suit

Suit lining

Underpants

Colour you’re thinking of

[Obscure]

The last two options are obviously silly. They are a reflection of the fact that it feels slightly silly just thinking about this topic in such rigorous detail.

But there is a serious point here. It always looks inelegant to match colours exactly, to match things that are too close together or to match things that are both large components of an outfit. Matching should be subtle.

So which of the matching pairs above do you think are acceptable, which silly and which optimal? Personally, I think everything from secondary colour in your suit to tertiary colour anywhere is tasteful. It shows style if a faint blue overcheck is picked up in the socks, or the blue flowers on your yellow handkerchief are similarly reflected. But my personal favourite is matching cuff links and socks. (I often wear coloured silk knots for the options they give in this regard.)

One could argue that cuff links are more obvious than the secondary colour in one’s handkerchief or tie. Certainly they pop out more, though smaller. But I love the effect of matching these two parts of one’s dress – two hidden allies, secretly in cahoots, happy for the shirt, tie and handkerchief to carry on their brash party upstairs.

End of silly theory.