Colorblind suit shopping

Colorblind suit shopping

Q. About the only bright side of being stuck at home is learning more about online shopping. I have always bought my clothing in stores because I was afraid of fit and matching. I now have learned I can easily return anything that does not fit. So my question is matching.
I am color-blind and, as I remember you once mentioned, salespeople are great at ensuring that clothes work together. Online while my vision issue continues, the companies do list the colors of items, so . . . what colors should I be combining?

A. Statistically, one man in every twelve is color-blind, although, oddly, many are not willing to admit it as readily as you do. So it is great that you seek out help. Color-blindness generally means you cannot distinguish between certain colors. As you no doubt have experienced, this means some combinations are not difficult for you and others are more or problematic.
In color blind people, the eye has trouble seeing certain colors and mixtures of these colors.
1. Most color blindness is hereditary; it is passed from mother to son on the 23rd chromosome.

2. Total color blindness, where people are “color blind” if they see only black and gray, is actually very rare.

3. In the most common “color vision deficiency” condition, red-green color blindness, the two look confusingly alike; they are indistinguishable, seen as the same color.

4. Another type, blue-yellow color blindness, does not see blue colors well, especially the difference between blue and green. This type only affects 1% of the color-blind population.

5. The vast majority of people with color blindness do see some color, but the shades they can see may be reduced by as much as 90%.

Color blind people may miss out on details that would normally be plainly visible, because the color of the object is similar to the surroundings. A classic example is not noticing a ripe red apple in a tree when it is surrounded by green leaves.
If you know or read that a shirt is white or a clear light blue, you can pretty much feel assured that it will go with any jacket and just about any tie. Easy combinations likely to be unaffected by your vision begin with blue, gray, or tan/khaki suits, jackets, and sweaters. These also work with the other basic shirt colors: ivory, light yellow, pink, and even light purple (though you won’t be able to distinguish the pink or purple ones because red disappears).

The problematic areas start with choosing suits and jackets in a clear, pure color, rather than in a color that has some other color as an undertone, and then choosing accessories that match or coordinate. Within colors there are many shades. These work better with some colors and not so well with others.

So when you are looking at descriptions, pay careful attention to the specific shade. Almost every shade of all colors work with neutrals: solid whites and the whole range of shades of black (from charcoal gray to very light pearl gray). But again make sure they say those colors and not “cream/ivory” (actually off-white) or slate gray (actually blue-gray).

Solid ties, in general knit ties, are always going to be easier excellent choices. However, I imagine you have often had to play it safe and/or had specific combinations recommended by salespeople.

I will reiterate that a great salesperson (when you can go to one) will be amazingly helpful with knowledgeable advice, but there is much that you can do on your own. In terms of the combinations you’re asking about, some color families that work together you won’t be able to distinguish because of your color blindness.

Here is some help.

The most universally useful color family in a man’s wardrobe is blue. But blue is also the color with many variations, making it a lot trickier to combine than you might think. For example, teal, aqua, and turquoise are all blues that have some green in them. And, in the opposite direction, some blues have a cast of purple in them; these are called “periwinkle,” (but I doubt that most websites use the term).

Mixing these two types of blues in an outfit is not a good look. Pure blues (the best for your purpose) include navy, cobalt, royal blue, marine blue, sky blue, and powder blue.

In the green family are pure Kelly green, plus such off shades as olive and khaki.

Reds range from light pink to bright red and dark maroon/burgundy.

When shopping online for your own clothes, as you suggested, the best way to keep your decision-making process quick and easy is to know a few guaranteed-to-be-right choices. So let’s consider a few options. Here are some of my own personal favorite combinations:

  • Navy suit/blazer, white shirt, classic red-and-blue tie in any pattern from a stripe to a paisley
  • Navy blazer, gray trousers, pink shirt, blue-and-red (gives a purple effect) tie
  • Gray suit, red-and-white striped shirt, black-and-red patterned tie
  • Gray suit, light blue shirt, green-and-blue patterned tie
  • Khaki suit, light blue solid shirt, yellow-and-red small-patterned (gives an orange effect) tie
  • Tan/khaki suit, white shirt, yellow madras plaid tie.

For those who are uncomfortable shopping online and going out currently, many salespeople are still in stores and can work with you by phone or online.

There is a new option to help those who are colorblind; special glasses that can help many colorblind men and women distinguish colors they cannot see with their naked eyes are called EnChroma.

Backed by science, EnChroma lenses are uniquely engineered using high-precision optical filters to selectively remove certain wavelengths of light, thus, enabling people with color blindness to see a broader range of colors. I was surprised to learn that only 11 of 50 states test students for color blindness. Some men don’t learn they have the problem until they are adults.

You might be interested in seeing the company’s color blindness test. Go to

Finally, more men need to reach for assistance as you have. A salesperson or friend who has a good eye for color can be a wonderful help. Since statistics tell us that the number of women who are color blind is only 1 in 200, an obvious help, would be to ask a women . . . come to think of it, that’s what you did!
Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL:

Categories: Male Call