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Visible Spectrum: The Gentleman's (Easy) Guide To Color Matching The addition of color can make or break an outfit.

By Mr. Draper

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Mr. Draper
Styling suggestions from Mr. Draper

The addition of color can make or break an outfit. In the wrong hands, it can be garish, distracting, and downright disastrous. And yet, when it's done properly, the use of color can not only theme an outfit, but also add a dash of daring bravado. So, when it comes to selecting the right colors to go with which outfit, how exactly do you decide? Using color matching theory as our guide, we've pieced together the ultimate painting-by-numbers guide to help you nail your color combos each and every time.

Us men aren't renowned for our grasp of colors. While women seem to be born with a natural sense of what colors work and which ones will clash, most guys seemed to skip that particular lesson. In fact, science is against us in this regard. Color blindness affects around one in 12 men (8%) worldwide, compared to 1 in 200 women. That's a lot of blokes hamstrung by genes even before they even get started.

For the remainder, it's a lack of understanding, confidence, and commitment that's generally their undoing. But not anymore. With these color matching essentials under your belt, you'll soon be ready to mix and match brave new color blends that you might never have considered before.

Styling suggestions from Mr. Draper
Source: Mr. Draper

It's all about that base

The base color of any outfit is what you'll build the rest of your look around. As a general rule, black or white are the safest baseline colors to go for. Some may argue that neither are strictly colors, but from a wardrobe perspective they're crucial because they form the basis of most classic combinations. The same could be said for beige. As a base color, it has more scope and possibilities than you may think. Beige goes extremely well with black, green, red, and brown– and that's just for starters. Play it too safe with your baseline combinations though, and you'll run the risk of looking bland and unadventurous. But trust the theory, and the world can be your oyster.

So, if you've ever wanted to push the boat out and experiment with colors like pink or purple, then knowing which base color goes with a host of other colors will definitely give you the confidence to go out there and try something new. A pink shirt with a navy blue suit looks the business, for example. Or, for a more casual look, you could try a purple polo with beige shorts. Start to think of your wardrobe as the equivalent of your very own swatch chart. You wouldn't redecorate your house without checking that all the swatches matchup, would you? Well, it's exactly the same with clothes. You could even start to see yourself as a human canvas on which to paint your own individual style and combinations. But, when it comes to clothing, we're aiming for color coded realism, rather than abstract chaos!

Color combinations– putting it all together!

The fundamental principle to follow when selecting your clothes and accompanying accessories is to choose colors that harmonize with one another. Plus, you'll need to take into account your own individual coloring. Skin tones and hair color can all look very different when matched with different clothes. It's a well-known fact that red hair doesn't go well with pink. It's also hard to carry off yellow with certain complexions. But these colors are exciting, and, if you can unlock the key to each combination, we guarantee you'll start to have a whole lot of fun with your wardrobe again.

But enough of the theory, let's put the plan into action and try out some actual clothing and color matches. Placing the base or main color first in our combinations, we've balanced out a selection of clothing you can piece together that will perfectly complement your core wardrobe items.

Styling suggestions from Mr. Draper
Source: Mr. Draper


Chinos are the Roger Federer of menswear; they never seem to age, and they just keep on serving up winning combinations. They really are an essential base color layer, from which you can build the most stylish of outfit ideas. With such a neutral trouser, you can afford to experiment with your choice of shirt. We're talking pink cotton shirts, burgundy or black polos– think outside the box! For a real suave statement piece, you'll want to slip on your blue blazer (more on that later!), over a fresh white shirt and a grey, fine-knit sweater for a simple –but effective– chino killer combo.


Dark jeans give you options. They're smart enough to partner with a button-down white shirt with a subtle print, an unstructured grey marl jacket, and a patterned pocket square. This whole ensemble perfectly balances sophistication with a relaxed vibe. And they're casual enough to switch the shirt for a dark navy or black T-shirt for a more athletic alternative. Either way, your dark denims give you the freedom and flexibility to throw on your favorite white sneakers and trusty black leather belt to complete the look. This really is the gold standard of hassle-free styling.


Here's the rub with light denim jeans; they really do give you the best of both worlds. Dress to impress with your jeans as the base, combined with a darker denim shirt up top (yes, we did just suggest double denim!), overlaid with a grey V-neck sweater and finished with black leather Chelsea boots for the ultimate smart casual look. On the flipside, if you're aiming for an even more relaxed style, you can go for the classic light jeans and white sneakers combo, with a white T-shirt on top and a grey hoodie outer layer. Simple!

Styling suggestions from Mr. Draper
Source: Mr. Draper


We have to mention the navy blazer, a particular Mr. Draper favorite, as one of the most versatile base items in our color coordinated wardrobe selection. This style icon does all the hard work, making your clothing choices an absolute breeze. Heading out to a flash restaurant? No problem, your essential navy blazer will look amazing with a complementary pair of lighter blue chinos, classic white button-down shirt, a pair of dark suede loafers and finished with a colorful pocket square. Or how about that date you've been planning? Simple. Dig out those dark denim jeans again, but this time pair them with a vibrant monochrome shirt (red, yellow, green, or blue are perfect), a smart pair of brown leather Oxford shoes– all tied together by your multi-purpose navy blazer.


There is a time and a place for colorful shorts. If the sun's shining and the beach is beckoning, that's generally their cue. As a guy, this is one of those rare opportunities to make a bold statement with your color choices. Bright yellow shorts go brilliantly with a short sleeved, navy linen shirt, or a subtle grey polo shirt. Otherwise, a bright blue pair of shorts can be teamed with a smart white shirt for a dazzling contrast. Or offset them with a navy and white striped polo for a nautical twist. Finally, would sir care for the salmon? Shorts, that is! This option goes great with a navy polo or striped, light blue shirt to achieve the ultimate preppy style. Any one of these outfits will be finished perfectly with a pair of light tan espadrilles.

Styling suggestions from Mr. Draper
Source: Mr. Draper


We challenge any man to show us a wardrobe that doesn't include a white shirt. Aside from the obvious black accompaniment –whether this be suit, dress pants, or even black jeans– you can also build an outfit around a classic white shirt with a variety of other darker and lighter tones. Like your chinos, this blank canvas gives you the chance to play around with what suits your style best. Partner with chinos, dark jeans, or a navy blazer for those smarter occasions. Or, when you're heading to the beach or an al fresco lunch, team your white shirt with colorful shorts, or more colorful chinos (sky blue, salmon or green) and loafers.

Whatever your regular clothing selections might be, by adding some must-have base items to your wardrobe, and applying some color matching logic, you can quickly and easily begin building up your layers of colors. So, give it a go, and take a fresh look at your wardrobe with a completely new and more colorful perspective. Armed with these handy hints and tips, isn't it time you brought some color back into your life? Join Mr. Draper today, and let our dedicated stylists redefine your style.

Related: Up Your Style Quotient: Four Must-Have Blazers For Any Occasion

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