How to Match Men's Shirts & Pants: The Ultimate Guide

It’s the decision every man has to make in the morning: what to wear. But if you’ve dressed for the office thousands of times before, you already know what to wear. The real question is what new color combinations you can try that actually match. Take a look at this ultimate guide on how to match men’s shirts and pants for some inspiration.

The Principles of Matching Shirt and Pant Colors

Let’s be honest, when most people talk about matching men’s shirts and pants, they’re talking about the color options. True, there’s always more we can get into—you wouldn’t want to match an oxford cloth button-down with a pair of gym shorts, no matter how good the colors looked—but your first instinct should be to look at the colors of your two pieces.

The problem? Color combinations are endless, and you can only use a tried-and-true combination like white and blue so many times before you start feeling like you’re wearing a uniform. If you’re going to match shirt and pant colors consistently, you don’t need to know specific examples that work. You’re going to need a working knowledge of how color matching works. Take a look at a few key tips:

  • Know your “neutrals.” When in doubt, use one neutral color to give you endless options for the other piece. For example, a pair of khaki pants will go with just about any color you wear in the shirt. But don’t stick to just one neutral! Know multiple neutral colors, such as the less-often used olive green, light gray, light blue, navy, khaki, white, black, beige, and cream.
  • Match for contrast. You want colors that will work together, but still provide enough interesting contrast that it has a dazzling effect on your overall outfit. For example, a black shirt with a black sport coat with a black pair of pants will be too much of one color.
  • Get a sense of popular color palettes. Get a sense of popular color palettes you can work with and how they might look if you matched them yourself. You don’t have to be overly strict about buying and matching clothes that only fit with these palettes, but previewing them will help give you a sense of the way you can stack different clothes to create an overall effect in the outfit.

How to Match When Your Shirt or Pants are Multiple Colors

It’s a simple enough thing to match two colors together. But what happens if you’re wearing a patterned shirt—say, a plaid? Here are some principles to keep in mind:

  • Use one piece to “anchor” the other visually. For example, if you’re wearing a plaid shirt, then you likely won’t want to experiment with plaid pants. Instead, use a solid color in the pants to provide the “anchoring” that allows the shirt to pop visually.
  • Get a sense of the overall tone of the pattern. It’s rare that you can’t pick out what the overall feeling of the color is, even if you’re wearing a plaid or patterned shirt. Dress to match with this overall feeling. For example, if the dominant color of the shirt is light blue, then match for light blue, even if there are other colors like green and red present.
  • Avoid mixing patterns. Plaid and polka dots? Whale patterns and stripes? It might sound like a great idea at first—but if there’s too much going on in your outfit, you can bet that other people will get that sense, too. Instead, avoid mixing patterns at first until you get used to matching in general. As you become more advanced at matching colors, you may find it more intuitive—but for now, start with the basics.
  • If you must mix patterns, take a conservative approach. For example, a checked shirt with a lightly dotted pant pattern can work perfectly well, as the dots in the pants still leave plenty of room for the pants to make the overall impression of a solid color.

Matching Colors for All Outfits

Once you have a handle on the basics for shirts and pants, you should be able to create your own clothing combinations. But if you ever find yourself in a bind, it doesn’t hurt to lean on some rules of thumb that will tend to work in any wardrobe. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Start with versatile pant colors. Khaki, black, cream, gray, white, navy—these are pant colors that will match with just about anything else that you can think to wear on your shirt. One of the reasons that blue jeans are so popular is that they’re essentially navy, which makes them capable of pairing with anything. Want an option for getting started right away? Go with Charleston Khakis in flat front. You’ll note that our sample picture includes a multi-colored, patterned shirt. The pairing works because these khakis provide such a solid footing for color matching.

  • Learn the “evergreen” pairs. No, not evergreen the color—the “evergreen” pairings that will work every time. That includes blues and khakis. Whites and blacks. Whites and blues. Gray and whites. Reds and whites. Go with any of those options and you’ll never find yourself wondering if what you’re wearing looks good—you’ll see the evidence right in the mirror.
  • When pairing similar colors, go with different shades. Do you have a blue shirt and a blue pair of pants? That’s fine as long as they don’t look exactly alike. A pair of navy pants like our Dress Denim trousers can pair just fine with a light blue oxford cloth button-down shirt.

Shop The Basics and More at Berle

We hope this ultimate guide on how to match men’s shirts and pants helps you! If you want more great options for pairing your trousers with your shirt, browse our tailored trousers here at Berle. Our selections will give you the solid foundation you need to look great every time.

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