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The Best Colors for Men to Wear

9 min

What if I told you that you could fool-proof your wardrobe? In this article, I will explain why neutral colors are the best for men.

When constructing a wardrobe that can stand the test of time, I always recommend that men start with neutral colors. This article will showcase the interchangeability and versatility of neutral shades in menswear and explain why paying attention to factors such as skin tone and contrast level can result in exceptionally handsome outfit combinations.

WHAT ARE NEUTRAL COLORS?

Neutral colors are hues that appear muted and sometimes desaturated. They are often earthy tones and include beige, light brown, brown, olive green, navy blue, charcoal, etc.

Neutral colors mix well together and often pair with primary and secondary colors.

For information on color types and to better understand the terms I'm using (such as hue, shade, tone, saturation, temperature, etc.), take a look at my introduction to basic color theory.

WHY NEUTRALS ARE THE BEST COLORS FOR MEN TO WEAR

STRAIGHTFORWARD

Dressing well shouldn't be overly complicated or insanely expensive. By learning to work smarter, any man can "fool-proof" his wardrobe by choosing neutral-colored pieces that pair well with other neutral garments. The straightforward nature of a neutral-colored collection allows men to accomplish more with less by affording them virtually endless options.

VERSATILE & INTERCHANGEABLE

Investing in a neutral-colored wardrobe will enable you to expand your options when pairing various pieces together. Neutral-colored garments can work efficiently and be mixed and matched in numerous ways. Building a capsule wardrobe can become increasingly important, especially when attempting to save money. Prioritizing a neutral-colored capsule wardrobe is, by far and away, the best way to zero in on the essential pieces of clothing that can cover you for just about any situation you can think of.

Read here to learn how to build a capsule starter wardrobe using neutral colors.

TIMELESS & TASTEFUL

Neutral colors are equally timeless as they are tasteful. These are the more traditional colors in menswear and, therefore, look natural when combined. This can be an excellent built-in "fail-safe" because you don't have to worry about (or overthink) how to pair specific garments together; instead, you can rest easy knowing they will work no matter the combinations you employ.

EASILY EXPANDABLE

Neutral colors are foundational in that they can easily be expanded upon. Because of their inherent qualities, neutrals can mix well with other primary and secondary colors. So, once you have determined your style and graduated to find newer and bolder pieces that look great on you and help you feel confident, it is likely that the foundational neutral-colored components that you already have in your closet can also be mixed and matched with your new-found (or future) statement pieces.

CONSIDER YOUR COMPLEXION

I have written a separate guide for this topic, which you can read here.

I firmly believe that neutral colors are still a very safe bet for any and every man, regardless of skin tone. However, this does not change the fact that wearing the right colors to complement your complexion can be a powerful way to enhance your overall look.

For now, here is a general overview of why your skin tone and contrast level are so important to consider.

WARM VS. COOL SKIN TONE

The ultimate objective of wearing the right colors for your skin tone is to draw a person's gaze towards your face. Therefore, the complexion of your skin is important to consider.

For example, if you have what's considered to be an olive skin tone, then this would mean that you have a warm complexion; thus, warm colors are best for you. Conversely, if you have pale skin with hues of pink and blue in your veins, you have a cool complexion; thus, wearing cooler colors would be your best bet.

If someone has a combination of pale and olive skin, they are somewhere between warm and cool, thus having a neutral skin tone.

LEVELS OF CONTRAST

Skin tone also affects a person's level of natural contrast. For example, a man with fair skin and light hair would be considered a lower-contrast individual, while a man with dark hair and pale skin would be considered a high-contrast individual.

Where things get confusing are men with both dark skin and dark hair. You would think that this makes them lower-contrast individuals. However, men with very dark skin would be considered high-contrast individuals due to the stark whiteness of their teeth and eyes. In the case of higher-contrast men, combinations such as black and white can look exceptionally handsome.

ARE NEUTRAL COLORS WARM OR COOL?

Neutral colors can be both warm and cool, depending on the actual color and temperature. Red, yellow, gold, beige, brown, and tan are considered warmer, while blue, dark green and deep purple are considered cooler.

HOW TO WEAR NEUTRAL COLORS

I'm wearing a navy blue polo shirt and warm camel chinos here. Blue and brown always go great together; in a neutral-colored wardrobe, you can easily (and safely) pair the two together. The camel chinos have hues of orange. Blue and orange are complementary colors, which means they sit opposite each other on the color wheel.

To finish this casual look off, I chose some coffee brown-colored sneakers and a matching belt.

Complimentary Colors (Blue and Orange)

ELEVATED YEAR-ROUND BASICS

Various shades of blue (provided they aren't too light) look excellent with khaki, white, and gray. Throw on some white sneakers or an elevated pair of trainers, and you have a recipe for success.

If you're intrigued by the pair of sneakers I'm wearing in the first look above, read my in-depth guide to German Army Trainers (GATs) here.

ANALOGOUS OUTFITS

I love blue and green. These are analogous colors, meaning they sit next to each other on the color wheel and pair well with other neutrals, such as tan, khaki, or white. Whether it's a jacket, whole footwear, or simply the sole of your shoes, nearly every combination of these colors looks intelligent and elegant.

Analogous Colors (Blue and Green)

BLUE & GRAY WITH BLACK & WHITE

Darker blues and grays are great for pairing. Throw in some black and white (in tasteful proportions), and you can be ready for a casual day in the city, a date with that special lady in your life, or cocktails with friends.

BLUE TEXTURED DENIM JACKETS

I think you get the idea: denim trucker jackets can be worn in many ways, and the options are nearly limitless when paired with other neutral colors. Gray, black, brown, tan, white, you name it.

What makes a denim trucker jacket in a deeper blue exceptionally versatile is the texture that it provides. Due to the weave, there are often small notes of white in the denim (such as the one I am wearing above). It might not seem like much, but that extra detailing lends it its versatility because white is a blank slate in terms of color (despite not technically being a color), but you get the idea.

For eleven ways to style a denim jacket, read this article here.

NEUTRALS WITH WHITE

As mentioned, white is a blank slate that works very well with neutral colors; however, incorporating entirely white garments (such as pants) can sometimes be tricky to pull off. Nevertheless, if done tastefully, such as above, you'll find that white can look exceptionally bold and handsome when paired alongside rich brown, light tan, deep or royal blue, and steely gray.

EARTH TONES

Earth tones are your classic neutral colors. Notably, beige, olive, and rich tobacco browns stand out due to the sophistication they often bring, elevating most looks to a whole new level. Again, gray, white, black, and charcoal can quickly fill in the gaps when opting for fully neutral-colored outfits for most occasions, whether combined as layers or stand-alone pieces.

LONG COATS

Long coats, either for the harsh cold or wet rain, can look excellent in a solid color such as charcoal or tan. Adding patterns such as checks or houndstooth in brown or blue is another great way to add depth to any look while shielding you from the elements.

If you are interested in finding a warm and stylish coat for winter, read this article here.

MOSTLY MONOCHROMATIC

Monochromatic outfits are comprised of the same color, just in differing shades. Here, I am playing around with black and charcoal grey to create a simple but bold look. The only item that isn't the same color is my boots.

Here is my plug for dark olive suede boots. I think these are the most versatile boots you can own and can even replace brown and black boots in most cases.

With this look, I have a charcoal herringbone car coat, a black long-sleeve crewneck shirt, black jeans, and a charcoal scarf; nothing to write home about, but the olive suede chukkas are a subtle way to bring some depth and intrigue to this otherwise simple (mostly monochromatic) look.

See my separate article here to learn why dark olive suede boots can replace brown and black boots in your closet.

BUSINESS CASUALS & WEDDING FORMAL

Don't overthink business casual or more formal attire. Neutrals always work well together. Prioritize fit, fabrics, and quality; the rest will fall into place as long as you stick to a neutral-colored palette.

Read my article here for twelve ways to style a classic navy blazer.
Read this article here to learn about the differences between a blazer and a sport coat.

I think that every man ought to own at least one fine-fitting suit. I also believe any man can benefit greatly from owning a navy suit due to its versatility and classiness. Wear with or without a necktie alongside other neutral shades. You can even make things more elegant by wearing a black turtleneck underneath for evening cocktails.

If you're unsure how a suit should adequately fit you, read my comprehensive guide here.

KEEP THINGS SIMPLE WITH NEUTRAL SHADES

Good style lasts forever and should enhance your life, not cause undue stress. Investing in a neutral-colored wardrobe will enable you to better build your closet with options, not just individual outfits.

Whether you're just looking to get by as a minimalist or seeking to become a men's style enthusiast, hopefully, you can now see why sticking to neutral shades for your foundational pieces is worth your time and hard-earned money.


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