Here’s a quick tip if you’re just starting (or attempting) to inject more color in your every day outfits.

Most guys have the “how do I know what matches” question. And they feel overwhelmed trying to figure out if a particular shade goes with another.

Don’t worry too much about matching. It’s really about complementing colors, but that’s another story (take a look at this color wheel to get an idea, and focus on “triad” or “split-complementary” to start).

Here’s an even easier way to get started.

  1. make sure your outfit consists of darker and/or neutral tones
  2. choose one piece or accessory in a bright color
  3. wear it.

BAM! You’ve now injected your outfit with splashes of color.

Need visual examples? Fine. Here are two.

Example One

Pair your dark denim with a subtle stripe shirt, and BAM, a bright v-neck sweater.

What’s that, you say? A bright sweater is way too crazy for a beginner color injector such as yourself?

Fine, here’s something more subtle.

Example Two

Start off with a pair of olive chinos, pair with a light blue oxford shirt, charcoal gray sport coat, and BAM, a bright blue gingham pocket square. Subtle, but hey, still a pop of color!

It doesn’t matter how small or large your splash of color is. Just start using it. It makes your outfits more interesting.

Simple enough, right?

Questions about this? Unsure which pieces / accessories to make colorful? It doesn’t matter, to be honest, but feel free to ask (and any other questions you may have as well)!

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27 Responses

  1. Sam H on

    I actually really like adding colour with bright socks – especially at work. And not bright as in not tasteful, but a colour that complements the rest of my outfit – ie if there’s a certain colour in my tie, I like to pick it out with my socks 

    In fact, I’m sure I was wearing a pink pair of socks with that tie in my avatar!

    • Barron on

      That’s a great way to do it. I often find a non-dominant color in something I’m wearing, then find socks that have a lot of that certain color, just to make it pop more. It’s the little things. Maybe most folks wouldn’t notice, and that’s okay. But the ones that do will really appreciate it, even if they don’t say so.

  2. Arkhangael on

    Hi Barron
    Tomorrow I’ll be wearing dark blue wool trousers, an immaculate new white shirt and very dark black and blue socks, and black shoes. And a charcoal waistcoat, or maybe dark grey is a better term. It’s summer. Although it’s cold inside the office.
    How can I add color?
    Change my choice of shoes color to brown? Wear my (only) jacket? – it’s houndstooth pale gray, but that is not colorful.
    I’m at a loss for choice.

    Cheers

    Angel

    • Christopher Dravus on

      If i may take a stab at this while you wait for Barron. You need to add warmth to your outfit. Right now it sounds cold as far as the tone and color goes. Trade out those shoes first for brown. I only like black shoes with black pants. The tie sounds like a good opportunity for some color and since the outfit is pretty neutral you can get away with any color for the tie. 

      I’d skip wearing the jacket. The two different grays are going to look strange I think and it’s going to give a false impression about the outfit being overall colorless. That much gray will drown out your attempt for a visually pleasing aesthetic.

      Plus, a vest without a jacket is comfortable and helps you come across more casual. Three piece can be a bit much.

      Change up the socks. Look at Macy’s or Target. They have great colorful argyle’s that will go with any outfit you can make. 

      Consider rolling up the sleeves on the shirt, getting a simple watch with a colorful casual wristband and I think your good. 

      • Arkhangael on

        Thanx a lot mate.
        Yes, I’ve been considering my brown shoes. I’ll need to swap the socks.
        Not allowed to roll sleeves up at work, but everything should work fine.

        I’m not buying new socks these days because I have more than a hundred pairs. But I’ll look for colorful ones if I have the time.
        Got a pair of motley socks that should make my day fun.

        Cheers

        Arkhangael
        Ps: I use a pocket watch with chain, no more wrist watches for the time being.

        • Christopher Dravus on

          You’re welcome. 

          Pocket Watch is a bold choice man, good for you. I have one and I wear it on occasion but i feel like it puts me too far over the dressed up line. Sometimes  I think it falls into the same category as the Fedora. Stuff that no matter how good it looks on tv it just can’t be brought back. 

          But like I said, I own one and I do get some wear out of it. 

          And if you have 100 pairs of socks i’m pretty sure you’ll have something that works. Statistically speaking you must have a few colorful pairs in there. 

  3. Christopher Dravus on

    Great article. 

    I’m a big fan of color. I’m reading this new piece while in a pair of bright orange chinos, white oxford and orange/blue tie. 

    Adding color really steps up your sense of fashion and it makes you stand out. Standing out is about the best thing you can do for yourself. People strike up more conversations with you, people talk to you about your outfit which leads into new conversations and connections. My recent girlfriend says the thing she was first attracted to about me was how well I put myself together. Picked her up while she was on a first date with a way less put together gentleman. It pays to care about how you look. People notice. 

    Also, wearing color is a great way to build self confidence. The more color you wear, the more people will talk to you about it and thus the more you’ll have to explain your choices, accept compliments and be social. No one notices the gentlemen that walk through life with a closet full of navy, beige, white and black. Stand out. I promise that sometimes you’ll pick an outfit that looks insane. So what? As a wise man once said “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”

    If anyone’s interested I explained my approach to color and picking an outfit recently on my blog. http://the-approach.org/2011/10/13/the-approach-to-a-stale-closet/

    Great work Barron and this topic is second only to proper fit as far as building a great outfit is concerned. 

    • Barron on

      Glad you love color as much as I do. You also seem more advanced than the guy I’m talking to in this article, but I’m glad you’re able to lend your opinion in the comments.

  4. Gautam B on

    Good article, though I have to say that I find really overt attempts at this flat-out annoying. A good example of this is a sweater or socks that are worn as colour for colour’s sake rather than because it lifts the outfit & goes with the rest of the look. 

    For me, it’s about finding a way to blend the colour into the outfit without being too overt with it. I have a white & blue floral shirt and a brown & blue belt – the blues match (not a coincidence). I wear these with brown trousers & a tanktop V-neck on top (grey or navy). That puts enough colour in there & more importantly, for me, it doesn’t look like I’ve thrown those items in just because the outfit needed SOME colour.

    I would extend this to beyond colour – textures, for example, & the contrasts between them, can be so powerful. Chambray shirts are everywhere & they can work when worn with jeans, with cords, with chinos – and look simple, elegant & help to step your game up because they contrast with all of those. 

    • Christopher Dravus on

      Agreed on a lot of those points but I think we can agree that there is a fine line between overt attempts at color and the right kind of color mixing.

      What i mean is, you can blend well or you can blend too much. When you’ve done it right it looks great, when you’ve gone overboard with the blending you look like your outfit came pre-assembled like those shirt/tie/pocket square combo boxes from JC Penny. 

      If too much color or color for the sake of it leads to experimentation then i’m all for it. Blending well takes practice and i’m a firm believer that you’ll never get it right if you start out by playing it safe. 

    • Barron on

      I’m having a hard time imagining the outfit you described in the second paragraph. In any case, the point of this article was to just get guys who usually don’t experiment with color, to do so. It sounds like you’re more advanced and have your basics down and that’s great. Most guys may only be comfortable with the basic blues and blacks and grays, and so this article is probably more directed for them.

      Appreciate the mention about texture though. That’s another thing that’s really important, as well as pattern mixing and complementing. We’ll save that for another article, however.

  5. Greg_S on

    I think this is solid advice. Too many men seem to think that color shouldn’t be a part of the outfit or that it is difficult to pull off. If you struggle with it, just use one colorful piece. It’s not hard to match it then.

  6. Otateral on

    Quick color question as a newbie in the “give a damn what I look like” style. Just got a pair of slim fit grey chinos, and trying to see what I can pair it with. What about these combos?

    1. Blue shirt, navy blazer, white pocket square, brown shoes.

    2. White shirt, brown blazer, black pocket square, brown shoes.

    3. White shirt, black jacket, red pocket square, black shoes.

    4. White shirt, grey sharksin waistcoat, black jacket, red pocket square, black shoes.

    Mostly I’m unsure on pairing grey chinos with the brown blazer or with the grey waistcoat. Worried if they will clash. Sadly, I have no colorful socks just yet. Department stores have only boring ones, so will try ebay at some point.

    For my build, I’m short (5’4″) and 120 lbs. Olive complexion.

    • Christopher Dravus on

      If I may offer some of my own advice on those options you laid out, 

      1) Depending on the colors, the shirt may get lost in the blazer. A simple tip that I like to give people is always make sure there is a clear ending point with one article of clothing and a starting point with another. When things look to similar items get lost. 

      2) This is a good one except for the black pocket square. My feeling on pocket squares is that they are a stand out item and black has a tendency to get lost because its such a cold element. The only time I’d do a black pocket square would be with a white suit jacket/blazer for a very strong contrast. 

      3) Another good choice over all. Red/black are not my favorite for color matches but its a good outfit. 

      4) Overall this is my favorite. I’d consider skipping the jacket. It makes the outfit a little more casual. 

      Honestly I like 2 just lose the pocket square or get a white one unless you are going to wear a tie to. That will give you added color and options to draw on for a pocket square. 

      • Otateral on

        Awesome tips. Thanks. Just found a nice lime green tie I’m daring to mix with some neutrals. Wish me luck.

        • Christopher Dravus on

          Luck has nothing to do with it. It’s about confidence. Every man looks great when he walks through the day feeling great. Love your outfit. Everything else falls into place after that. 

    • Barron on

      Sure, those all work. Gray is the easiest color to work with because it goes with practically everything. If you have tonal grays (one dark, one medium gray, for example) you can wear those together.

      Gray and brown look great together. Stay away from the black/red combo. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s something that’s so ubiquitous among the “I’m trying to dress up and so I put this on” crowd. Not sure why, but I see that a lot.

      Go with slightly different hues, like brown / pink, navy / lavender, etc. Or if you’re going to do a red square, use your navy blazer.

      Socks, try the brands Happy Socks, Corgi, Paul Smith. Just look on Zappos, Amazon, J.Crew, etc., all available online.

  7. Adrian on

    I have a pair of red chucks. They match nicely with a pair of light beige jeans, but I’m not sure what to wear on top 

    • Chris Arendt on

       Gray and white (with or without subtle stripes) would work, right? I think the idea is to have a basic outfit, but expand it with one single piece. That piece in your outfit is the chucks, so everything else you’d wear would be subtle.

      • Barron on

        Exactly. Not too difficult, right? General rule is to keep everything as neutral (yet coordinated) as possible, and to utilize that palette to really frame your colored piece.

        Don’t think too much about it.

  8. David Xiaoxi Li on

    New reader here. Love your blog so far. Can we start a petition to get clothiers to start putting gilded “BAM!” stickers like yours on clothing? That would definitely make me much happier (and poorer).