Most men have no clue when it comes to mixing and matching colors.
If you err on the side of caution and avoid bringing any color into your wardrobe, you'll look dull. Or, if you get it wrong and add too much color – or the wrong colors – you'll look like a clown.
This article will help you understand how to match colors in men's clothing.
You will learn how to:
What does understanding (and using) color do?
- Avoids blatant mistakes
- Guides people's eyes
- It makes people subconsciously “feel” things (red enlivens, brown = trust, dark navy or gray = power)
- It makes shopping MUCH more straightforward when you know what works best for you
But how does that translate into an actual outfit?
It's not enough to know that red and green are complementary colors that go well together.
Even though the colors are good in combination, the wrong shades or the wrong amounts of each color will make you look like a Christmas decoration.
Menswear has to find a good balance between the dominant colors of the suits and shirts and the accent colors of things like neckties, pocket squares, and jewelry.
Combining colors tastefully is one of the hallmarks of the genuinely well-dressed man.
Although people have written dissertations on color-coordinating your wardrobe, the basics are pretty simple. All you have to remember are these 3 quick rules for combining colors in men's clothing (courtesy of my friend Barron).
Trust me; it's a lot easier than you might think.
For this article, I collaborated with Barron Cuadro from Effortless Gent, a men's style blog that guides you towards building a lean wardrobe.
Do you ever look in your closet and think, “I have all this clothing, yet there's nothing I want to wear”? If so, you're in luck! Barron has helped many men like you take advantage of a flexible and interchangeable set of clothes for daily use. He makes it an effortless task regardless of your age, body type, or budget.
Whether you're starting your wardrobe from scratch or just bringing in a few classic pieces to fill in the gaps, I highly recommend browsing Effortless Gent. You might also want to visit the EG online store for some stylish items that will upgrade your wardrobe even further.
Now for Barron's 3 essential rules for how to match colors in men's clothing.
How To Match Colors In Men's Clothing Rule #1 Focus On Neutral Colors
Think of all the possible clothing color combinations like a pizza. You've got the base made up of bread and cheese and then an assortment of toppings that cater to different tastes.
Which would you say is more important: the base or the toppings? No-brainer! What kind of pizza has no crust? Similarly, a stylish outfit needs a good base of neutral colors like these:
- Navy, Light & Sky Blue
- Brown & Khaki
- Olive Green
These are the colors that go with most others. They set up the foundation for your outfits, making your job of finding matching clothes in your closet much more effortless.
That's why they should constitute the majority of your wardrobe in terms of color percentages. With the right proportion of neutrals and non-neutrals, you can focus on the following rule (and have fun with it).
How To Match Colors Rule #2 Use Small Pops Of Brighter Colors
This rule is where you do get to do a bit of experimentation. Just remember what happens to a pizza if you overload it with multiple veggies or meat types that don't go well together. The same principle applies when it comes to color in your wardrobe.
The key, as always, is moderation. Stick with only small touches of 1-2 brighter colors to prevent them from clashing with or overpowering the rest of your outfit.
A yellow or pink pocket square, for example, will pair well with a charcoal sports jacket and all other neutrals you have on (white or light blue dress shirt, dark blue jeans, black belt, etc.). It will easily pop out with that combination. The same goes for a red necktie or gold buttons on a neutral-colored jacket.
Shoes are slightly trickier. While black is the only option in some cases, e.g., formal dress, shades of brown complement most of the neutrals above far better. So what's your best bet here? In a nutshell, brown is the answer. For a more thorough explanation, check out this article on matching dress shoes with neutral-colored suits.
But what if you're planning instead to wear a bright suit color for a friend's wedding or another special event? A bit of trial-and-error is in order. Do a bit of research on your best options. Ask the groom's opinion. Or the bride's. And remember – there's always Pinterest and Instagram to help you out!
How To Match Colors Rule #3 Don't Overthink Your Skin Tone
When dressing up, men often wonder: “Does this color look good with my skin tone?” Ever asked yourself this? Don't worry about this too much. It's more a secondary issue and not a huge limiting factor in what colors you can wear.
Shouldn't skin color matter here? Well, yes, to a certain extent. But it should only play a part in about 10% of your decision-making regarding your color choices for clothing, and only after you've considered the two rules mentioned above.
It does help to know the type and amount of contrast between your skin tone and hair color. But that info should only require minor adjustments to your style. Don't let your skin completely overhaul whatever you've taken time to put together. Stick to the neutrals and pops of color mentioned above, and chances are you'll look good regardless of your complexion.
Matching colors is essentially a personal skill. There are no official rights or wrongs. The rules listed in this post – and all other rules about color – are not strict. As much as it helps to follow them (especially if you're beginning to upgrade your style), there are times when you have to follow your gut simply.
With some practice, you'll eventually be able to tell whether your outfit works with a single glance in the mirror.
When it comes to understanding how to match colors in men's clothing, remember this: If you like what you see and the outfit suits the occasion, go ahead with it! Forget about how much it defies conventions. Be confident – and it'll show. And confidence always looks good.