Can these colors go together?

Can these colors go together?

Q. I have a question; it’s not about the colors that go together, but about mistakes to avoid. Can you tell me which of the following combinations are problematic: blue and brown, blue and black, and black and brown? These are colors that I am generally comfortable with, but that I often hear should never be put with each other. Are they really no-no’s?

A. Here is a good rule: never say “never.” That said, most men would indeed do well to follow guidelines, or at least to exercise caution. The world certainly is full of men who just instinctively seem to know what works. They can put colors together that the average guy would usually be wise to steer clear of . . . and they look great while doing it. I must warn you that mixing colors is like any art form: some combos are easy, and some present a higher degree of difficulty.

To be specific about the combinations you mentioned, just because something is difficult, or just because you have read somewhere that you should avoid it, does not necessarily make it “wrong.” Let’s start with the easiest and safest one.

BLUE AND BROWN: It is a myth that you should not put blues and browns together (unless you are talking about dark blue and dark brown . . . don’t combine those!). In fact, pairing blue and brown can be handsome and often has an aristocratic air. Every light shade of blue works with all shades of brown (including dark chocolate brown). And all light browns go well with every shade of blue. A good example is a sky blue shirt with a khaki suit, or with a camel blazer, or with a brown tweed sports jacket. The most often-seen combination is a navy blue blazer with khaki pants. All these mixes of blues and browns are ones no one could fault.

BLUE AND BLACK can be more problematic. Light and medium shades of blue generally work well with black (as with a light blue shirt and a black blazer or suit). Without a jacket, a light blue shirt and black trousers may make you look like an officer . . . but, who knows, that may be a look you want. However, wearing dark blue and black together looks like a mistake. Still, even here there is an exception, but just in terms of accessories. Because no well-dressed man wears dress shoes in any shade of blue, the accepted shoe color to choose with a blue suit or a navy blazer is black.

BLACK AND BROWN: Whether these two colors can work together depends upon how dark they are; if they are both dark, they will not look good together. On the other hand, if the brown is some light shade, such as off-white, beige, tan, or khaki, it can be a smart mix with black. Think: black blazer and tan trousers, or the reverse, ivory jacket and black dress pants. If your suit is a medium or dark gray (in the “black family”) and if you are a confident enough dresser to pull it off, you might wear well-polished cognac brown shoes for an elevated level of sophisticated mixing.

One secret to making these combinations work is having an item with both colors included (usually a sweater, a jacket, or a necktie) that already is a mix of two colors; it can help you create a special look. As an example, a cashmere or wool sweater in a camel/black/white argyle pattern pairs nicely with a white shirt and black or camel trousers (and a white shirt). A blue-and-black geometric patterned sweater works with either black dress pants or blue jeans. Although some stores and magazines will show wild combinations of patterns, it’s a good idea to stay with only the one pattern when you are working with offbeat color mixing.   

Combining certain colors that are difficult to work with takes a certain amount of savoir faire. If you are good at it, go for it. But if it is a difficult look for you to pull off, why bother?

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