Mixing Hard & Soft Clothing Items

Balance in Clothing – Hard vs. Soft

A couple of weeks ago, Stephen Pulvirent wrote an article about the mix of hard and soft clothing.  According to Stephen, hard garments are crisp white shirts,

Steven Hitchcock by Rose Callahan

Steven Hitchcock by Rose Callahan

polished calf shoes, and metal jewelry, whereas soft garments are flannels, challis ties, and wool sweaters. In order to achieve just the right balance, he suggests that one should mix the two together.

If you think about it for a minute, it seems perfectly sound, and the examples he chose fit the bill perfectly.
However, I sometimes think that many – especially men online – try to mix too many colors, textures and patterns. Although they may achieve an even balance between hard and soft garments, the overall result is questionable.

Bruce Boyer by Rose Callahan

Bruce Boyer by Rose Callahan

Instead, if they had chosen to put together an all soft or all hard outfit, they may have stood out less, but looked more elegant overall. Of course, not everybody wants to be elegant, but most men who are interested in fashion like to be unique. Currently, it seems that everybody wants to mix so many hard and soft things together that somebody who actually follows traditional rules stands out all of a sudden. For example, at the moment, the online community seems to be very much into double monks. When you see pictures from Pitti Uomo, it seems that almost half the men there wore double monks. If you wear a classic monk shoe instead – you would be likely to stand out in a more subtle way. In essence, you can still mix traditional pieces and look unique, all while avoiding the of-the-moment trends that might inadvertently blend in with the crowd.

Mixing Gone Wrong

Slipping tie Knot

Slipping tie Knot

Let’s look at another example. The guys at putthison recently talked about balance and mixing, using a number of pictures to make his point. One of them was this man in a zippered sweater, tweed jacket , navy blue dotted tie and white & blue houndstooth shirt. Apart from the fact that the tie knot is loose, this looks too wanna-be-breaking-the traditional rules in a way that I would not consider to be admirable. If he would have worn an ivory-beige shirt with an ascot instead, and maybe a pocket square, the whole look would have been much more natural, less sloppy and not so staged.

For example just recently, we presented to you a street style outfit from the Gentleman’s Gazette reader Johannes Wiik. He wore a navy serge blazer with a grey flannel trousers and a white shirt – now how classic is that? When he combined it with a soft scarf, tweed cap and paletot overcoat, he looked great, yet all natural and not over the top.


While discussing just the balance about hard and soft, it’s easy to forget that there is so much more to elegance than mere balance. While it’s a necessary component, if it’s the only consideration, an outfit can suffer as a result.

Jacket too short

Jacket too short

Consider fit. Naturally, fit – or better yet, the “right” fit – can be very subjective and is highly influenced by what the wearer hopes to achieve. Each style – punk, rapper, trendy – has different fit and style goals.

Nevertheless, a bespoke tailor will generally be able to tell whether a suit fits well or if it doesn’t. His understanding of the fit of a suit is based on the original look of a lounge suit. As such, this gentleman has a jacket that looks like it was borrowed from his little brother. All the mixing between the hard shirt and the soft accoutrements is overwhelmed the length of the jacket – or lack thereof. But who knows – maybe that was exactly the fit he was going for.


In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that mixing is perfectly legitimate, though when getting dressed ask yourself if you really need that extra contrasting item – in some cases, less is more! We’re clearly biased towards the traditional rules and standards of dress. At the end of the day, you have to be happy with your outfit and if that’s the case, your confidence will enable you to look beyond the clothes!


6 replies
  1. Arcangelo Nocera says:

    Raphael, I completely agree with Your Post . I would l just like to further outline that , in order to really stand out, the philosophy of the “less is more” should be followed not only when mixing hard and soft but also when using a pure hard or soft outfit.
    My congratulations for Your interesting website that often makes to readers the gift of previously unseen fashion sketches from the world of classical masculine elegance.

    Angelo Nocera

  2. Sven Raphael Schneider says:

    Often, more is less, though if one always tries to be too generic, one dresses like a robot according to rules and I don’t find that to be elegant. Being able to adapt to the occasion, surroundings and people, while not going over the top is probably a great way to go.What do you think?

  3. Arcangelo Nocera says:

    One must avoid monochromy in dressing and put in a very rigorous outfit one smart note contributed mainly in my opinion by ties or pochettes.By this way both sobriety and smartness can be satisfied and the ” robot ” effect avoided. Angelo

  4. Arcangelo Nocera says:

    One must avoid monochromy in dressing and put in a very rigorous outfit one smart note contributed mainly in my opinion by ties or pochettes.By this way both sobriety and smartness can be satisfied and the ” robot ” effect avoided. Angelo

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