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How to match clothing colours - complete men's guide

How to match clothing colours - complete men's guide

For many men, colour is something to be avoided, possibly even feared. The summer months might see the odd appearance of some pastels in their seasonal wardrobe – a pastel…

Colours Guide Outfits Style Tips

For many men, colour is something to be avoided, possibly even feared. The summer months might see the odd appearance of some pastels in their seasonal wardrobe - a pastel pink polo shirt, perhaps, or some aquamarine shorts - but, for the most part, many of us prefer to play it safe and stick to a tried-and-tested, risk-devoid palette of classic masculine colours: black, navy and grey.

But this needn’t be the case. Colour, when handled with skill and confidence, has the power to elevate an outfit from ordinary to extraordinary. It can lift a mood and at its best, even turn a head.

For the uninitiated, playing with colour can be confusing at first, certainly. Get your colour combinations wrong and the result is a visual mess; get it right, however, and your outfit can be a winner.

So, what are the basics? How can colours be worn together to create a look that is complementary, rather than clashing?

With a few simple tips, you’ll have your colour co-ordination game nailed. And here’s how:


Mastering colours doesn’t have to involve embracing the brightest colours in the rainbow and introducing them to your wardrobe.

You can stick to solids in the same colour and still create a great look. This combination also, rather handily, has the visual effect of elongating your body, making you appear taller and slimmer since it doesn’t (visually) cut your body in half.

For the colour novice, it’s best to stick, initially, with blues and neutrals. These allow for a number of different outfit options, and once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll have the confidence to be a little more daring.

How to Match Clothing Colours


One step beyond solid same colour dressing is to go monochrome (black and white). The two contrasting colours work with just about everything, so can be a brilliantly effective combination. After all, opposites attract!

Black and White outfit



Slightly more adventurous than wearing same-colour solids or monochrome, tone-on-tone dressing is the perfect way for the more conservative man to play with colour discreetly.

As the name suggests, this look involves wearing different shades of a colour (e.g. navy trousers, baby blue shirt and midnight blue blazer), rather than using a variety of colours in an outfit.

Tone-on-tone tends to look best with colours such grey and the aforementioned blue. The margin for error is minimal, making it an ideal option for men looking to make a subtle yet significant change to how they wear colour.

How to match colours


Once you’re ready to begin adding pops of colour to your outfit, arguably the most foolproof way to earn your colour-coordination wings is to consult the brilliantly simple colour wheel.

How to Match Clothing Colours colour wheel

It’s an ideal starting point for the colour novice who has little or no confidence in how to co-ordinate an outfit. Essentially, the wheel maps relationships between colours of the rainbow and is laid out so that complementary colours are found opposite each other on the spectrum.

How does that help with selecting garments whose colours will work well together? You simply select a colour – let’s say green. The colours opposite this on the colour wheel are red and orange, which means that these can both be paired well with green.

How to match colours


While the colour wheel is a great starting point, it’s important to also learn about the power of neutrals, and how they can work within an outfit.

Neutrals — think black, white, grey, navy, camel, khaki and beige — are, quite simply, colours that work well with all other colours. Rather handily, they are impossible to clash, which is why they’re perfect for those lacking colour confidence. But, regardless of your skill at combining colours in a stylish manner, every man should have a few key neutral pieces in his wardrobe.



Once you’ve got your colour confidence up to speed, it’s then time to consider playing with pattern. But this is one area where less is definitely more.

Pick your printed outfit – whether it’s a patterned, jumper, jacket or, for the real fashion peacock, a pair of trousers – and keep the rest of your outfit plain. This will let the pattern be, justifiably, the conversation point.

how to match clothing colours


While the ‘rules’ of colour combining apply, for the most part, across the board, an individual’s colouring can have an influence on how well certain colours combine when it comes to their outfit.

By experimenting with wearing different colours, you’ll soon learn what ones suit your skin tone, and, conversely, what ones visually wash you out. As a general rule of thumb, darker skin tones, which have a tendency to make those with paler skin appear ‘washed out’, tend to work well with brighter, warmer colours. Those with a paler complexion, meanwhile, often suit shades such as grey, navy blue and burgundy.

Once you’ve mastered the tricks of colour combining, it’s child’s play putting together an outfit that shows your colour confidence. Just remember: stick to the basics to start, and begin introducing pops of colour in a piecemeal way until you’ve got the skill nailed. And that’s when the real fun begins!

Looking for more tips and advice? Check out the How-To and Style sections to keep up with the latest trends and improve your style game.