Learn how you can choose the best colors for your skin tone no matter if you have a lighter, a medium, or a darker skin tone.
Wear Colors You Truly Like No Matter Your Skin Tone
I’m a firm believer in the concept of wearing colors you truly like because if there’s a favorite color you have and you wear it, you wear it with confidence and it shows. Now that being said, you probably noticed that some colors look more pleasing to others than when you wear them, however, most men don’t know why it’s that way and how they can change it.
Even if you have a favorite color that naturally is not suited to your skin tone, you can still wear it, you may just have to move it to a different location in your outfit. Alan Flusser, one of the best-selling menswear authors of all time reminds us that the goal of color is to make a person look to your face and not to distract from it.
By the way, a classic jacket, the shirt collar, as well as the tie create triangles that are supposed to emphasize your face but more about those things in a different article. During the heydays of classic men’s clothing in the 1930’s in the US, men’s magazines and trade magazines such as Esquire or Apparel Arts would actually have little tables with colors and patterns as well as skin tones for men so they could easily figure out what would work for them and what would flatter them. Of course, these stories also helped introduce new colors for the season and to simply expand the range of colors men would be comfortable wearing.
What Exactly Is Skin Tone?
To put it simply, skin tone is the natural color of your skin. Now that sounds very obvious, however, the color can change constantly depending whether it is the winter or the summer. Now the term skin tone also refers to the undertone of your skin, not just the skin color. Often, they’re used interchangeably but they’re slightly different.
Basically, there are two ways to think about skin tone and dressing. One is the lightness and darkness of your skin, the other one is the undertone. So whether your skin is light, medium, or dark color, it’s pretty easy to figure out. Personally, I’m more in the medium spectrum because my mom is from Germany, she’s from the lighter spectrum and my dad is from Brazil and he’s on a darker, medium spectrum.
Finding Your Undertone Is Equally Important
It’s a little more difficult to determine your undertone; basically, there are three skin undertones.
- Warm Undertone. Warm means there is a greenish-yellowish or peachy undertone.
- Cool Undertone. Cool means your skin has a bluish undertone.
- Neutral Undertone. Neutral undertone means you can’t really discern if there’s a greenish, bluish, golden, or yellowish undertone and there’s simply nothing present that you can make out, that’s okay, it exists, it’s simply a neutral skin undertone.
Now, determining your skin undertone is not hard science but there are different ways to determine that. First of all, look at your wrist area. If you look closely, you can see that I have a greenish and yellowish undertone. Just look at the veins, there’s blue, there’s green, there’s yellow which means I’m a warm undertone.
Now if that test doesn’t help you, you can just take a white piece of paper, hold it next to your face, and take a look in the mirror. Just quickly look at it and observe what color you see at a glance. Is it yellow? Is it green? Is it blue? Is it none of the above? The important thing is you have to do it with a mirror outside in daylight or with lamps that are adjusted for daylight in a color temperature because traditionally, most interior lamps are warmer and fall in a yellow spectrum so even though you might be a cooler tone, in a mirror you will look like you’re a warm tone and that would be wrong and lead to the wrong outfit combinations.
Last but not the least, you could also look at your skin type and the history you have with sunburn. If you’re out in the sun without sunscreen, do you get burned very easily or very slowly? If your skin is prone to burning and it doesn’t tan, you’re a cool undertone. On the other hand, if you don’t need sunscreen and you tan very easily, you’re definitely a warm undertone. Naturally, it’s best to always wear sunscreen no matter if you’re a cool or a warm skin type simply because you want to avoid skin cancer. Again, the best way to do that is under natural daylight because the interior light from bulbs in the house can change the results and how they’re perceived.
How Do You Find The Best Colors That Work For You?
So by now, you should have determined your skin undertone. Now that you have that, how do we actually find the best color for it? Basically, it again comes down to two things. So first let’s talk about the colors for different skin undertones.
Warm Skin Undertone
If you’re a warm skin undertone just like I am, you can really wear earth colors very well and it will always look good on you. By that, I mean the colors of brown, green, warm red, mustard yellow, and anything that is quite warm and natural. Likewise, neutrals like beige and cream that are softer will really work for you.
In terms of the metal color, gold is the way to go. Gold is always flattering but I still wear silver and platinum jewelry simply because I like it and for different outfits, it works better in my opinion.
So don’t let those colors that work well for you dictate what you wear and not wear but much rather look at them in a way that they help you bring out the best in you and the way you look. Instead, try to incorporate those colors more into your outfit whether it’s in your accessories, or in your jackets, maybe in your shirt, or in your shoes, and that way, you’ll just achieve an overall better result.
Cool Skin Undertone
If you have a cool undertone, look at shades of blue, purple, and green, they will work really well for you especially if you choose pastels. So think about a pastel blue, pastel green, maybe pastel pink, or pastel lavender, those are really great colors. In terms of metals, silver or platinum would likely work better for you and so when in doubt, go with that metal color.
Neutral Skin Undertone
Now, if you’re neither a warm nor a cool skin tone, you get the best of both worlds meaning you can wear basically all the colors and it will still work for you, isn’t that great? Now does it mean you can wear anything? No, because you also have to consider the contrast levels.
Universally Flattering Colors
No matter what skin type you are, there are three colors that are considered to be universally flattering. They include eggplant which is kind of really dark purple, a true red which is not burgundy but lighter and brighter, as well as green. Now, in classic menswear showing up in a teal suit with red shoes and an eggplant tie will really not be your best choice and instead, it pays to use those colors and incorporate them into your accessories.
First up, think about socks. You can have red socks or you can have teal socks with a purple stripe that almost looks like eggplant or you can have red and blue tones or red and brown that comes out like an eggplant color and those are really good ways to incorporate those colors, make your outfit unique yet flattering.
Washed Out Colors
Now when it comes to colors, you may have heard of the concept of washed out colors. Just think about a washed pair of denim that used to be really dark blue but you’ve washed it so much that now it’s just a faint blue color and it just doesn’t look new anymore and you don’t want to wear it. The same concept can be transitioned to humans and your face.
The idea is that if you have the wrong colors next to your face, it makes your skin colors look washed out in a negative way. If I wear a light blue shirt with a light gray jacket, my skin tone looks very different than if I wear a cream or off-white shirt with a dark brown jacket.
Contrast Is Key
As I mentioned before, apart from color, it’s also important to look at the contrast. For most people, it pays not to go extreme with the contrast but it’s important to maintain some element of it. What I mean by that, for example, if you have a lighter skin tone, it pays to go with a lower contrast. Don’t wear a black jacket with a white shirt because that’s just too strong. Instead, maybe go with a light blue shirt and a medium gray suit that will flatter your skin tone much more.
Now if you’re a medium skin tone just like I am, you still want to avoid these really high contrast outfits of black and white or navy and white. A navy and a lighter shade of white can work for you. On the other hand, you also don’t want to go with pastel tones that are too close to your skin tone because not enough contrast is not flattering either.
Apart from that, you can play a lot with contrast. I can, for example, wear a white shirt with maybe a charcoal suit or a gray flannel suit that will still look good at the same time, I can wear a light blue shirt with it and it’s less of a contrast but it still works for me.
Overall, if you have darker skin tones, you can really wear high contrast outfits. Navy suits, white shirts, that’s something that really works for you but definitely avoid pairing a light blue shirt with a light gray suit because it makes you look washed out.
Tips For Selecting Clothes Perfect For Your Skin Tone
- Identify Color Ranges That Work For You Again, you don’t have to just choose colors from that spectrum but it pays to look at those colors that work for you and then maybe choose variations of it. For example, if green is one of those colors, you can think of paler greens maybe for shirts, maybe for socks, maybe you can incorporate darker greens into your tie and to your pocket square.
- When putting together an outfit, color choices are most impactful with the colors that are closest to your face and your skin. So that means a shirt, tie, and jacket. Obviously, it can be tough if white and stark contrasts don’t work for you yet in a business wardrobe, white is really the number-one requirement. In those cases, you can still wear white shirts. Just make sure you wear them with a necktie that covers up part of the shirt and maybe go with a jacket that has a higher button stance or maybe a double-breasted jacket that covers more of the shirt front so you see less of it and therefore, it works in your favor.
- If you’re into hats, they’re also right next to your face so make sure you get the colors right. For example with my skin tone, a brown hat or a navy hat will look better than a black hat or a gray hat. That being said, if the occasion calls for it, I still wear a black hat or a gray hat because it may work well with my suit and you can play with it and use it as a guideline, not as an absolute.
- If you want to wear colors that fall outside of your color spectrum, try to keep them away from your face and you can go with your pants, maybe your cufflinks, your socks, your pocket square. Personally, for example, I would not wear a khaki jacket because it would not be contrasting enough with my skin tone so I wear khaki slacks all the time but never as a jacket or suit.
- Finally to conclude, keep in mind that you can still wear the colors that you like. Don’t let skin tones and undertones dictate the only colors you wear and keep in mind that contrast is always key.