What goes with what

How to match men’s colours

How to match men’s colours

A lot of men steer clear of colour. It’s understandable; why risk looking like a children’s TV presenter when black, navy and grey always work together? “Colour-wariness is really common because a lot of guys think you have to go bold or not wear them at all,” says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp. “But because so many men avoid colour completely, sticking to your usual shades means you risk blending into the crowd.”

That problem is also an opportunity – master some novel hues and not only will you stop looking like everyone else, you’ll also discover a host of new things to wear. “Menswear is traditionally very small in its product range,” says Freddie. The same classic pieces appear time and again, which can lead to your style getting stale. “Colour lets you try something new, but with items that you already know suit you. It’s an easy way to make a classic look feel that little bit different.”

At least, it’s easy once you know the secret. Colour is not as confusing as it might appear – there are rules, first discovered by Isaac Newton, which dictate where colours sit in relation to each other and how they either complement or clash. The key to deciphering them is called a colour wheel, which orders the colours as they appear on the spectrum. There are three basic ways to find tones that match.

Colour guide

Associated colours

These are adjacent shades – blue with violet, or yellow and yellow-orange. It works because they’re so similar that the pairing is almost monochrome.

Complementary colours

These tones sit directly opposite each other. In colour theory, they work because they’re so different, but it’s a pairing that grabs attention. There’s a reason green and red are more often found in Christmas decorations than shirt patterns.

Triad colours

Triads sit three steps away from each other, so are equidistant around the colour wheel. This means less contrast and more muted combos that are easier to wear. You can either match two triads or try them all at once.

Three ways to wear colour

This is all well in theory, but bright orange with vibrant blue isn’t easy to pull off, no matter what Isaac Newton says. What's more manageable is that the science holds true for shades of a colour as well. A darker red, like burgundy, works brilliantly with more forgiving greens like khaki or olive. If you fancy injecting some life into your wardrobe’s muted shades, try this trio of easy-to-wear colour combinations.

Beginner – neutral + muted colour

Neutral plus muted colour

“Shades like beige, black, grey and white don’t have colour in, so they won’t clash with anything,” says Freddie. “But because they’re a blank canvas, colours can stand out against them quite prominently. The easiest move is to go for either dark or washed out colours. So in the red family, a burgundy or a pale pink works better than crimson.”

Intermediate – navy + bright colour

Navy and bright colour

“If you want a bright colour to stand out, wear it with something so dark that it’s almost neutral, like navy,” says Freddie. “The brighter piece should be nearer the outside of your outfit, so it’s on show. It’s hard to layer on colourful bases, but an orange scarf – or even a raincoat if you’re a bit more daring – adds personality.”

Expert – colour + colour

Two muted colours

“Muted shades are easier to combine than brights,” says Freddie. “So either paler or darker. They should also sit together in your outfit – a salmon shirt with a khaki jumper looks good, but if it was shirt and socks it can feel disconnected. And be careful of overdoing it; stick to neutrals elsewhere so the colours are the focal point. If you’ve got pink trousers, a green jacket, a pink t-shirt and green socks, it can look like a flight attendant's uniform."