The monochromatic look: Is there a way to do it right?

I recently observed and was involved in some discussion of David Niven's shirt and tie combinations, many of which appeared to be the exact same fabric as he got on in age. Outside of white tie attire, having something so closely matched can actually appear inelegant. That is not to say Niven was inelegant himself, just some of his sartorial choices in the 1970s.

David Niven being interviewed in 1972. A darker orange would have looked better against this shirt.

Regis Philbin was also known for wearing matching shirts and ties on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Usually these were poplin or broadcloth with a satin tie, which gives slight contrast but still looks pretty dull. On top of that, he would sometimes wear a matching black suit as seen below. All-black was a fashionable look back then but it had very little going for it. Especially at night time, it can make one appear as if one's head and heads are detached from the body.

Philbin promotes a tie-in line of matching shirts and ties from Van Heusen in 2000.

However, I think wearing the same colour can work when done carefully, that is in different shades and textures. In this example I've contrasted the twill suiting against poplin with a knit tie, all in very distinct shades of blue.

All blue: Navy twill suit, pale blue poplin shirt, royal blue knitted tie.

Here, Pierce Brosnan's Thomas Crown gives another example of how to pull this off. The shirt and tie match more closely than my own example, yet are still different enough that it works. Regis Philbin and David Niven could have taken a page from this book.

The midnight blue suit, French blue shirt, and royal blue tie all come together beautifully here.

 Your tie should always be a darker colour than your shirt. It anchors everything. But one must also take care that it isn't the exact same colour as your suit or sport coat, which can look fussy. (This is the same reason matching tie and pocket square sets look so tacky.) There are some exceptions.

Sean Connery wore a few fairly monochromatic outfits as James Bond, but usually got away with it because the tie was a lighter shade of navy than the suit or vice versa. These were paired with a shirt in light blue, as one in navy would offer zero contrast. The ties were also typically grenadine weaves, which gives a decent amount of texture contrast from his plain woven suitings.

Sean Connery in a look that became associated with his most famous character.

Conversely, Roger Moore skirted the issue of his tie matching his overcoat by having red and white stripes to break up the monotony. However, the suit underneath is also navy! Too much?

Roger Moore in a very navy outfit, even by 007 standards.

What do you think of having the same colour two or more times in an outfit? How do you coordinate items in your wardrobe? Can you think of any other examples of how to successfully pull similar colours together? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright Disclaimer: All photographs are used in this post under fair use for the purposes of education, comment and critique, consistent with 17 USC §107. 


  1. While the look can be very squared-away (cf. Connery, above), my first reaction is always "that's a lot of blue". I always wore a white shirt, as I like the contrast, and think that solves potential problems in a blue tie/suit combo.

    1. I wear white shirts a lot too. However, I think blue softens things a bit since white can be pretty high contrast. Ecru probably does the same thing, though I don't own any shirts in that colour.

  2. Shirt and tie that virtually match always strikes me as distracting and a lost opportunity.

    1. I agree! It's disappointing to see so many of my fellow millennials wearing that combination, but at the same time I do recognize that they are at least trying. Dark shirts in particular are best suited to wearing tie-less with sports coats.

      The only time a matching tie and shirt are acceptable is with white tie. But I'd venture that's because, correctly cut, a full dress evening suit frames the all-white marcella trifecta better than a lounge suit.


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