Does Color Matter? CC Rounds Up Expert Analysis For Gent’s Journal


As I mentioned recently, I’ve begun contributing to The Gentleman’s Journal, a London-based luxury men’s magazine that just launched a US version of its website. I’ll occasionally share pieces when I think they’re germane to the Ivy Style community.

Given that color plays a primal role in preppy style, my latest should be of interest. When Red Sweater Guy trended a couple weeks ago, I was already at work on a piece about whether or not you should pay attention to what colors you wear, based on your hair and skin tone.

Conventional wisdom would dictate that a freckled redhead trad should stay away from a charcoal sack suit and white buttondown, an Asian prep should steer clear of yellow polo shirts, and African Americans can wear anything they please. But is that really the case?

I rounded up a group of experts including authors Alan Flusser, Bernhard Roetzel and others. Here’s what G. Bruce Boyer had to say on the subject:

Back in the ’80s there was this mania among “image consultants” — you know, people who think they’re creative but can’t actually find work —  for what was called “seasonal” coloration. What these otherwise sane citizens tried to foist on unsuspecting folks was the idea that we all had seasonal colors. Some of us were autumn, others spring — you get the idea. It was all total nonsense, of course, and soon forgotten like hula-hoops and pet rocks.

But the idea lingers. Do we have skin tones, hair colorations, and eye hues that are best brought out or flattered by certain colors in our wardrobes? I suppose, without trying to make a science out of it, we do. I’ve noticed that men with grey hair seem to look nice in blues and grays, rather than reds or yellows. And that people with sallow skin tones are probably not helped by yellows or greens. But, lacking more real experimentation, it all seems rather subjective.

Head over here to check out the piece. BTW, I’ll be going out tonight in my beloved combo of charcoal trousers and gray sportcoat, but with a blue shirt and navy tie to match my eyes. — CC

16 Comments on "Does Color Matter? CC Rounds Up Expert Analysis For Gent’s Journal"

  1. Alistair Warburton | October 24, 2016 at 1:17 pm |

    Look at how Mr. Wang’s color choices clash with his own coloration, and you’ll see that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about:

  2. Looks fine to me.

  3. I always thought yellow was a color that didn’t really look good on anybody … until an old girlfriend told me she thought it really suited me. (based, for the record, upon an old BB solid OCBD I wore at the time, which I don’t think they even make anymore)

  4. Mitchell S. | October 24, 2016 at 2:31 pm |

    I hate to disagree with the godfather of menswear, GBB, but I am a big fan dressing for the season. It’s not so much the color per se that’s as important as the tone and shade. Texture and color combinations are just as important as color.

    Alan Flusser hit the nail on the head in his chapter on color in “Dressing the Man” when he writes that hair color, eye color and complexion determine an individual’s best look. Grey and blue look best on most guys and it is more of an art than a science selecting the most flattering shades and texture.

  5. Kent Wang put it perfectly, there’s nothing more to say.

  6. @Mitchell S. I don’t think that Mr. Boyer was saying that one should not dress according to the seasons but that the supposed science of dressing per one’s complexion is bogus. I too enjoy changing my wardrobe according to the season, in color and type of clothing, and I wish more people did as well.

  7. @Alistair Warburton I hope that you’re joking.

  8. I look good in everything, once again you guys are overthinking it. We tend to wear our favorites and what in our mind’s eye we feel best in. Sometimes that reflects these funky color rules sometimes not.

  9. I agree that the guiding principle should be what you feel good in based on your personality. If a guy looks like Conan O’Brien but fancies himself a chain-smoking Existential philosopher, then he’s going to feel — and look — like himself in a black turtleneck.

  10. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | October 24, 2016 at 4:43 pm |

    Yes, the last bit was very qualifying: “… it all seems rather subjective.”

    What is objective though is that blondes look better in Lilly. Just a bias that I’ve picked up over the years. The louder and more paisley, the blonder you need to be – this is a linear function.

    (I’m neither blonde nor female)

  11. That’s weird, but I see your point. It’s weird because if color theory for men applied the same to women, then blondes should avoid black, but my god Kim Novak in “Bell, Book And Candle” !!!!!

  12. Christian,
    Re: your blue shirt and navy tie

  13. Straight Arrow | October 24, 2016 at 11:53 pm |

    “a freckled redhead trad”
    Does such a creature exist?

  14. “Oh, your red scarf matches your eyes
    You closed your cover before striking….” – Guy Marks

  15. I’ve always believed seasons had particular colors–and materials–and one choses clothing within that particular palette. I do not believe I have a particular ‘”seasonal” coloration’ that would dictate what I would wear year-round, but I know I look better in some colors as opposed to others. I also have go-to favorites.

  16. Henry Contestwinner | November 7, 2016 at 3:55 pm |

    Derek Guy (quoted in the piece) is on the right track when he says, “It seems undeniable that certain colors go better together. And if you take your skin tone as just another color in your outfit, why shouldn’t certain colors flatter us better than others?” Add hair color and eye color, and you’ve just about got it all.

    Broadly speaking, the “seasonal” approach is that there are four color “types,” and, for ease of reference, each one is called by the name of a season. It has nothing to do with when you were born, or what your favorite season is, or what season it is now, or what colors are associated with a season. The four types could just have easily been named north, south, east, and west, or alpha, beta, gamma, and delta, or whatever. The seasonal names are a convention, nothing more.

    I think we can all acknowledge that not all colors go with all other colors. For example, black does not go with earth tones, and tan clashes with white. Keep going, and you have the seasonal palettes (as the terminology goes). Mr. Boyer is correct when he says it is subjective and not a science; that is because color coordination, to include our own natural colors (skin, hair, eyes) is not a matter for science but one for the arts.

    We can also see the validity of this approach by simply acknowledging what everyone already knows: some colors flatter some people, and others do not. If your wardrobe consists of clothes in colors that flatter you, then not only do all your clothes make you look better, but all your clothes go with each other, more or less. Of course, some color combinations look better than others, but by knowing which colors work for us as individuals, we can avoid buying clothes in colors that don’t flatter us, and make dressing easier by having clothes that work well with each other.

    Anyway, go ahead and wear what you wish—the Fashion Police aren’t going to cite you. However, maybe there’s something to learn here. When people compliment you on how nice you look, know that you’re probably wearing colors that flatter you, but if they compliment you on a specific article of clothing, know that said article is probably in a color that is not in your seasonal palette, and you’d look better in a different shade or color.

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