Understanding color and understanding style are synonymous. Colors affect how we perceive things like emotions, thoughts, and events. Thus, color is one of the most integral influences in life. This fact is crucial when learning to become a stylish man. For this article, we’re getting into why men’s color matching is so important.
The colors we choose to wear say as much about us as they do about how we are perceived. So for my stylish ‘gents out there, we’re going to get into everything there is to know about color’s role in men’s fashion and how you can implement better color combinations into your outfits.
Table of Contents
- Understanding Color Themes and Basic Color Theory
- Men’s Color Matching Theory
- Tints vs. Shades vs. Tone
- Best Color Combinations for Men’s Clothing
- Best Colors for Accessories
- What Color Should my Tie Be?
- What color should my Pocket Square be?
- Closing Thoughts
Understanding Color Themes and Basic Color Theory
I’m sure you are all familiar with the color wheel. Good. That grade school art class information is going to come in handy. If not, shame on your teachers. Either way, here’s a refresher.
The color wheel is comprised of basic colors. These colors are the basic basis for every color you could imagine. Therefore, understanding these colors first is important. On the wheel, there are primary colors consisting of red, blue, and yellow and secondary colors of green, purple, and orange.
These are colors directly adjacent from each other on the wheel. Associated colors are important for monochromatic looks. Think blue jeans and a blue t-shirt or a navy suit and chambray button-up.
These are colors opposite from each other on the wheel. Used together, they make a noticeable contrast. Complementary colors are for bold, attention-grabbing looks.
Triadic colors are three colors equidistant from each other on the wheel. They make for a balanced outfit that incorporates multiple colors.
Analogous colors are three colors that reside next to each other and share a dominant color in the middle. The dominant color is either a primary or secondary color.
Men’s Color Matching Theory
Now that you’ve gotten refreshed on the specifics of the color wheel, there’s another foundation you need to know for men’s color matching. Color theory’s role in the perception of color. Each color correlates to how we as humans (maybe aliens too) perceive certain things. Here are some examples.
- Red: Danger, passion, anger, immediacy, love
- Blue: Trust, calm, stability
- Yellow: Attention, warmth, energy
- Green: Nature, wealth, envy
- Orange: Health, youth, attraction
- Purple: Luxury, royalty, mystery, creativity
Tints vs. Shades vs. Tone
Okay, now that we’ve got that down, it’s time to introduce black and white into the mix.
Tints are the mixing of a color with white.
A shade, on the other hand, is when a color is mixed with black.
Lastly, a tone is made when a color is combined with grey, thus both tinting and shading it.
Best Color Combinations for Men’s Clothing
I know you’re saying that color theory is interesting and all but when am I going to learn how to use it in my style? Well reader, the answer is right now. Here are the best color combinations you can use in men’s color matching. And by “best,” we mean classic combos you can’t go wrong with. You can always experiment on your own, of course.
Navy and white is men’s color matching at its finest. The contrast between navy and white is super pronounced, giving both colors space to pop. More so, it is a classic combo, invoking things like sailing style.
Style this look by pairing white jeans with a dark denim shirt or navy button down. The reverse of navy chinos and a crisp white oxford is a timeless look as well.
Our Favorites: Brooks Floral Navy Shirt, Tiffin Skinny Tie, and Power Dots Socks
Grey and Black
Grey and black is an (almost) criminally underused color combination. The subtle variation from grey to black creates contrast while at the same time being muted. The tint in darker greys is reflected in whatever piece of black clothing you are wearing. Ultimately, you capitalize on both the contrast and the complementary nature of the colors.
Wear this look with a pair of heather grey chinos and a black t-shirt or reverse it with a dark grey polo shirt and some black jeans.
Shop the Look: Percy Untuckable Dress Shirt, Trenton Gray Tie, and Argyle Heather Gray Socks
Green and Khaki
Military wear is a heavyweight for influence in menswear. It’s obvious then that the military combo of green and khaki is one of the best color combinations a man can rock (i.e camouflage). Furthermore, the color match of green and khaki just gives off woodland vibes. So maybe you’re more into tents than you are into tanks. That works, too.
Shop the Look: Mason Classic Fit Shirt and Camouflage Socks
Brown and Cream
Have you been smoking Cubans, or chilling on a pool deck in Manila? We love the laidback magnate look of brown on tan on lighter tan on tan on tan. Go for it.
Shop the Look: Lucas Brown Shirt and Quartz Brown Tie
Brown and Burgundy
Give off scholarly vibes. Not the nerdy professor, but the well-read tenured man who’s lived in Morocco and sips on Johnny Walker Blue. Dark, deep red mixed with brown is a passionate and rich combination.
Our Favorites: Galveston Skinny Tie and Solid Choice Socks
Grey and Pink
Low-key sensitive and edgy. That’s what grey and pink say for you. Grey has a muted, understated tone, while pale pink adds the spice of something unexpected. This is a modern color combination, but we believe it will be a classic in no time.
Shop the Look: Virtuoso Striped Socks and Bali Coral Tie
Black and White
The all-time classic. You literally can not go wrong with pairing black and white. No one will tell you it’s a weird color combination. In fact, the high contrast gives a clean and elegant look. The one addendum is that black and white can be somewhat formal, depending on how you wear it. That’s why Black-Tie and White-Tie events are the dressiest.
Shop the Look: Black and White Striped Tie and Zebra Print Pocket Square
We like euphemisms. Instead of a pre-2005 car being considered “old,” we’d like to say it has character. Likewise, we like toning down yellow with a shade called “mustard.” Adding a pop of mustard adds life to your outfit without drowning it out in the audaciousness of a brighter yellow.
Mustard goes well with darker clothes, for a slightly alternative, slightly grunge feel.
Shop the Look: Ace Mustard Tie
Same goes for orange. Orange is notoriously difficult. Besides not rhyming with anything, actually wearing it is even harder. Orange is a bold color and demands attention. That doesn’t mean that you should hide from it though. It can be pulled off by choosing a more muted shade like “rust.” Just make sure that you let that color shine and keep the rest of the look less pronounced.
Pair rust with darker colors and neutral solids.
Shop the Look: Silk Burnt Orange Tie
Bad Color Combos for Men’s Clothing
Not all color combos are a good fit. Men’s color matching is a dangerous game. Putting together the wrong colors will yield some pretty disastrous results. Don’t believe me? Just look at the picture above. I know that while the case for any of these can be made, as a general rule, you should avoid them.
Red and Green
What’s the first thing you think of when you see red and green together? yep, Christmas. Leave thus combo to ugly holiday sweaters.
Red and Orange
Both of these are considered hot colors. Red and orange are too bold to be shacked up together.
Green and Orange
Green and orange are a bad pair. The color green is usually very neutral while orange is loud. Unlike grey or black, green is too colorful to be dulled down by a competitor. Skip this one.
Brown and Black
This combo has been considered a sartorial no-no for many years. To put it bluntly, the combination gives off Oliver Twist pauper vibes. However, this isn’t to say it’s never been pulled off quite successfully.
Purple and Yellow
I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how this one could work and I can’t. I’d like to give you more sartorial insights on this one but all I can say is that the colors simply don’t look good together. Yellow is either too bright or its tints leave it too neutral to ever stand up to a color like purple. That’s right Lakers fans, your color combo is bad.
If you can make it work, please show us in the comments below.
Best Colors for Accessories
Best Jewelry Colors For Men
The best colors for men’s jewelry is more about which colors they’ll work with and less about the colors themselves. Most men’s jewelry comes in black, brown, gold, silver or bronze. Luckily for your style, these colors pretty much go with everything.
When picking the right accessory for your outfit, consider the color balance. For instance, silver will probably go better with a bolder color like red than say gold would. An easy trick is to match your accessories with things like a buckle on your shoes or the color of your belt. This’ll create a subtle nod to the color scheme without overdoing it.
Best Watch Colors
Every color imaginable has been represented in a watch. So just apply the same color matching rules here as well. Classic colors like silver, gold and black tend to be the most versatile.
What Color Should my Tie Be?
Choosing your tie color all comes down to the color of the shirt it’s going over. Ties are one of the most varied products on the market. Finding a great tie comes back to your understanding of colors. Let’s dive into this a bit.
What Tie to Match with a Solid Color Dress Shirt
First off, solid color dress shirts are low fuss. Their colors are simple and flattering. So your job is to add some life into that look. That means contrasting the colors. If you opt for a light color shirt, go for a darker complimentary colored tie.
Patterned ties also work well here. Since your shirt as a base is pretty straightforward color-wise, adding multiple colors in a patterned tie with perfectly standout.
What Tie to Match with a Patterned Shirt
This a bit more difficult. Patterned shirts contain multiple colors, meaning that your tie has to seamlessly match with all of them. For this reason, you’ll want to go for a solid-colored tie. This shifts the focus on the shirt and won’t clash. If your tie matches one of the colors in the pattern, even better.
What color should my Pocket Square be?
Pocket squares are woefully underused. The pocket square is able to bring what the tie can’t. Pocket squares can be bolder and have interesting designs and patterns that’ll draw attention to a suit that otherwise might be boring without it.
If you’re wearing a tie with your pocket square, here’s something to keep in mind. Matching the two together might seem like a good idea but often it ends up looking like you’re trying too hard. Here are two options instead.
First, you can match your tie and pocket square colorwise as long as the pocket square has some design in a contrasting color. This connects your outfit aesthetically while still being fresh. Alternatively, you can go for a color on the opposite end of the spectrum. An orange pocket square with a navy suit and tie is a fantastic choice.
Color matching is an important part of men’s style. It informs what we choose to say to the world about our style as well as how we want others to see us. Hopefully, by now you see how easy color matching is. Once you’ve mastered it, pulling off the perfect outfit will be second nature.
What’s the one color you couldn’t live without? Talk to the GentleManual community below!
- 11 Steps on How to Look More Attractive & Be Your Best Self Unbeatable ways to make a lasting improvement - February 1, 2019
- How to Reinvent Your Style An unbeatable guide for starting over - January 8, 2019
- Men’s Color Matching Style Guide How to effortlessly match colors for men's clothing - November 29, 2018