No-Brainer Shirt and Pants Combinations

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With business casual all the rage in many offices, the pairing of dress shirts and pants is a hot topic. In some ways, this is actually easier than putting together an outfit where you’re considering suit (or blazer and pants), shirt, tie, and sometimes pocket square patterns. But still, based on empirical data (a.k.a. what I see when hanging out in clients’ closets), a lot of people get it wrong. Below are 7 quick and easy points to keep in mind when selecting a business-casual dress shirt and pants combo.

1) Avoid wearing striped pants with just your dress shirt. This tends to look a little “off,” like you broke your striped suit apart and wore just the pants themselves.

2) If you broke rule #1 and are wearing striped pants with just a dress shirt, don’t worry I won’t hunt you down. Just promise me that your dress shirt isn’t striped too.


How to match your shirt to your pants: herringbone

3) If your pants have a pattern (plaid, windowpane, check, etc.), go with a solid shirt, and vice versa. Otherwise you border on looking clownish. Some fabrics are “tone-on-tone,” which means they have a subtle pattern to their weave, like a herringbone, but are still all one color. Fabrics like that read as solids and are perfectly fine to wear with patterns. See above how, viewed closely, there appears to be a pattern in the shirt, but overall it reads as a solid.


How to match your dress shirt with your pants: color combinations

4) If you’re very tall, you may want to break up your height by choosing pant and shirt colors that contrast one another, creating a horizontal line at your waist (see above left). On the flip, if you want to look taller, choose combinations where the colors are more similar in depth and intensity so as to create one long line top-to-bottom (above right).

5) White goes with everything. In fact, the white dress shirt is a wardrobe cornerstone — about as important as, say, a belt or a navy blazer. It comes in especially handy on the inevitable running-late mornings when you need to grab-and-go.

6) A contrast collar shirt is mostly worn with a suit for a Wall Street-y look. But if you’re going to wear it with just dress pants, opt for pants in a dark hue.

7) For specific color recommendations, I like brown pants with pink, light blue, ecru and yellow shirts. And gray pants provide a solid anchor to brightly colored or boldly patterned shirts.

Do you have trouble pairing dress shirts and pants? Leave me a comment or question below. I’d love to hear what’s on your mind.

Images via Mr. Porter and Bonobos.

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80 thoughts on “No-Brainer Shirt and Pants Combinations

  1. Would the combination on the right(grey pants/light blue shirt) be okay with brown shoes?
    Also what about the belt?
    Thank you.

  2. Aldo: unfortunately you can’t post photos in comments, so I am not able to see what you are talking about.

  3. hiii i havelight blue checks shirt and i want to go for my friend wedding which type of colour pant should i wear which can suit my light blue checks shirt..

  4. Sethupathi: if you’re very tall and want to look less so, try wearing two different colors that contrast with one another, which will have the effect of breaking up your height.

  5. Aldo: both navy and light or medium grey look good with brown shoes. And you always match the belt to your shoe color.

  6. I’ve got a light grey suit, want to wear just the trousers with hopefully a navy blue shirt, ok? And what colour tie do you reckon?

  7. Hi Henry, a light grey suit with a navy shirt will look great. I’m not wild about wearing pants and a dress shirt with a tie (can feel like a store uniform), so I’d skip the tie with this look. Let me know how it works out for you!

  8. This upcoming weekend I am going out to brunch w/ a girl I have been dating recently for my birthday. I plan to wear this new red bowtie w/ white spots I recently purchased. I was thinking about wearing a light blue shirt w/ charcoal pants and light brown oxfords. Unsure if this will match though. If not the blue shirt/charcoal pants combo what colors would you recommend?

  9. Sounds like a fun outfit for a fun date. My only warning is that if the shoes are a very light shade of brown (like tan), they shouldn’t be worn with a dark charcoal grey. Instead, opt for a pair of medium brown, dark brown or black shoes. Have fun and happy birthday!

  10. I’m wearing a blue & white plaid dress shirt for Easter & I wanted to know if I should go with black or khaki pants to where with it? Also, what color tie would look good with it?

  11. Would a light blue shirt go with navy trousers, a matching navy tie, and black dress shoes & belt? And if so – what colour v-neck jumper would go over the top of that? Thanks!

  12. I have a pair of dress pants that are white with gray pinstripes (or are they gray with white pinstripes?) and I can’t figure out a shirt and tie combination to wear with them. Any ideas? Also, what’s the best color shoes/belt to wear with them? Thanks!

  13. I have some gray slacks with a cream shirt and tie. Wondering if a black sweater vest would go with it

  14. Hi Ron, the black or grey sweater vest are fine. I’m more concerned about a cream shirt and cream tie (if that’s what you meant). I wouldn’t suggest doing that. Good luck!

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