The Working Man: Simple Rules for Color Coordination

by Rachel Yeomans | April 28th, 2011   

The other day, one of my colleagues made an interesting statement: “I’m a man, we don’t color coordinate“. Yes it’s a bit broad and there are definitely exceptions, but after considering his statement I actually don’t know many men who venture outside their ‘safe color zone’. How many of you have the same color and style of the button down? In the winter, how many sweaters do you have and are they the same color? Be honest now.

486465 thumbnail 1024x588 The Working Man: Simple Rules for Color CoordinationSo dear working men, let’s go back to the basics. Here we have the color wheel. On the side of the larger wheel are thumbnails showcasing complimentary (aka ‘coordinating’) colors, which are colors that are directly opposite one another in the color wheel. So if you like blue button-downs, try playing it up with a orange-striped tie. And you don’t see the color here, but just an FYI, brown is near the reds and oranges. So if you have a pair of dark brown slacks, perhaps consider wearing it with a white button-down boasting blue stripes (and no, you don’t have to only wear solids).

Building off the term ‘complementary color’, let’s build on that with a more technical color wheel break-down. The actual colors in the wheel are called hues. There are a total of 12 hues in the color wheel, as you can see above. Lightness represents the shade of the color which can go lighter by adding more white, or darker by adding more black. Saturation is the intensity of the color. Looking at the wheel, any colors that are right next to one another (for example, red and purple) are similar colors. Colors that have three colors between them are contrasting colors such as red and blue.

Man Wearing Tie The Working Man: Simple Rules for Color Coordination

With all that being said, don’t match contrasting colors. Play with varying saturated shades – for example, pair a lightly saturated shirt with a more saturated and vivid tie. It’s safe pairing similar colors, but why not be creative with complementary color pairings?

And finally, as we discuss creativity, tell us what you wear! How do you work the color wheel?


Thank god for Rachel.