If you look very carefully, you’ll see that Frank has a small left-side dimple on his tie. This helps to break up the repeating pattern and give it a little more dimension. He’s able to combine a very small check pattern on his shirt with a larger striped tie, this is an excellent way to match patterns, having two patterns of similar size is difficult for the eye to process but one large and one small pattern can look fantastic.
This shirt has a very tight point collar that looks great with, what appears to be, a half Windsor knot. It’s a solid combination, with little gap between the points of his collar and the knot of the tie, your eye isn’t drawn away from the focal points - his watch, his tie and his face. If he had been wearing a spread collar for example, there would be less emphasis on the tie and some attention would be drawn to the prominent collar. Instead, such a tight collar actually makes it seem subtle and focuses the eye on an elegant tie that leads upwards to his face and downwards towards his watch. The eye is naturally focused and so the viewer notices the stunning white face of his watch but focuses on his face and what he’s saying.
His watch is a Portuguese Automatic by IWC, an expensive watch that is far outside of most of our price ranges. He’s wearing a thin, black leather strap with subtle texturing along the edges. Wearing an elegant yet timid watch was a great choice with this outfit, there is already plenty ‘going on’ with the patterns of his shirt and tie, it would likely look too busy if he wore a flashier watch. Instead, it has a large white face with gold rose markings that stands out from his dark wool suit.
Frank is always clean shaven, as a politician he never knows when he might be confronted by the press and so it’s crucial that he looks perfect at all times. He keeps his hair professional, going for a relaxed side part, it isn’t defined and crisp like JFK’s, he wears it naturally without a hard-part and without excessive product.
This is a great shot of Frank, you can see just how well his suits are fitted. He’s always seen wearing a single-breasted suit and you’ll notice that he is missing a pocket-square. In fact, we couldn’t find a single photo of Frank wearing a pocket-square, this is likely to prevent him looking over-dressed in front of voters and maintains symmetry through his outfit which will look better in motion-shots.
He’s wearing a thick and bold tie that adds color to what would otherwise be a dull, charcoal suit. In this photo he’s wearing a slightly wider pointed collar than the last photo but with the same knot, this striped tie and wider collar help to draw the eye up towards his face so that viewers can acknowledge his emotions in such a critical scene. At this point in the show, the character has lost some weight and to accentuate this they’ve created a strong v-taper that makes him look broad and powerful. His jacket is fitted a little long, Frank is around 5’9 and so this helps to make him look taller than he is, which can give him more presence and dominance.
If you look closely on the right lapel, you’ll see that this jacket has a button hole. The previous suit lacked this and suggests that this is a suit that he would normally wear to dinners or events where he would be required to wear a boutonnière. Similarly, he’s wearing a much more striking watch with a deep navy face, gold hands and a gold bezel. It’s clear that Frank is in control.
This is one of the few scenes in which we see Frank wearing a blue shirt. The collar is a traditional pointed design and is heavily pressed and starched, with a huge contrast between the light-blue shirt and the maroon tie, this is a great look if you’re trying to stand-out. He’s wearing a classic double-vented two-button wool suit in a navy blue that is created with different threads, giving it more depth than a solid color.
This tie is a plain flat color, with no dimple, this creates a straight arrow between the tie and the collar that points up to his face. This helps to draw the eye to his face, which is important for when he is delivering speeches or giving interviews. In this scene, Frank has been spending time in a warmer climate and therefore appears to have a slight tan, this helps to prevent the light blue shirt and deep red tie from washing him out too much.
Frank is dressed here in a more casual suit that will help him to be presented as one of the people. The jacket isn’t fitted well at all, it’s a box shape that hangs loosely on his shoulders and it very long all-over. You’ll also notice that his collar is unbuttoned and he’s not wearing a tie, this is a contrast to almost every other scene where Frank would be sharply dressed.
He’s wearing a thin brown belt that accentuates his stomach, that and the boxy suit make him look far heavier than he is. Overall, this isn’t an appealing look and is probably meant to make Frank look like more of a regular guy.
In this scene Frank is confronting a political opponent in his home constituency. He’s wearing an outfit that is more apt for that area, shrugging off his usual Washington look, instead, going for a lighter suit that would be more appropriate for a Southern state. This prevents him looking like an outsider and therefore gives him a greater presence and more confidence.
Frank matches the pieces of his outfit well, the tie is composed of a beige and a blue, similarly, he is wearing a blue shirt and a beige-grey suit. This is almost a Sunday-best type of outfit, but the watch and glasses tell the world that he’s powerful and lives by his own rules.
Sunglasses are a casual look and this helps Frank to look relaxed and unfazed by the political opposition, this is a great look when he’s facing adversity because it gives off a cool and calm appearance. He’s wearing a traditional Ray-Ban aviator style, nothing trendy or fancy for Frank, just a classic pair of sunglasses that you can believe he’s owned for many years. They have a round shape that matches Franks oval face, whereas a boxy shape of sunglasses would have made his face look more rectangular and oddly shaped.
This is a rare shot where Frank is wearing a completely plain black and white suit. In this he looks much slimmer and shorter, the tie is skinnier than usual and the knot is the same size as the thickness of the tie, making it look skinnier and longer than it is. The plain look forces the attention to his face, the only part of the outfit that isn’t plain.
This is a classic suit but one that doesn’t look natural to Frank, it reminds me of a high school kid at his first job interview. The jacket is cut shorter than his others and this makes him look short and the black suit sucks the color out of his skin. With such fair hair and light skin, wearing only black and white makes him look older than he is.
If he was to wear a black suit he could get away with it by changing the tie and wearing some with more color or at least a pattern that would distract from the high contrast of the white shirt and black jacket. If we look at another example, Tom Ford is almost exclusively seen wearing black suits and he looks incredible. However, he has a larger build, darker hair, more prominent features and often doesn’t wear ties.
This is a photoshoot shot of Frank at a publicity event. Here we see him in one of his most flattering outfits. The strong V taper in the middle combined with the boxier shoulders and sides prevents him from looking too skinny but gives just enough tapering so that you know it was tailored. It’s a great balance for an event where he will be heavily publicized and in the public-eye. This isn’t a fashion-forward fit, it’s a classic cut that obeys all of the traditional style rules.
Rare for Frank, we see him wearing a blue shirt with a solid blue tie. This appeals to the average person and is almost ‘blue collar’. He’s not wearing a fancy suit that would separate him from your average man, instead, he has chosen solid colors that are very safe. In this scene he’s got a strong dimple in his tie which gives a plain, solid tie some dimension and prevents it from looking dull and ‘dad-suit’ like.
The jacket itself is made from multiple threads, giving it a very subtle windowpane pattern. With all the pieces of this outfit he has been able to take plain materials and add a little bit of texture to prevent it from looking one dimensional.
Learning from Frank Underwood’s House of Cards Style
Overall, Frank is a well-dressed man who is constantly in the public-eye and needs to look sharp but still personable. Depending on where you work and who you associate with you might wish to replicate that look or you might want to stand out more.
Underwood’s look is purposefully designed to look professional but not to come across better than his voters. This is notable in his lack of pocket-square (see the tweet above from Johanna Argan). However, most of us aren’t trying to become President of the United States and so we can take more risks with our appearance. A simple pocket square that peaks out just half an inch would do a lot for some of Frank’s outfits that look like they are missing something.
We can learn two things from Frank Underwood; firstly, mixing different patterns can look incredible when done well and secondly, flat solid colors don’t need to look one-dimensional.
Combining Patterns - Risky or Not?
Combining patterns is an advanced style that is often not recommended for novices because it’s very easy to make a mistake. However, we can see examples of where Frank has worn a small pattern on his shirt and a larger pattern on his tie. This combination of patterns is a safer way to avoid making your outfit look overly busy, whilst still allowing you to add some flavor to your wardrobe.
If you haven't seen House of Cards then I would implore you to watch the trailer (below). It's one of, if not the, best show that I've ever watched.
Making Flat Colors Interesting
On the other hand, flat colors and pastels don’t have to be boring. Some of his best outfits are a combination of multiple flat colors. When doing this you have more freedom to explore different cuts and movement of the material because the flat colors aren’t stealing your attention. This is why designers like Tom Ford have been able to take black suits and make them exciting again, because without the burden of patterns or conflicting colors you can explore lapel cuts and different collar shapes more freely.