4 Key Menswear Colour Palettes Featured

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Along with fabric and cut – the cornerstones of any stylish man’s wardrobe – colour plays an integral role in creating a commendable look. And yet it’s one of the most difficult aspects to ace. Which hues work for which

season? Which shades suit your skin tone? And which colours complement one another? The challenges, gentleman, are myriad.

With this in mind, we’re set to break down four fail-safe palettes that should form the core of your wardrobe.

1. Earth Tones

Taking its name from naturally occurring materials like soil, moss, trees and rocks, the earth tones palette consists of shades of brown, tan, green and warmer greys.

Although on first glance these might seem like colours you’d wear on a survival weekend in the wild, earth tones are rich, timeless and especially versatile.

Owing to their relatively muted appearance, these hues aren’t just for autumn, but year-round, with head-to-toe tonal looks made up of lighter shades (think beige and stone mixed with tan) working well for warmer weather, and darker, more intense tones such as khaki green, chocolate brown and cement grey ideal for cloudier, colder days.

Given their versatility, earth tones team well with all skin tones, though you’ll want to take a little care if you have an olive or dark complexion, making sure that the shades you choose don’t sink into your skin – that’s, of course, unless you’re consciously (and courageously) going for the all-nude look.

If you want to give this palette a lift, try working in some white/off-white pieces, or richer hues like burnt orange, mustard and burgundy – all of which will brighten the palette for a perfect late summer/early autumn look.

Key Pieces

2. White & Pastels

Pretty self-explanatory, this palette is all about white and soft pastel versions of colours like blue, green, pink, purple and yellow. As one of the more challenging palettes to master, there are a couple of caveats you’ll want to note before pulling together an ensemble.

Firstly, white and pale shades invariably look on-point in summer’s sunnier weather, but they can be difficult to style well during autumn and winter. Without the fair-weather season’s bright light and rain-free conditions, this palette comes with a hefty set of potential pitfalls – from soaked and see-through whites to candy-coloured pastels that clash awkwardly with cloudy skies.

Also, if your complexion is pale or milky, then pastel shades and whites won’t ‘pop’ against your skin tone, leaving you looking washed out and a little sickly instead. So, if this describes you, it’s best to approach this palette with caution and a healthy dose of confidence. Or, failing that, consider a spray tan.

Otherwise, this palette looks Riviera-ready when carried on smart-casual separates in lightweight fabrics such as cotton, linen, suede and silk. Styling-wise, it’s best to use white as the grounding colour in your look, with one to two (maximum) pastel shades fleshing out the rest of the outfit – for example, a pair of white trousers styled with a pale pink shirt, topped off with a sky blue blazer.

Key Pieces

Red, White & Blue

Maybe it’s this trio’s innate sense of patriotism (found in the flags of numerous countries, from France to Paraguay) or perhaps it’s just the simple effectiveness of two primary colours paired with a neutral. Whether – for you – it conjures up images of liberty or a childhood spent playing with Lego, this palette is a versatile classic worth adding to your repertoire.

Seeing as there’s a clear nautical bent to these hues, you’d be forgiven for thinking it only appropriate for summer wear. But, with the right tweaks, you can style it through the other seasons too.

For the warmer months, run with the maritime theme by combining a classic Breton tee with red chinos or shorts, giving white pride of place while positioning blue as the accent colour.

As the days draw in, switch it up and put navy blue to the fore, making sure to use richer hues of red like crimson and burgundy, all the while reducing white to a complementary accent – e.g. a white polo layered underneath a jumper or blazer.

Finally, if you’re looking for a fail-safe compromise between incorporating colour and staying smart, try a navy suit with a white shirt and dark red or burgundy tie – a foolproof formula that works for everything from the office to a wedding.

Key Pieces


A mainstay of streetwear and sports luxe-inspired aesthetics, greyscale may be currently trending (under the moniker ‘monochrome’), but it’s also one of the most timeless and easy to wear palettes in menswear.

Consisting of black, white and cool shades of grey, this group of colours lends itself well to minimal looks with a clean, modernist and often sporty slant. That’s not to say a white T-shirt, black linen blazer and stone chinos wouldn’t work well together – on the contrary – but a greyscale palette often works best when put across performance-focused materials like nylon, neoprene and polyurethane, or more luxurious casual fabrics such as loopback cotton and cotton-cashmere blends.

Like earth tones, you could opt for a tonal, head-to-toe approach (all-white and black-on-black looks are big news right now) or mix and match to your heart’s content – it’s hard to go wrong here, no matter what pieces and shades you choose to combine.

That said, pay attention to textures and details. There’s no arguing that black and white isn’t a classic pairing, but it can get boring quickly if you don’t mix up fabrics and prints to add depth to a look that could otherwise appear barely there.

Final Word

Dressing well takes time. Save yourself some by noting these enduring colour combinations and putting them into action when you’re a little light on inspiration.

Are there any other palettes you keep on rotation?

Published in Men's Fashion
Last modified on Sunday, 09 August 2015 09:54

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