Why we dress in certain colours.

There has been much made over the years about what colours compliment what skin tones and hair. To a degree, this is a good thing to know. It informs what colours you may wear for suits, shirts, and ties. But how do we reconcile this colour theory with the prescribed business colours and when would we wear the other prescribed colours for us?

It may sound like a difficult proposition, but I think there is a certain palette of colours that work for just about anyone and, aside from ultra-ultra-conservative events or careers, will be acceptable anywhere.

Noah's ensemble would work for anyone regardless of skin or hair.
Let's take, for example, Trevor Noah. I've written before about how he transformed his wardrobe from sophomoric-looking skinny suits to an overall more adult appearance. A big part of it was the cut of his suits now working for his body, but another part of it was the subtle shift towards more conservative colours. I don't think conservative colours should be seen as boring, rather they communicate a different thing. With his light brown skin, he could wear just about anything he wants. However, it would project a different image to wear pink shirts with a green tie and medium blue suit. His current assortment of navy, charcoal, or medium grey suits paired with white or light blue shirts and black, red, or blue ties with the occasional dark grey work just fine for what he's going for. Though the tone of The Daily Show is generally comedic, he still wants the message behind the jokes to come across as genuine. Converse to the prescribed method of skin tone informing colour selection, all of Noah's colour choices work for pretty much anyone. This is a big reason why they're recommended so much by menswear experts to people wearing tailored clothing for the first time or working for a conservative business environment. They're foolproof and hard to mess up in most combinations.
The other colours help ground this suit.

On the other hand, the executive with a more liberal dress code can wear all sorts of colours -- provided, of course, they don't wash out the wearer or are particularly out of place for where they are and who they do business with. Though they're not really for me, I've seen some people pull off burgundy and chocolate brown suits with aplomb. They are certainly good for social gatherings if nothing else, but one does risk being known as "the guy in the red suit" if these events do not happen very often. Unconventional suit -- or sport coat and trouser -- colours can also be toned down by moderating the shirt, tie, and shoes. Take, for example, the deep burgundy shown to the right. The conservative white shirt, navy tie, and pocket square all give it a more refined edge than going for shades of yellow, pink, or purple would. Not to menton the tasteful dark brown shoes rather than the current trend of walnut with everything, which would contrast a little too harshly. In this way, you can still stand apart from the crowd without screaming, "Look at me!" But the opposite approach is your prerogative, of course.

Be mindful of the colours that look good on you, but also best for the situation. If being an outright dandy is your end goal, go for it with the confidence that your chosen ensemble works for you.

Mory Kaba pulls off this colourful outfit.


  1. Biracial, hispanic, black... you're one Asian person and a wheelchair away from having the full SJW checklist complete.

    1. Thanks, I do attempt to have a little more racial diversity in my examples. Do you know of any well-dressed, wheelchair bound people?

    2. I do find it funny that some people forget the the US is described as a "melting pot" . Thank you for the post, making sure your cloths woke with you soon tone should be common sense.

    3. Thanks, Lucas. It was also in part because friends of mine who read pointed out that there wasn't a whole lot of diversity in my picture examples.

  2. Hey, can you maybe cover movies like The Matrix in the future? I'd like to know what you think about it. Almost everyone wears black in that or Dark City whether or not it's right for their skin tone, but it seems to work for some reason.

    1. The tailored clothing is not that great in the first movie if I recall correctly (for example, the Agents appear to be wearing low quality stunt clothing as their suits at all times), but there are some interesting pieces throughout them, such as Neo's Edwardian-inspired high fastening two button suit. I'll consider it!

    2. I just realized you also mentioned Dark City. I have it on Blu-ray and will take a second look sometime.


Post a Comment

I reserve the right to delete comments that are disruptive, trolling, or otherwise stirring the pot unnecessarily. I also reserve the right, if necessary, to block anyone who continues doing this from further commenting.

Every spam comment -- whether left by a bot or person -- will be deleted on sight.

Popular Posts