Every year we see articles about how “X is the hot new way to do Y this season”, well this year we’re claiming one for socks. Over the last few years socks have become a bigger and bigger way to express one’s fashion tastes. Everything from novelty socks to show off a fun and quirky side or patterned socks for work to show that you’re not just all business. With the growing variety of options out there when it comes to mixing patterns we want to help people be able to put their best foot forwards. So we’re going to give a guide to how to properly mix and match patterns without looking like you got dressed in the dark.
Here’s one of the bigger, overarching guidelines when it comes to mixing patterns. Focus on the colors, rather than the patterns. Generally speaking if all the colors look good together, so will the patterns. There are clearly some obvious exceptions to this, a bold houndstooth and paisley are never going to have a color combo that lets them work together. A quick sidenote on focusing on colors, when it comes to solids you can often get away with using contrasting colors, but when it comes to patterns which are already somewhat contrasting, we highly recommend avoiding contrasting colors as well.
The more basic and graphic the print is, the easier they are to mix together. That thing we just said about avoiding contrasting colors when it comes to patterns? Like most rules in life, there’s an exception to it and that’s black and white patterns. Black and white patterns like stripes, houndstooth, or dots pretty much go with anything. They act as sort of like the neutral of patterns. Taylor Swift is an example of someone that wears a lot of black and white patterned outfits. In the picture, you can see how the combination of her plaid skirt doesn’t clash with the print on her shirt.
There are some patterns out there that just look better paired up with certain patterns than others. Big contrasting patterns can look cluttered and confusing. That houndstooth and paisley combination we joked about early, for example. Some combinations that come together really well are: thick stripes and florals, leopard print and polka dots, or stripes and polka dots. This makes some sense when we think back to the last paragraph and how basic geometric patterns tend to look good with each other.
This is probably obvious, but don’t go overboard with your patterns. Even if everything matches and looks great together, an outfit that’s patterned from top to bottom can be overwhelming. Throw in a solid to break things up and let patterns really pop and speak for themselves. If you’re trying to be particularly festive for example, if you were take a pair of our orange skull Halloween knee socks and match them with a solid black skirt and your favorite Halloween t-shirt, you’d have a quirky casual outfit for October that shows off some personality without screaming at everyone that you demand to be recognized as the most festive one in the room.
When mixing a pattern with a solid, think about whether or not you’re trying to match that pattern to the solid or if you’re using that solid to break up a busy outfit. If you’re trying to work the solid along with the pattern think about your color options. A contrasting color in a solid works well with a pattern, since you don’t have to worry about the combination being too busy. On the flipside, if you’re using the solid to break up other patterns, use a neutral color to give people’s eyes a second to rest.
Pay attention to the scale of your patterns. By scale we mean how large the individual parts of the pattern are. If you have a pattern with relatively small polka dots try mixing it with a large plaid pattern, the plaid pattern draws the eye and becomes the focus before people also notice the polka dot pattern.
Speaking of scale and using neutrals to break up an outfit, some some patterns and textures actually work as neutrals by themselves. If you have a pattern with a small scale, like a finely checkered black and white shirt that just looks gray at first glance, that can act as a neutral and be used to work with another pattern. Or pieces that have a very large scale pattern, but only on one part of the piece, like a skirt with a thick stripe at the very bottom. You won’t have any issues pairing that skirt up with a patterned blouse.