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Contrasting Dress Shirts and Pants

Matching Dress Shirts and Pants

Many men are under the illusion that any black trouser will match with any white button-up dress shirt. While there’s some degree of truth to this, the situation becomes further complicated when different colors and patterns are introduced into the mix and create a whole different scenario for men. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with wearing a drab white and black combination to remain classically handsome, it’s always a good idea to know what to do when it comes to colors.


Think about the above for a minute: white dress shirt, black pants. Fashion-minded people do this because it creates the necessary contrast between the two shades to create the most aesthetically pleasing effect. This is the same as when working with solid colors. It is always best to use opposites when it comes to solids: lighter dress shirts with darker pants, and darker dress shirts with lighter pants.

Checks and Stripes

The situation becomes a little more difficult when trying to use patterns; specifically checks and stripes. Again, the idea of contrast comes into play and lighter dress shirts should be paired with darker trousers. However, the trouser should always be a solid color as opposed to patterned (unless, of course, the shirt and pants come pre-packaged as a combination). Generally, the contrast will come from the main color of the dress shirt and the color of the trouser should closely reflect the darker pattern within it.


Fabrics are perhaps where men should stop adhering to the idea of opposites as it is almost always best to pair similarly weighted fabrics. This means chinos, khakis, and other heavyweight trousers will pair best with similarly heavy dress shirts and are usually appropriate for non-iron clothing, which tends to be very heavy. Similarly, linen and other lightweight fabrics should be paired together.


Colors are the more difficult consideration to make as they are largely dependent on family grouping. For example, khaki trousers when contrasted will require a dress shirt that’s either navy, maroon, or black. Black trousers benefit from lighter colors such as grey, salmon, mustard, and obviously white. It’s hard to go wrong when sticking with the ideas of contrast, but more advanced precision can be gained by understanding how colors work in families in order to create the best possible match. A color wheel can be hugely beneficial for those just starting to build their wardrobes.

Michael Snell

Loving father and husband

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