Color for Dummies

Remember the time you were in that really important meeting and you decided to open your mouth then couldn’t believe what came out of it?  That’s why a friend of mine has a rule for his sales force:  If it isn’t going to help, and it might hurt, don’t say it.


Dressing the part is also something that requires practice, and often the ability to know what not to wear as much as the ability to know what to wear.

As with anything it is good to have your go-to staples.  The things you know work even when you are bleary-eyed and hungover and can’t string a sentence together.  Let alone do the maths on the tip for breakfast.

For me that has always come down to color combinations.

I have one basic rule:  Don’t wear more than three colors at a time.  Unless you are going to wear more than 7.  This really came about through trial and error, but seems to work.

Its not rocket science.  Just a little practice.  And logging those compliments when you get them so that you know what works for you and what doesn’t.

For me black is a color only for funerals and dinner parties.  It looks its best when paired with white, grey, red and purple.  Its actually difficult to make it look good outside of trying to recreate James Bond at the bar with cocktail in hand.

Always easier to start with blue or grey as the base palate for where everything else goes.  Then it works with almost everything as long as you co-ordinate.  Remember to make sure your tie contrasts with your shirt.  Always have the tie darker than the shirt.  If you feel comfortable rocking a pocket square make sure it is either the same color family or the same pattern as your tie.  But not both.  It shouldn’t match exactly.  If you wear shirts with french cuffs use cufflinks that compliment the tie as well.  So blue tie on white shirt wear blue cufflinks as well.  Not exactly the same color.  But the same color family.  And the same goes for the socks.

Of course you’re not always going to be in a suit and tie.  Or even a nice pair of dark raw denim jeans with a jacket and tie.

But the rules remain the same.  Keep it simple.  Go for classic combinations (if you’re a guy who likes tan colored pants just look at photos of Italians…brown and blue is one of their most tried and tested combinations).

And overall just remember this.  You are you.  And the other guy isn’t.  So always wear what you feel comfortable in.  Because when you feel comfortable you’ll be confident.  And when you’re confident you’ll look great.

Even if you’re peaking out from the eye holes you cut in a brown paper bag.

Words by DUNCAN QUINN Photos by Henry Hargreaves