How to wear colors (part 1/2): Coordination Rules

It’s time to regain some order when it comes to colors. The situation has gotten ridiculous, and I’m going to tell you why. And also how to bring your color skills up to this standard:


You know that more and more men are worrying about dressing in the right colors. And people often ask me during a makeover, “Ben, which colors should I wear?”.

The problem is that you hear anything and everything on the subject of colors. The majority of makeover agencies have made it the focus of their presentations, citing a whole range of related tools: seasonal analysis, drape testing, even “chromopsychology” (no, seriously)…

I’m going to make myself very clear: I think these tools are USELESS.


These men have been condemned to a life of dressing in red, yellow, green, and purple, respectively, by Saint Chromopsychology… (Bonus question: which one has come off the worst?)

Color theories :  it feels like something’s missing

To start with, telling a guy who doesn’t know anything about colors to wear blue isn’t helpful, because there’s blue and there’s blue. Just as there are cheap-looking materials, there are equally thousands of really cheap-looking colors, often linked to the quality of the material (but that’s another story). And there are some beautiful shades that don’t appear on the color chart or the drapes used by makeover agencies. That’s the problem.

Advice of the “you’re more Fall than Winter, so you should dress in warmer colors, they’ll add warmth to your complexion and complement your personality” kind is hardly comprehensible to a guy for whom H&M on a Saturday afternoon is his only fashion reference.


Do you really think that Don hesitates over what to wear in the morning? (He should, however, pay more attention to the length of his tie…)

In all honestly, even I don’t really know how to interpret this kind of advice, and the method behind it, as well as becoming more and more vague, does absolutely nothing to help you get your bearings in a shop and construct your style from pieces that suit you.

The advice that I like to give is to look at as much high-end men’s clothing as possible so that you get used to picking out attractive colors (without necessarily buying anything at first). Then have a look around an H&M or an X afterwards. You’ll see where I’m coming from. It’s really important to develop an eye for colors. Going to art exhibitions and admiring a country view are also good habits to get into (even if they don’t fall strictly within the genre of this blog).

Having noticed that the best pieces of men’s clothing often come in subdued colors (not all the time, but often), Kinowear’s team and I offer a few very simple rules during our men’s makeovers.

  • Base your outfit above all around contrast: the level of contrast between the items you’re wearing should be about the same as the level of contrast between your skin and your hair.
  • Pick up on your natural colorings (the color of your eyes, cheeks, hair) by wearing accessories in those tones.
  • Wear mainly neutral colors (blue, brown, grey, a bit of black and white).
  • Don’t forget the importance of cut: I’m convinced that a guy who wore solely black and white but well-cut clothes would have more style than someone who dressed according to the four seasons color theory)…
  • … or the importance of materials: understated colors require high-quality materials. It’s up to you to find them.

couleursA laid-back approach to color.

Last thing: don’t get too worked up over colors. There’s very little risk of getting it really wrong. As I repeat tirelessly, focus your efforts on finding excellents cuts and materials, especially when it comes to your basics, which you can later team with pieces in bolder colors.

Enjoyed this post? The second-part of this post is here: How to wear colors (part 2/2): Man’s guide to contrasts 

Your answer in the comments: What are the most difficult colors to use in an outfit ? Pink, yellow ? I’ve hear also heard that green was a probleme sometimes ? Is that right ?

Never go naked again !

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  • Hey,

    Wanna help me for part 2 ?

    It’s simple, tell me, in your opinion what are the most difficult colors to use in an outfit ? Pink, yellow ? I’ve hear also heard that green was a probleme sometimes ? Is that right ?

  • Will

    Green’s easy, especially dark green, goes great with brown. As long as you keep the rest simple you can easily get a way with a bright green oxford or even dark green chinos.
    Faded pink t shirts and button ups of a variety of hues look good. Otherwise, pink should be avoided.
    As for yellow, I can’t imagine myself pulling of anything more than a mustard yellow.
    I actually find black to be the most difficult. You have to be really determined in creating black friendly outfits to make it work. Although cognitively easy to do, can cost a bit if your as on as tight a budget as myself and want almost every piece of clothing you own to work together.

  • Hi Will,

    Thanks a lot for you awesome comment. Guys, there’s a lot of value there!

    I 100% agree with your remarks on pink, yellow and green. There is no “no go” but il all depends on how it coordinates with the other pieces of your outfit.

    Regarding black, it’s as you pointed out extremely tricky. I don’t wear any.

    – One reason being that it’s hard to match with other colors.
    – 2nd is that nice black are usually expensive, you want a deep color not some king of superficial dye that ages badly.
    – And finally, it’s a sad and very formal color which says it all not reallt what I want to express in my daily life.

    PS: Avoid black suits for this 3rd reaon. Go for Navy and grey.

  • Tim

    Captain’s Quarters Online Men’s Store: http://www.CaptainsQuartersTC.com – Alex Cannon – Cutter & Buck – Southern Tide – Bills Khakis – Scott Barber – Enro – Hardwick

  • Giuseppe

    What about shaved men?

  • classicpolo

    Buy Trousers online

    Classicpolo is one of the best brands for exclusive
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    online from our store @classicpolos.com. we have widest range of collections.
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  • classicpolo

    Buy pants online

    Classicpolo is one of the best brands for exclusive
    collections . you can Buy shirts online, buy t-shirts online ,buy formal shirts
    online from our store @classicpolos.com. we have widest range of collections.
    you can choose the best pants . Buy pants online and Buy trousers online from
    the store at best price

  • Hi Giuseppe, I’m not really sure what you mean. Shaved or bearded man can wear colors the same way, no big deal here.

  • James Schend

    Hi Nicolas,

    I have three pairs of brightly-colored Bonobos pants (electric blue, orange and chartreuse). I love everything about them, from the fit to the color, but where I get lost is what shirts/sweaters to put with them. I tried a simple white shirt with the blue and ended up looking like slimmer version of Homer Simpson. Buying the pants was a big break from what I normally purchase, which are jeans, khakis or cords. Is there a general rule of thumb to looking stylish but not garish?

  • Hi James.

    You made me laugh with that one on Omer Simpson 😀

    The best thing to do will be to soften the bright pants with some very neutral colors.

    That’s what I explain in the second part of this post: http://www.kinowear.com/how-to-wear-colors-2

    For instance give a try to a beige V-neck thin knitwear under a light grey jacket.


  • Giuseppe

    No, I meant I have a shaved head, so no contrast to be shown!

  • Haha! My bad!

    Let’s assume there no contrast at all. Like even your eyebrows and lips are very light. In that case it’s not easy to bring eyes towards your face. But it’s definitely doable.

    You want the upper part of your outfit to work on light and soft colors. Pastels especially.

    This picture of Ryan Gosling says it all. You want to mimick the level of contrast on the right. IE, very low contrast. http://www.kinowear.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ryan-gosling-style1.png

    One last thing you can play on that works very well is to make the color of your eyes stand ouf by sublty including it in a tie/scarf/pocket square.

    I just published the second part of this article with a focus on face. http://www.kinowear.com/how-to-wear-colors-2

  • James Schend

    Thanks so much. I’ll give it a try. Looks like I may need to get a few new sweaters and neutral colors.

  • Giuseppe

    Thanks a lot! You have been really useful! 🙂

  • You’re welcome. Let me know how you like these colors fit on you.

  • My pleasure 🙂

  • Hi Ripken Holt,
    Thanks for your comment, it’s really easy, no big deal. Simply where your purple items one at a time and keep the rest of your outfit in basic colors: beige, gray, navy, white.