Pattern Matching - Good Taste Test

Pattern Matching – Good Taste Test

Recently, I watched another episode of Mad Men and noticed a number of casual weekend plaid sports jackets featured by the male characters. Some men’s bold jackets were paired with contrasting ties, and so I think this is the perfect opportunity to introduce the subject of pattern matching with illustrations from an Good Taste Test Article from 1944.

Mad Men - Pete Campbell in Bold Sportscoat

Mad Men – Pete Campbell in Bold Sportscoat

Good Taste Test

Pattern matching has waxed and waned in popularity through the years, and it’s an impressive skill that is often forgotten while swimming in a sea of staid navy business suits and ever-encroaching casual wear. Thankfully, history is ripe with elegant examples of pattern matching, which is surely one of the best tactics that can be employed to liven up one’s wardrobe and express your individuality. In the 1920’s through the 1940’s, there were all kinds of young men combining daring patterns, colors and styles.

Today, you can (in theory) wear anything at any time, but back then the formality and purpose of clothing items was much more important. As such, certain hats would only be paired with certain styles, and a peaked lapel was reserved only for dressy town clothes, for example.

Consequently, men’s style magazines started to add illustrations depicting successful pattern matching for certain occasions, as well as information about what to avoid.

One of these articles was the Good Taste Testfrom 1944. In this test, there were 2 groups of 3 men each, shown in these black and white drawings. As you can see, each man is wearing a rather bold, memorable jacket, and it’s certainly important to learn pattern matching if one is to own such a garment and wring the widest range of use from it. Numerous combinations will deepen the value of the investment, and the same can be said about any bold accessory or clothing item. Which combination is your favorite and why?

In the first group, we  have men without hats. In the top right picture, the pattern of the sweater and the glenplaid tweed jacket collide, because they are both very bold. In addition, the man wears a striped shirt and a striped tie, which is simply overkill.

The second man to the left is better in the sense that the argyle sweater vest is combined with a subtler herringbone jacket, which mutes the argyle’s striking effect. It also helps to wear a plain shirt and a tie with a much smaller pattern.

My favorite in this threesome is the last one to the right. The double-windowpane tweed coat is very dominant by itself, and hence it requires subtle counterparts such as a solid-colored sweater and a plain shirt. I would have probably chosen a different tie, since both the tie and the coat have large, bold straight lines.

In keeping with Flusser’s rule, a smaller pattern or texture, such as a tweed tie, would round out the outfit nicely.

In the second group, we can see outfits with hats.

The dark Homburg hat was considered to be a very dressy hat in the 1940’s and therefore it was absolutely incorrect with a plaid jacket and an animal figure tie, because these were part of the sports wardrobe.

The man in the pork pie hat is more consistent in that respect. He wears a casual button down collar shirt with striped tie and plaid jacket. Once again, the chap in the double windowpane outfit is my favorite. While a snap brim would be considered rather dressy by most people today, it was a rather casual hat at the time and so it was an

ideal partner for a patterned sportscoat. In combination with the bow tie, the white shirt and white pocket square are definitely the right choice because more accents would be distracting.

What is your favorite outfit and how do you combine your patterns? We hope we’ve whetted your appetite – stay tuned for an upcoming article that will cover the basics of pattern matching.