How-to Guides

How to Choose a Suit Pattern

Suit patterns are just as important as suit style, fit and color. There are five main suit designs to consider: solid, pinstripe, windowpane, plaid, and check patterns.

suit patterns

Solid Suits

The solid suit is a plain suit consisting of only one color. This suit does not have any designs such as windowpanes, pinstripes, or checkered patterns.

This type of suit is great for office situations as it is very non-distracting. It is also very versatile and can be worn with all sorts of accessories. Choosing a shirt or tie is easy with this suit because you can choose any type of design to match the suit.

While the pinstripe suit is great for interviews and for visually asserting your authority, the pattern-less suit is great for blending in and relating to your co-workers, sales prospects, and customers.

The plain solid suit can be paired with a pair of plain black shoes, a white shirt, and a solid tie to give off a very formal and non-descript look. This is great for formal events as well as for giving speeches in.

You’ll notice that some politicians will wear this type of outfit in an attempt to try to look like they can relate to their fellow citizens.

Another way to use this suit is to pair it up with a more lively shirt and tie. Since the suit is not very distracting on its own, the tie can quickly and easily become your focal point. It is a nice choice for those looking to show off a flashy new tie.

This suit is a staple among business wardrobes and should absolutely be in your closet. A solid colored suit should be the first or second type of suit that you buy. Mix and match your accessories with it and you have a wide range of outfits to use each week.

Pinstripe, Pencil Stripe, and Chalk Stripe Suits

The pinstripe suit is the most basic suit pattern you can buy besides the solid suit. This type of pattern consists of vertical lines running throughout the suit jacket and pants.

These stripes are of medium width and thickness in comparison to their chalk striped suit and pencil striped suit counterparts.

Pencil striped suits are thin and closely spaced while the chalk striped suits consist of thick striped. Typically, the average person will refer to all three of these suits as pinstriped ones.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be one of these people. While it may not seem like it, these suits are quite different and will give off a different look.

The pencil striped suit is the most formal and adds a subtle difference when compared to the solid suit. It is appropriate for the office as well as all other occasions.

In contrast to the pencil striped suit, the chalk striped suit is a bit gaudy and the large stripes are not a good choice for the office or for formal events. This suit is good for church and other fun events that might require a suit.

The pinstripe suit is great for the office and for interviews.

You will find that men use this suit to look more formal and authoritative. This is the reason this suit is one of the first suits you should buy, especially when preparing for an interview.

Window Pane Suits

The windowpane suit is a bit more stylish than the pinstripe and solid color suits. This suit has a pattern that is created by running lines both horizontally and vertically to make square “windowpane” patterns.

Parties, religious events, and less formal social events are great places to show off this type of suit model. However, this suit is usually not formal enough to wear to the office, and certainly not professional enough to wear to an interview.

This means that if you plan to wear this suit to work, you ought to make sure that your office is casual enough to allow it. While most companies won’t be bothered terribly by the presence of a windowpane suit, but some companies will.

Matching this suit with a nice tie can require some skill on the wearer’s part. You must remember to take into account the size of the windowpane pattern versus the size of the tie pattern as well as the colors. However, matching this suit with a stylish shirt and tie can be very rewarding in the end.

The easiest way to find a few good outfits is to simply check out the mannequins located in the suit shops. Typically, these arrangements are not made by accident and the professionals that put them together know a great deal about matching up patterns and colors.

Just buy the shirt and tie that sits on the model that is wearing the suit you intend on buying. This way you’ll know that your outfit matches and flows the way it should. Once you get used to seeing which combinations work well, you can branch out and create your own.

Plaid Suits

The plaid suit is a bit more ornate when compared to other suit patterns and designs. You will not see this as often as many of the other suit patterns on the market because of its high cost and difficult tailoring methods.

This suit is similar to the windowpane suit with its use of vertical and horizontal lines. However, the lines will run in close knit groups with various gaps to create the box like openings.

While these patterns are very interesting to look at, they tend to be frowned upon in business settings. This is probably because they appear less formal. Just like dress shoes, the more patterns on the suit, the less formal it is.

Patterns such as this can be worn to less formal office settings and fun social gatherings such as church, weddings, and parties. One may also wear it to casual Friday’s at the office.

Choose carefully when adding your accessories as not all ties will match appropriately with this type of pattern.

This suit is certainly not a “must have” suit for your closet. A good rule of thumb is to start out with a solid suit, then a pinstripe suit, and then a plaid or windowpane suit.

People that wear suits mostly for work can get away with only buying the first two. However, if you have five or six suits already, it doesn’t hurt to make a plaid suit your seventh.

What to Wear With a Plaid Suit

While many people opt to wear patterned shirts and ties with this suit, I feel wearing a solid colored shirt can also work very well.

In fact, wearing a solid colored shirt and a patterned tie can help break things up. Sometimes people go too far with the patterns and end up looking very “busy”.

Although this suit isn’t meant to be formal, you probably shouldn’t try to make it look like a piece of art either.

After all, the suit is intended to make you look elegant, sophisticated, professional, or all three; it is not intended to make you look like a freshly painted canvass.

Check Patterned Suits

The checkered suit is a great addition to an already complete wardrobe, but is not an absolute necessity. Reserve a classic navy, charcoal, or black suit as your first, but don’t count this suit out when mixing up your day-to-day apparel.

Suit aficionados looking to add a little extra swagger and flare to their look often sport a bolder pattern of suit. It may be one of your trendier outfits that you save for important social events or for when you want to stand out, but be sure to wear it sparingly.

You can wear this suit on formal dates, award ceremonies, church services, weddings, and even parties, but it certainly is not your everyday work suit.

Checkered Suit Example

Below is a fantastic example of how fantastic you could look in a check patterned suit.

checkered suit

Just kidding….

Here is a three piece check patterned suit without Pee Wee Herman inside of it. As you can see its bolder than your typical office suits and is better off in slightly less formal situations.

check patterned suit

Checkered Vs Plaid

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion between these two terms, so let us settle this in the same fashion that we settled the business casual ambiguity.

Checkered patterns consist of squares in which colors generally do not overlap. Think of a checkerboard. Plaid patterns, on the other hand, consist of crossing stripes and bands of color at right angles.

From a production perspective, a checkered suit requires a highly skilled tailor to run perfect vertical and horizontal lines through the jacket and pants. The lapels and pockets create a lot of difficulty for the tailor, as they can be hard to match up with the main body of the suit.

If you’re going to wear a checkered or plaid suit, then wear a solid colored shirt and tie. You don’t want your patterns to clash, creating an unnecessarily “loud” outfit.

Just because your trendy friend wore his checkered jacket with a polka-dot shirt and yellow tie doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you or for everyone else looking at you.

However, if you want to deviate from a solid colored suit, you could also go with a check patterned shirt to go with the suit.

Parting Thoughts

If you’re new to the suit buying experience, this can all seem overwhelming.  When in doubt, buy a solid or pinstripe suit and add to your suit wardrobe as necessary.

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