Welcome to the third installment of the Menswear Color Primer! If you’re on your journey through the series and have completed parts one and two, you’re in the right place.

This, the third installment of the series, will focus on monochromatic colors. The remaining articles can be accessed below:

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

In this article, we’ll address a common concept in men’s style: monochromatic dressing.

Man Playing Acoustic Guitar

Aside from the red shirt, the above outfit is monochromatic: dark blue jeans, dark blue blazer, and blue lapel flower. Had the shirt been a light blue, the ensemble would have been totally monochromatic.

What Is A Monochromatic Color Scheme?

You may remember the black-on-black-on-black suits that Regis Philbin wore in the late 90’s on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and if you were wondering, “Are they seriously endorsing that?” I’m glad to tell you that no, we aren’t. Contrary to how it sounds, monochromatic doesn’t mean “all the same color.”

It does mean “all the same hue in different shades, tones, and tints.” Just so we’re all on the same page, let’s go over some quick definitions:

Hue: The name of a color, e.g. blue, red, or yellow.

Tint: A hue produced by adding white. If you start with red and add a bunch of white, you get pink. Keep adding white, you’ll end up with white.

Tone: A hue produced by adding grey. If you start with blue and add grey, you get, well, greyed-out blue until you end up with grey.

Shade: A hue produced by adding black. If you start with green and add black, you will get deeper and deeper greens until you get black.

These terms are taken from the visual art world; this is stuff painters and designers learn early on in their professional education. In the interest of giving high-quality information, we’re letting you know. But for us average Joes, the word “shade” is how we refer to lighter or darker versions of the same color, regardless of the fact that the terms isn’t necessarily correct all the time.

But hey, now you have some information with which you can be a know-it-all at parties. Don’t say we never did anything for you.

Anyway, a monochromatic color scheme is one in which you maintain continuity in your outfit by sticking with different shades of the same color.

Why Dress With A Monochromatic Scheme?

Great question.

  • It’s easy. You find one color and only use variants thereof. No need to worry about complementary colors or things that are too advanced.
  • It’s safe. It’s hard to go wrong when you limit your color palette in this way.
  • It’s conservative. For those of us who need to dress in a way that doesn’t rock the boat, dressing monochromatically can help us look good while not making waves.

Classic Menswear Examples

Here are some examples of monochromatic shirt and tie pairings:

Dark Blue Tie On light Blue Shirt

As basic as it gets, here we have a light blue shirt with a dark blue tie. This is a very common color way in menswear that also happens to be monochromatic. Being blue, it’s extremely versatile and can be worn with grey suits, navy suits, tan suits, khaki suits, white suits, and a host of other options.

Burgundy Dot Tie On Pink Shirt

Here we have a burgundy tie on a pink background. What makes this monochromatic is that these two colors are actually just different versions of red. Burgundy is a darker shade of red, while pink is a very light tint of red. This combination would be particularly awesome with a navy jacket, as red and blue are primary colors.

Purple Dot Tie On Lavender Stripe Shirt

In our third example, we have a deep violet tie on a lavender shirt. Similar to the burgundy and pink combination above, these are just different versions of purple. The tie is a deep shade of purple, while the shirt is a light tint of purple. This would work well across as many color jackets or suits as the blue combination above.

Note that these combinations work well because there is a lot of contrast between the shirts and ties despite the fact that they’re of the same hue. If you layer light blue on light blue, for example, it’s not a good look.


<< Return To Part 2 of 5: Complementary colors

Proceed To Part 4 of 5: Skin Tone >>