We all have wardrobe colors that we reach for again and again, especially when it comes to formal wear. Unless you are the type of man who goes to the opera every week, you probably have a few key formal wear pieces that are staples in your wardrobe. When it comes to choosing new pieces, color fads come and go. Learning to choose colors that will complement your skin tone will make it so you never look like you’re wearing last season’s “it” color.
Wearing the right color for your skin tone can make you look naturally radiant. It’s a subtle fashion trick that can be difficult to master, but it’s especially critical when buying pieces that you’ll want to enjoy for a long time, like formal wear. Follow this guide to learn how to identify your skin tone, pick stand-out colors, and work those colors into a coordinated ensemble.
Understanding Your Skin Tone
Without the help of a professional makeup artist, determining your skin tone can be an arbitrary thing. Skin tone has three main distinctions: warm, cool, or neutral. Determining which one you are means looking for the undertones of your skin. Is your skin more pinkish? Golden? Bluish? This is the main determining factor of what skin tone you have.
People with warm skin tones have a greenish or yellowish golden undertone to their skin. A person with an olive complexion also has a warm skin tone. Generally, people with warm skin tones have darker shades of hair color, from dark blonde to dark brown. People with cool skin tones have a bluish undertone to their skin, with hair coloring ranging the full spectrum from blue black to pale blonde. Neutral colored skin tones work hand in hand with hazel, color-changing eyes and naturally streaky hair.
If you’re still stumped over what skin tone you have, try holding up a plain white sheet of paper to your face and compare the two colors. Sometimes seeing your skin next to something pure white can help you decide what color undertones you’re seeing.
Skin Tone and Color Selection
Now that you have determined what skin tone you have, it’s time to learn about colors. For each tone, certain colors will pop and make you look amazing.
For someone with a warmer skin tone, deeper colors and golden tones like yellow, honey gold, orange red, or rust look extra good. Olive, turquoise, moss and other deeper greens and blues can also look great. But when someone with a warmer skin tone tries to wear jewel tones like sapphire or ruby, the tones don’t work so well together.
For someone with a cooler skin tone, bright blues, jewel tones, deep purples and lavenders can really accentuate their natural tones. When it comes to neutral colors, navy is exceptional, as well as gray. Cool-toned individuals look a little off when they try to wear oranges and yellows.
You might guess that people with neutral skin tones can get away with any color at all, and you’d be right! Lucky neutral toned individuals can pull of a wide range of colors, but they look particularly good in colors that fall in the middle of the spectrum. For example, light pink or jade green. The danger with a neutral skin tone is wearing something with too vibrant of a color which can overwhelm or wash out your skin tone.
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Still feeling stuck? Here are some more suggestions for distinct skin tones:
- Skin on the fair side with grayish or green undertones can look amazing in lavender or grape
- Darker olive complexions can work well with wine tones.
- Golden skin tones almost glow under peach and coral.
- Very dark and cool skin tones look the best in jewel tones like amethyst and sapphire
Where to add Color
Now that you have a better idea of what colors will be complementary to your skin tone, it’s time to add color into your ensemble. Adding color to formal wear doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. In fact, it should be fun!
The first step is to decide where you want to add color. Sometimes, this is going to be determined by the type of event you’re dressing for. A brightly colored suit jacket might not be appropriate in all situations, for example. Even a solid black suit can benefit from a colored or patterned tie and pocket square. If the event calls for a more subdued neutral colored suit, use the color wheel notes below to match your accessories. At a less formal event you have more options for adding color, such as a colored jacket or pants in addition to your accessories.
Your formal wear doesn’t have to be exploding with color in order to be flattering to your skin tone. Remember, even shades of white have underlying tones, sometimes blue, sometimes yellow, sometimes pink, etc. Even the shade of white dress shirt you pick can be affected by skin tone.
Color Wheel Refresher
We’ve already covered which colors are best for which skin tones, so by now you know at least one color that is going to complement your coloring. It’s time to take it to the color wheel.
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As a basic reminder, there are a couple of different color strategies you can employ: using similar colors, using complementary colors, using contrasting colors, using neutral colors, or using a monochromatic color scheme. Similar colors use colors that are near each other on the color wheel, such as pairing blue with a blue-violet. Complementary colors use colors that are straight across from each other on the color wheel, such as pairing blue and orange. Triadic colors are colors that form “thirds” of the color wheel, such as blue, red and yellow. Neutral colors use black, grey, white, and browns. Monochromatic means using all one color, such as a blue suit with a light blue shirt underneath.
If you’ve established that blue is an ideal shirt color for your skin tone, a burgundy tie would provide you with a triadic color scheme, allowing for the perfect amount of contrast. A navy tie, on the other hand, would provide you with a monochromatic color scheme.
And that's a wrap for this one. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it!
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