I think if you were to categorise the main aspects of cloth, they would fall into colour, pattern and texture. That’s probably the order most men would notice those aspects in as well, but I would argue their importance is the other way around.
Not that you can wear a lime green suit if the texture is right, but rather that the more sophisticated a dresser you become, the more you will concentrate on and find pleasure in the end of that list. It’s about pattern and texture, and even texture is merely pattern on a small scale.
When you’re trying to explain why the surface of a suit looks dull, it’s because it lacks texture. When you’re trying to explain why you like the look of one cloth over another, but can’t quite put your finger on why, it’s because one is a nail head and one an end-on-end.
It’s fair to say that this focus on texture can be taken too far. Woven silk ties, for example, come in reppe, end-on-end, grenadine and oxford, plus variations in scale of the weave. Each of those four certainly looks different, at least up close, but the differences are minor compared to satins, foulards, wool and knitted silk. I’ve yet to find an outfit that just doesn’t work with a grenadine, but shines with an oxford-weave. It’s a level of detail that it’s not worth getting into, unless you have nothing better to do.
But big changes in texture change an outfit fundamentally. Flannel and mohair, for example, could not be more different or have more diverse associations. Silk and woollen ties equally. Each must be considered for propriety and harmony as carefully as the scale of a pattern or addition of a pocket handkerchief. Mohair is not for a sombre business meeting. Woollen ties will strongly echo the woollen look of a flannel suit: only wear them together if you consciously want that effect. Tweed is different – it talks to a wool tie rather than mimicking it. The texture is different.
To begin with, I recommend experimenting with the textures of your suit and your tie. Try woollen and knitted ties, perhaps with your normal worsted suit. Try a flannel suit, with your normal printed silk tie. The difference in texture of a shirt is too minor to bother with, unless you start wearing chambray or cotton/cashmere mixes.
Texture in a suit will often save an outfit from appearing too dull. It gives life in the same way a small glen plaid or herringbone will do. Texture in a tie should be seen as a real alternative to pattern. Rather than buy another striped tie, try swapping your navy reppe for a navy knitted silk – the effect of such deep texture is startling; it sucks in the light.
Remember the importance of texture. Style is subtle.