Color wheel of fashion fortune

Color wheel of fashion fortune

Q. I have a clipping of a column you wrote last year where you talked about “Color Families.” How do I know which colors within a family work? If I am wearing a tie with blue jeans, a light blue shirt, and blue blazer, can it be aqua, or a purple blue? I have dark brown trousers that I wear with light yellow shirts and am unsure what shades my tie should be, especially when I add my brown and black herringbone sports jacket. There are a lot of other cases where I stay in the “family,” but still wonder about the match.

A. Your question shows you are aware of the many options you have when working with color. Knowing a few color rules can be a positive element in your how-to-look-great bag of tricks.

So, what are color families? One definition is: color families are divisions of the color wheel into two types of colors: warm colors and cool colors, plus a third group, neutral colors. Warm colors (also known as earth colors) are reds, yellows, and oranges. Cool colors (or jewel colors) are blues, greens, and purples. Neutral colors are non-spectrum colors such as browns and grays.

Knowing how to mix colors is an essential skill for any man who hopes to dress well. Mixing colors can create two effects – harmony or disorganization. When we mix colors in an outfit, we want to use colors that work with each other to create an appearance that is pleasant to look at, not a mixture of colors that look chaotic. If we don’t mix colors or use any variety, the end result is likely to be bland or boring. If we mix too many colors or mix colors in a non-harmonious way, it leads to a chaotic and disorganized appearance.

Let’s look at what is probably the most popular color family that men use: blue. Colors in the blue family are “cool colors” or “jewel tones.” They can range in both directions on the color wheel from blue: from a greenish blue (teal or aqua) on one side of blue, through a pure blue, and then on to the other side, a blue that approaches purple, a color known as periwinkle. These are all in the blue family, but that does not mean that they all go well together. When wearing clothes in the blue family, as in your example, either a green-blue or a purple-blue could work, but do not introduce both colors into your combination. Actually, it would be more attractive if you introduced something neutral; so, instead of a blue shirt with your blue blazer, I’d prefer a white shirt. That way, either the aqua or the blue/violet tie would be a fine color accent. But, let’s say that you decide on a pale pink shirt with your blue blazer instead; then, I would choose the purplish-blue tie, and not a blue-green tie, because pink and purple are both in the same direction on the color wheel (they are closer and more related to each other than pink and aqua). This helps explain why a blue blazer, pink shirt, and aqua tie combination lacks harmony and seems unrelated and illogical.

On the other hand, your brown trousers and brown-and-black tweed sport jacket are in the brown color family. As components of a versatile neutral color palette, they allow you to go off in several directions. I like your choice of yellow with browns. Yellow shirts and variations on yellow ties work especially well with all shades of brown from light khaki to dark chocolate. They are harmonious together. I’m not saying that you cannot wear a blue and red tie (cool colors) with tans and khakis (warm colors). You can. But a yellow-and-red tie (creating a warm/orange effect) would be better. The look is harmonious and more pleasing to the eye.

As you can see, there is not a simple, clear-cut answer to your question. It always helps learn to trust your mirror. Rely objectively on what you see; my strong recommendation is to have a full-length mirror near your closet for an accurate picture of how the world will see you. It is difficult to judge your appearance based on what you see in the medicine cabinet’s small mirror. Good lighting (not fluorescent) also helps. Another way to know what looks good on you is to listen for, and pay attention to, compliments. This is especially useful if they come from someone whose taste you admire as opposed to someone whose preferred look is too safe.

Here are a few always-right combinations:

  • Navy blues works with various light shades of blue and with all blue-and-red accents.
  • Grays, black, and white all offer great versatility. They mix with most any color.
  • Green-family colors (olives and brighter greens) work with ivory, yellows, oranges, and reds. They can also work with pure blues, but not with aqua or purplish-blue.
  • Gray suit or gray tweed sport coat, light blue shirt with small green stripe, and a medium-to-dark green tie is a unique, smart look.
  • Browns are very much like greens; they harmonize with all the clear colors of the spectrum, but do not go well with grays.
  • On the other hand, khaki pants, a pink shirt, red-and-yellow (orange) tie, and gray belt are a jarring mix of too many color families.

For those who ask, “Why focus on color?” As I have written before, color is free; using it well costs no more than using it poorly. Color can say a variety of things about you, depending on the kind of image you want to convey. If you show up at an industry-wide meeting in a dark blue traditionally cut suit, everyone who looks at you is reassured. “He’s okay. He’s one of us.” You’re accepted; you belong. But if that suit were very dark blue, almost midnight blue, you might cause a little anxiety in some of your peers. The message they would get is, “This guy is a shade too elegant for this work session. Why is he so dressy? If he’s that ambitious, maybe we’d better watch out for him.” And if the same suit were an overly bright shade of blue, it would come off as downright wrong. It could peg you as somewhere between the night watchman of a suburban movie house and a messenger boy. Even very fine clothing in the wrong colors can make you look loud and foolish.

All this concluded from the color of a suit? I assure you it is. And it is done every day. That is why color is so important. In the business world, color is a subtle traditional power game and is best played according to traditional rules. It is perhaps the least understood element in dress. And it is the one that can make the most difference.

Categories: Male Call