The Playbook For The Modern Man

A Guide To Colour Matching Your Clothing

Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue…I digress. We all know the rainbow song from kindergarten. But did you ever think knowing your clothing colour combinations would come in handy as a grown man?

Since then, you’ve stepped up your colour-words, no longer referring to vermillion as bright red. Nor is a pinkish, reddish purple hue simply that; it’s wine or oxblood, in your opinion. But knowing the proper names of colour is not evidence of understanding how colour works when crafting a complete outfit, particularly a suit. Yes – black, white and grey are fashion fundamentals and as neutral, minimalism continues its furore, don’t go hyper colour just yet.

But for fear of being bleak and boring, we’re taking you back to primary school to learn a thing (or 12, as you’ll soon see) about colour. Learning the fundamentals is important, so let’s start with the colour wheel.


A Guide To Clothing Colour Combinations: The Colour Wheel

Clothing Colour Combinations

Made up of twelve major colours, the wheel features three primary colours – red, blue and yellow – from which the secondary and tertiary colours are formed when the primary ones are mixed (red and blue makes purple, blue and yellow makes green, and so on ).

So in fashion, the wheel is designed to help you visually pair corresponding and conflicting colours – depending on the occasion and effect you are going for when dressing.  Within the twelve pieces of wheel-pie, notice the different shades and tints, which indicate the intensity of a colour and lead to different tones.

A ‘tint’ is any colour that white has been added to, giving back a light, softer version of the original colour. Meanwhile, a ‘shade’ is the opposite of a tint, in that it refers to any colour with black added – making it darker and stronger. Finally, ‘tones’ are created by adding both black and white to a colour – taking the brightness out of the original colour, making it more subtle and sophisticated.

Now that the colour jargon is out of the way, here are five clothing colour combinations to prevent future wardrobe malfunctions as a dapper gent.

#1 Analogous Colours

Clothing Colour Combinations

Analogous colours sit next to each other on the wheel or arrive by choosing one colour from the spectrum, skipping one and then choosing the next one. These combinations are very simple to work and are great for formal occasions.  Analogue colour gives off an air of colour working together naturally – no perverse statements of pink and green that scream “look at me”. When used, the effect is rather tonal dressing, which is a major trend for 2015.

How To Get The Look
When colours are close to each other, picking one hue for a jacket or suit is the first step, before adding accessories in adjacent colours. For suiting too, consider warm (red, yellow, orange) and cold colours (greens, blues, violets). Pair cold and warm colours together ( a blue-black suit, blue shirt and a violet tie) or keep it all one temperature like hot, with burnt orange and fire red.


#2 Complementary Colours

Clothing Colour Combinations

Complementary colours sit opposite each other on the wheel. For example, blue and orange. Yes, they complement one another, but wearing say, an orange blazer with blue chinos can be overbearing.

How To Get The Look
This is where tints and shades come in handy. By adding some shade to the blue, it becomes a strong navy and a little white tint to the orange – voila, it’s pastel. Now you have a summery prep look that won’t burn the eyes of onlookers and will show-up the snore-outfits of lads in all-black. Tip: Let complementary colours be an expression of you – opting for hue that you like, look good on your natural skin and hair colouring, and that you feel comfortable in.

#3 Split Complementary Colours

Clothing Colour Combinations

A split complementary colour scheme takes away the pressure of tinting or shading complementary colours. To create the combination, choose one or two colours adjacent on the wheel and then select one complementary colour at the opposite side of the wheel that is found between the other two facing colours.

How To Get The Look

A red neon blazer, navy tie and denim blue shirt. Or why not try a peach jacket, mustard yellow trousers and silver blue pocket square. The more shades you use, the more subtle your outfits will be.

#4 Triad Colours

Clothing Colour Combinations

Using a 12-section colour wheel, triad colour schemes are found selecting the base colour and then counting from 4 to 4 – a total of three hues selected to make the outfit. This technique will create the boldest, brashest statements – but nothing that can’t be overcome by, once again, shading and tinting the three colours.

How To Get The Look


Ironically, this type of colour picking works well with formalwear – letting the conflicting hues work harmoniously over accessories and prints on shirts. For a smart casual summer look, try an bright green blazer, pastel pink shirt  and micro print blue tie. No colour guts, no style glory!

#5 Monochromatic

Clothing Colour Combinations

A monotone chromatic colour scheme is simple and a huge trend for now – one colour. Take the one shade and then adopt two or three variations of that colour, creating a story with the hue as it darkens and lightens to evolve. The key is the pairing of the tint and shade and because the colours are the same, there is room to differentiate by creating texture.

How To Get The Look

A green cotton shirt, silk woven green tie and dark green satiny pocket square is elegantly understated, with the satin, silk and cotton creating depth to the outfit with different fabric. To top it off? A neutral coloured blazer – charcoal or beige – will soften the uniformed blue and make the un-coloured jacket pop. Hard to pull-off, play around with monochromatic clothing colour combinations a day or two before the big night, to ensure they flow fluidly.

Final Word

Clothing colour combinations are important to add some variety, personality and fun to your closet. If you’re ever in doubt, pick a colour and vary the tint and shade. But – don’t forget neutrals, which pair with any colour from the aforementioned wheel. These are black, white, grey and need to be on hand to throw into a look that needs just that little bit of playing down. Meanwhile, brown, tan, cream, beige and army khaki are more creative versions of neutrals, despite being almost colours in their own right.


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