Advanced Color Coordination for Men (2020)

Ready to take your color game to the next level? This piece covers advanced color coordination, how to stand out with your outfit pairings, and make you the best-dressed guy in the room.

In this article we cover:

  • Monochromatic dressing
  • Mixing warm and cool colors
  • Seasonal colors

Advanced Color Coordination: Monochromatic Dressing

If you’ve read our color coordination – the basics article, you know we’re big fans of creative use of color to create a dynamic and interesting outfit. However, you can still create a good look even in the absence of color.

Monchromatic (or “monochrome”) dressing is an outfit in which all of the components are made up of the same color.

Perhaps the most commonly conjured image is the “Hollywood cool” red carpet look of a black tuxedo, bow tie, black tuxedo shirt, and shiny patent-leather shoes.

Of course, a monochromatic outfit doesn’t have to be black. In theory, you could make one of any color you’d like. But, compiling a truly monochrome outfit is more difficult than you might think. The reasons are twofold.

First, unless you’re going bespoke, colors on two different garments are likely not going to match exactly.

Take black, for example. True “black” is a complete absence of color. But, the black in many of today’s manufactured garments is actually studded with little flecks of white or grey.

This becomes even more apparent as dyes fade after a number of cycles through your washing machine and dryer. What results is two garments that are *kind of* the same color-but not quite. It makes for a look that’s more awkward than elegant

Second, even if you do go bespoke and get everything the same shade, it doesn’t create much the way of depth or visual interest. It just makes you a single blob of color.

Or, if you happen to be standing next a wall of that color, it makes you blend in! This also makes for a very awkward look.

How to do Monochrome the Right way

Monochrome for advanced color coordination can still be done if you follow a few guidelines.

First, keep your colors neutral. A look in all grey looks much refined than, say, a look in all yellow.

Second, vary your shades. The way to do monochrome, then, is really to operate in shades of the same color.

So, consider the above look. It is a monochromatic look, yes.

But, it’s a suit in a lighter shade of grey, a turtleneck in a darker charcoal, and a pocket square in both black and medium-grey.

Color as an Accent

Color can also creatively be used as an accent. We call this a “pop” of color, and usually works best on an accessory. This works particularly we in an otherwise monochrome outfit.

Consider the above, tonal outfit. It works fine as a refined an elegant look, but could be made more playful through the addition of of a paisley pocket square in, say, light pink, royal purple, and emerald green.

Or, a scarf in a bold yellow can work to spice up an outfit of all blue or all grey.

Another way to think about this is by considering ‘core’ and ‘accent’ colors.

ADD CORE COLOR TABLE HERE

Advanced Color Coordination: Warm and Cool Colors

Monochrome may be chic and sophisticated, but ideally you want a little more variety in your outfits.

In our basics piece, we covered how to combine warm and cool colors. It usually works best if you have two of one and one of the other.

So, a deep navy suit, a lighter blue shirt, and an orange tie works nicely. Or, dark indigo denim, a yellow shirt, and a rusty brown suede jacket.

But, for advanced color coordination, what if you combine all warm colors, all cool colors, or even adjacent colors?

The key here is similar to that of our monochrome solution: vary the shades.

It’s perhaps easier to combine three cooler tones.

For an evening out, try some green-grey slacks, a burgundy sports jacket with larger blue windowpane checks, and a light blue open-collared shirt.

But, mixing warmer colors like yellow and red can work, as long as they are softer shades. Pure yellow and (especially) pure red are very strong hues.

But, if we mix in a neutral white with the yellow and red, we have a much more pleasing look.

Try a soft yellow polo shirt and some “Nantucket” red washed chinos for a preppy look straight out of the Northeast!

Seasonal Dressing

Men who are perhaps getting into style begin to acquire a seasonal weight wardrobe.

On the formal end, this may mean picking up a pair of fuzzy flannel trousers or a tweed sports jacket for fall/winter and a breathable hopsack suit for summer.

On the casual end, a linen sport shirt and some lightweight chinos instead of a cotton T-shirt and cargo shorts.

These are usually in blue, brown, and grey. And that’s fine. But, those more in tune with advanced color coordination know colors also have a seasonality.

What does this mean? In general, we say to keep your colors aligned with sunlight. So, in the longer summer days, break out your bright pastels in summerweight fabrics. This means pinks, yellows, lavenders, and whites.

In fall, transition to deeper browns, rust, burgundy, emerald, and mustard. And, in winter, navy, charcoal, and black.

Following this logic, you should avoid, say, a Nantucket red pair of thick-wale corduroy pants!

Exceptions for Advanced Color Coordination

However, the most advanced dressers know these rules can be broken. Consider our earlier statement about darker colors in winter.

We think a pair of cream or off-white flannel trousers can look absolutely stunning with a camel topcoat and some suede chukka boots.

Conversely, linens in a deep chocolate brown can look wonderful as a casual suit.

Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter Skin Tones

There’s more to seasonality than just the temperature. In some circles, your skin tone can also have a season! This season lays out the kind of colors that look best on you.

WINTER

“Winter” is a cool tone. People with winter complexions have blue or pink/rosy undertones. Skin can be pale white, yellowish-olive, or dark.

Those with the Winter color profile have a lot of depth to their coloring and a lot of contrast between their hair color, eye color and skin tone.

Winter people have brown hair, with deeply colored eyes. Many Asians and African Americans fall into this category. People with white-blond hair may also be winters

Best ColorsWorst Colors
Winters should wear colors that are sharp, stark and clear. They look best in intense, rich colors, like white, black, navy blue, red, and hot pink. For lighter colors, wear bright white or icy pastels, such as cool blues, pinks and yellows.Winters should avoid dressing in earth tones and subdued colors like pastels, and beige, orange and gold.

SUMMER

“Summer” is also a cool tone and like winter complexions, have blue or pink undertones. Skin is pale and pink. Summers have a low level of contrast between their hair, eye color and skin tone.

Summers often have blonds or brown hair with pale eyes. If you’re a trying to discriminate between winter and summer, winters are usually have brown hair and summers are mostly natural blonds.

Best ColorsWorst Colors
Summers should choose soft neutrals and pastels, as well as muted colors with cool undertones. Powder blue, dusty pink, mauve, rose-brown, lavender, plum, and pale yellow are all good color choices.Summers should avoid intense, vivid hues because they will look harsh. Nor should Summers wear earth tones, black or orange.

AUTUMN

Autumn is a warm tone and people with this complexion have golden undertones in their skin, like a pale peach, golden beige or golden brown. Many have brown or red hair, and golden brown.

However, golden blond and black hair coloring can also fall into this range. Autumns have a lot of depth to their coloring and skin tone. Rich golden, spicy, and earthy colors will accent their complexion.

Best ColorsWorst Colors
Autumns should selectboth muted and rich warm colors that are seen in autumn leaves and spice colors, such as camel, beige, olive, orange, gold, warm grays, and dark brown.Autumns should avoid clear, bright colors and black and white, which will make them look tired and faded. They should also avoid pastels and blue tones, which look cold against Autumns complexion and give a pale appearance.

SPRING

Spring is also a warm tone. Spring complexions have golden undertones and are usually creamy white or peach. Springs have extremely light, ivory skin color.

People of this coloring are usually natural golden blonds, auburn, or have strawberry blond red hair. Springs also have very clear, light blue and green colored eyes. Freckles and rosy cheeks are also characteristics of this group.

If you can’t decide weather a client is an autumn or a spring, remember springs tend to have pale eyes while autumns have dark eyes.

Best ColorsWorst Colors
Springs can wear very pale, soft colors, such as peach, camel, golden yellow, golden brown, and aqua. They will also look good in ivory, bright greens, true reds, clear blues and coral.Springs should avoid black and white, which are too contrasting. They should also stay away from dark, dull colors.

These are, of course, guidelines, and certainly not hard-and-fast rules. We’ve also written pretty extensively on the subject over here.

Wrapping Up

In this article, we’ve covered tonal and monochromatic dressing, choosing colors for the season, and discussed whether you might be a “winter” or a “spring” skin tone.

It’s important to remember, these are just guidelines. Style is, ultimately, a personal choice. If you’d like do an all-black look; go for it. While we certainly wouldn’t suggest a look in all bright red, you’ve got the freedom to so.

And, while we discuss skin tone, these are more suggestions than any else. Just as the color of one’s skin doesn’t dictate the content of one’s character, it shouldn’t dictate what kind and what color clothes we can wear.

Style is, ultimately, a personal choice and an expression of who you are. Wear what makes you most comfortable, and be glad that you did.

Thanks for reading.

Andy’s Color Coordination Chart!
Put up this useful chart in your closet, and make Color Coordination easy!
Only $22.99 Just one of the many items available from the Ask Andy Shop !

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Hang this in your closet to help coordinate the colors of your clothing. This is a great but easy way to instantly see what colors go with others. This high-quality poster, printed on heavyweight 7 mil semi-gloss paper using superior dye inks. Image size 16″ X 20″. Treat yourself or give as a gift.
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