Small Color WHeel

How Does Color Work For Men?

Color is a daunting concept for a lot of men. If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ve probably asked some of these questions:

  • “How do I even know if a color looks good on me?”
  • “What does it mean when colors ‘go’ together?”
  • “I don’t even know how to determine my skin tone, let alone know what it is.”

We created this part of the site to help men who have questions about anything color-related. Perhaps you want to do a better job of matching shirts and ties. Maybe you’re (rightly) concerned that you’re not wearing the best colors for your skin tone. There are many reasons you could be here, and we cordially welcome you regardless of what that reason is.

If you’re a natural with color or familiar with some basic concepts already, we invite you to download and print our color wheel (link below) and check out its accompanying infographic (also below).

If you’re a color novice, we created a five-article series on color to familiarize you with core concepts and help you dress better. They can be read in a series or as standalone articles. They are:

  1. An Introduction To Color Theory For Men
  2. How Complementary Colors Work In Menswear
  3. Monochromatic Colors & Menswear
  4. Understanding Skin Tone For Men
  5. Understanding Contrast For Men

Color Wheel For Men

One of the handiest things a man can have hanging in his wardrobe is a color wheel. It’s sometimes really hard to find a few minutes to figure out what tie goes with the shirt you want to wear. A color wheel hanging on your closet door can be very helpful.

Download A Printable Color Wheel For Your Closet

Color Wheel Infographic

Download A Printable Color Wheel For Your Closet

We’ve broken the color wheel down in this infographic into warm and cool colors, and have four smaller wheels that demonstrate common color-mating techniques used when coordinating items like shirts, ties, pocket squares, socks, and silk knot cufflinks.

While it’s obviously important to consider the color of your main items (jackets and trousers), they don’t often cause much difficulty while dressing. Most men are already sure that their navy suit’s jacket and trouser go together. The confusion occurs when the furnishings are thrown into the mix, so that’s what the lion’s share of the focus is here.

Again, the whole objective here is to print this thing off and keep it in your closet for quick reference. You’d be amazed at how handy a color wheel can be. Now, let’s get into some basic concepts and examples of how to make them work when you’re getting dressed.

Warm & Cool Colors

You can see on the large color wheel above that there’s a side indicating warm versus cool colors. We go into greater depth on this concept in “Understanding Skin Tone For Men” (link is below), but from a high level, warm colors tend to be yellows, yellow-greens, oranges, and red-oranges. Cool colors tend to be blues, blue-purples, greens, and teals.

Whether or not you should wear warm or cool colors is based on your skin tone. If you’re warm, you’re probably blond and your veins will have a green-ish look to them, and you should wear warmer tones. If you’re cool-toned (and most men are), you probably have pink-ish cheeks and bluish veins, and you should wear cooler tones. Neutral toned men can wear whatever they like.

Warm Colors

  • Yellows, oranges, red-oranges & yellow-greens
  • Look best on warm and neutral skin tones
  • Bright, sunny, lively

More often than not, these colors are used sparingly in clothes. Scientifically speaking, the eye perceives these colors faster than cool ones (yellow, in fact, travels to the eye the fastest), so too much of these can be a bit of an onslaught. Furthermore, there are fewer warm-toned people than cool-toned, so having these colors near your face can sometimes be risky.

On the other hand, a pop of warm color can give you tons of style points when worn as socks, cufflinks, or pocket squares. If you happen to be a person with a warm skin tone, enjoy using these colors as ties, or even as shirts.

Cool Colors

  • Blues, purples, teals, most greens
  • Look best on cool & neutral skin tones
  • Muted, subdued

Cool colors are much easier for most people to flex into their wardrobes than warm ones. More people than not have cool complexions, so these colors are much more common.

This makes them a natural fit for most tailored menswear.

Complementary Colors

Complementary Color Scheme In Wheel

Complementary colors sit across each other from the color wheel and thus “complement” each other. This is great for vibrant, attention-getting looks. Some examples are:

  • Blue / white gingham shirt with orange tie
  • Purple socks with yellow / purple striped braces
  • Green tie with red pocket square

We dive deeper into this concept in “How Complementary Colors Work In Menswear” (link is below).

Split Complementary Color Schemes

Split Complementary Color Scheme In Wheel

Another way to look vibrant, this is a scheme in which you mate a color with one of or both of the two colors adjacent its complement on the color wheel. That last sentence was a bit of a mouthful, so here are some examples:

  • Green cufflinks with red-purple or red-orange tie
  • Yellow-orange tie with blue socks and blue-purple striped shirt
  • Purple and yellow-orange dotted socks with yellow-green and purple handkerchief
  • We analyze this further in “How Complementary Colors Work In Menswear.”

Analogous Color

Analogous Color Scheme In Wheel

Think of analogous colors as the opposite concept of complementary colors. They sit adjacent to each other on the color wheel rather than opposite. It’s more muted than a complementary scheme and is a good introduction into what we call “cousin” colors: blue and purple, yellow and orange, red and orange, and so forth. Some examples are:

  • Blue shirt with blue / purple striped tie and purple pocket square
  • Yellow / red striped tie with yellow-orange cufflinks
  • Teal and blue tie with green and teal pocket square

Monochromatic Colors

Monochromatic Color Scheme In Wheelpng

When you dress monochromatically, you aren’t necessarily wearing the same color, but rather varying shades of the same color. Most commonly, men will do this with black or blue. This tends to allow you to blend into the background in any given situation and is great for guys who have hesitation about dressing “loudly.” Here are some examples:

  • Navy blue suit with blue socks, light blue shirt, medium blue tie, and pale blue pocket square
  • Head-to-toe black
  • Head-to-toe white
  • Pink shirt with burgundy tie
  • Lavender braces with plum pocket square

Note that neither white nor black show up on the color wheel as they are technically not colors. We get deeper into this concept in “Monochromatic Colors & Menswear.”

Our Five-Part Color Series

As mentioned above, we have also created a five-part series in which we address basic color theory, how to analyze your skin tone, and how contrast works. Any of these articles can be read as a standalone piece or chronologically in the series. The articles can be accessed below and provide much deeper information for the concepts provided above

  1. An Introduction To Color Theory For Men
  2. How Complementary Colors Work In Menswear
  3. Monochromatic Colors & Menswear
  4. Understanding Skin Tone For Men
  5. Understanding Contrast For Men

In Conclusion

Color is not as daunting and fearsome a concept as many of us make it out to be. With even the smallest amount of education on the subject, any one of us can learn to coordinate colors expertly in relation to both our wardrobes and the colors found in our skin, hair, and eyes. Once you’ve got it down, your wardrobe options will expand immensely and you’ll look better than you ever have.

Please enjoy these resources, and as always, send any questions our way in the comments section. Here’s to all of us being better-dressed men!