Most guys don't spend a lot of time on the idea of “seasonal colors” in clothing.
It's just not very manly to talk about “being an autumn.”
But the seasonal groupings still come up often enough that we figured a cheat-sheet wouldn't hurt.
This is the most painless breakdown of what the heck people talk about when they start doing the seasons thing to you:
Seasonal Colors as Complexions
The more common use of the seasonal descriptors is to group types of human complexions.
Skin tends to have either a faint bluish or yellowish tint — not enough to be readily apparent in normal life, but a strong enough coloration that some shades make better matches or contrasts than others.
Everyone skews a little bit toward either the blue skin tone or the yellow skin tone, regardless of their skin color.
The seasonal breakdown came along as a way to group those basic blue-tone and yellow-tone skins.
Different authors have applied the system to cosmetic concerns ranging from clothing styles to make-up and hair products.
Take it with a grain of salt — not everyone fits perfectly into one grouping alone — but here are the very basic seasonal complexions:
- Winters have skin with a blue-tone base (usually pale) and hair/eyes that contrast sharply with their skin.
- Summers have the same blue-tone skin but only gently contrast with their other features.
- Springs have yellow-tone skin with light-colored eyes/hair.
- Autumns have yellow-tone skin but darker hair, which often creates more contrast that Springs.
The basic idea is that the top two (winter and summer) should wear “cooler” colors and the lower two (spring and autumn) do well in “warmer” colors.
The higher-contrast seasons (winter and autumn) wear clothing with deeper contrasts, while the lower-contrast seasons (summer and spring) wear lots of matching or associated colors.
Seasonal Colors as Wardrobe Themes
The other way people use labels like “summer” and “autumn” is to describe general color themes in an outfit.
For a while these were actually semi-official “rules” of good fashion — you wore summer colors in the summer months, and so on. The idea was to wear clothing that reflected the season.
Those rules are mostly obsolete, but it's worth knowing the basic color themes and avoiding any really obvious contrasts. An outdoor garden party in the summer is not the best time to wear a dark shirt and dark suit, pastel blues will look strange at the Christmas party, and so on.
For the most part the “seasonal” colors are self-explanatory:
- Spring colors are light and warm. Yellows and pinks are classic examples — all of the warmer pastels are part of the spring pallette.
- Summer colors are also light, but come from the cooler hues on the color wheel. Bright greens and blues and purples are all summery colors.
- Autumn colors are warm and dark. Deep reds and oranges and browns — fallen leaf colors — dominate autumn.
- Winter colors are cool and dark. Grays and blacks are winter colors, and so are deep forest greens and steely blues.
These are still nice combinations to work with, but they're not really hard and fast rules. It's just a convenient shorthand that clothing designers will sometimes throw around.
Try not to confuse it with the seasonally-themed complexions — they're two different things, and “winter” clothing won't necessarily look good on a “winter” complexion.
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