The first thing a person notices about a dress shirt is its color. In a crowded room of suits, your choice of shirt colors will either help you stand out or blend in; the key here is what are your intentions and do you know how to mix and match your clothing in order to fulfill them. The only way to do this is to gain mastery in understanding 1) what color shades compliment you and 2) how those same colors frame you in your environment. The goal of this article is to help you to begin to understand both.
The Role of your Complexion, Hair, and Eye Color
A man’s complexion, hair color, and eye color are the key indicators he should use when selecting the color of a fabric which will cover his body. Unfortunately, most men make their color decision based on what they have worn in the past, what colors are readily available, and the ever-changing winds of fashion. The result is what you see today, a sea of solid white and blue shirts. The two most important factors in selecting shirt color are a man’s skin tone and hair color. Eye color is a wild-card factor; in the cases where eye color strongly contrasts a man’s complexion and hair color, it can be used to introduce colors that would otherwise have not compliment an individual. It is the relationship between these three factors that determines what contrast category a man falls into: either High, Low, or Medium Contrast
High Contrast Men
Put simply, these are men whose hair color is a stark contrast to their skin tone; black hair with white skin is a perfect example. For high contrast men, the key to looking good is to be able to mimic this color difference in their clothing with the contrast in their facial zone. A dark navy suit with a white shirt and a charcoal suit with an ice blue shirt are two combinations that compliment high contrast men. In general, light colored shirts with dark suits and dark/vibrant ties with light colored suits. Dark shirts with light suits can be accomplished, but pulling this off requires skill. High contrast men are always complimented by strong ties that stand out from the shirt.
Low Contrast Men
As the name suggests, these are men with a muted appearance. Light hair and light skin is the most common variant, but men with red hair, bald men, and men with little hair also fall into this category. The strengths of these men are the exact opposite of the high contrast men above. Low contrast men should seek a monochromatic look, as that a strong contrasting outfit will easily overpower their muted tones. Remember the purpose of a frame (your clothing) is to enhance the picture (your face). In general, low contrast men fair well with dark blues and earth tone dress shirts combined with dark suits. When wearing light gray or tan suits, the low contrast gentlemen needs to stay with lighter colored shirts and earth tones; white is permissible here if the suit is light enough to avoid a stark contrast. Be careful in your choice of tie, if the neck-wear stands out too much it can draw attention from your face to your chest and stomach.
Medium Contrast Men
If you don’t fall into one of the two extremes, you most likely fit into this group. Brown skinned men with dark hair are common members, along with lighter skinned men and with gray and white hair. With such a wide selection of facial tones and hair colors, it’s hard to give specific guidance in this category. What we will say is that most men do not fit exactly in the middle; instead they lean towards either low or high contrast. The afore mentioned dark haired men with brown skin; they lean towards the high contrast, and can not only utilize that man’s color combinations but they can get away with a few subtle monochromatic combinations. The same with the light skinned gentlemen with gray hair. He is more similar to the low contrast individual, and would do well to follow the rules set forth for that man. However, he can very successfully pull off a contrasting outfit, especially if his eyes or another feature compliment the color combination chosen. To sum it up, medium contrast men can enjoy the best of both worlds, but should be careful when venturing too far in one direction.
The Role of Seasons
It should be mentioned that although your natural colors are the dominant factors in determining what color clothing you should wear, they are not the only things you should pay attention to. A dandy also gives attention to the seasons, paying heed to the effect the colors around him have on the ensemble he has put together. The dark suit and dark colored shirt you decide to wear may look magnificent on you, but at a summer wedding you’ll find yourself not only hot under the collar but sticking out like a sore thumb. Let’s take a quick look at the seasons and the shades of color they invoke.
The season of re-birth, it’s here that we pinks, lavenders, and lighter shades of blue. Lighter weight fabrics are dusted off from their winter sleep, and a man would speak well of himself to wear multi-colored checks and stripes that compliment him.
A time when light and bold colors dominate the scene. Gold striped shirts, red checks, and of course a wide variety of blue solids and patterns should grace the wardrobe of the well dressed man. 100% cottons, linens, and silks are popular fabric choices because of their wicking qualities.
Earth Tones and heavier fabrics begin to make their appearance. Clothing tends to take on a somber appearance with the onset of cooler weather, and now with the weather getting cooler is a good time to wear blends. Their heat retention qualities are good on an cold evening you are caught without an overcoat.
Dark colors and heavy fabric such as flannels make their appearance. You can enliven your wardrobe a bit with a pink or maize oxford, but winter is the season you want to get your money’s worth from the fabrics designed to keep you warm. Forest green and brown tones are a stable during this season.
It’s important to remember that confidence in ones appearance is vital to looking great. When people look at you a tad longer than usual, you need to have the confidence in your outfit to know that it’s because you look that good (as opposed to looking that bad!). Our advice is to have the courage to know yourself, and from that knowledge choose the colors that best compliments you as an individual.