Do's and Don'ts: The Beginner’s Guide to Colour Matching

Mr. Draper

The addition of colour can make or break an outfit. In the wrong hands it can be garish, distracting and downright disastrous. And yet, when it’s done properly, the use of colour can not only theme an outfit but also add a dash of daring bravado. So, when it comes to selecting the right colours to go with which outfit, how exactly do you decide? Using colour matching theory as our guide, we’ve pieced together the ultimate painting by numbers guide to help you nail your colour combos each and every time.
Us men aren’t renowned for our grasp of colours. While women seem to be born with a natural sense of what colours work and which ones will clash, most guys seemed to skip that particular lesson. In fact, science is against us in this regard. Colour blindness affects around one in 12 men (8%) worldwide, compared to 1 in 200 women. That’s a lot of blokes hamstrung by genes before they even get started.
For the remainder, it’s a lack of understanding, confidence and commitment that’s generally their undoing. But not anymore. With these colour matching essentials under your belt, you’ll soon be ready to mix and match brave new colour blends that you might never have considered before.

It’s all about that base

The base colour of any outfit is what you’ll build the rest of your look around. As a general rule, black or white are the safest baseline colours to go for. Some may argue that neither are strictly colours, but from a wardrobe perspective they’re crucial because they form the basis of most classic combinations. The same could be said for beige. As a base colour, it has more scope and possibilities than you may think. Beige goes extremely well with black, green, red and brown – and that’s just for starters.

Play it too safe with your baseline combinations though, and you’ll run the risk of looking bland and unadventurous. But trust the theory and the world can be your oyster. So, if you’ve ever wanted to push the boat out and experiment with colours like pink or purple, then knowing which base colour goes with a host of other colours will definitely give you the confidence to go out there and try something new. A pink shirt with a navy blue suit looks the business, for example. Or, for a more casual look, you could try a purple polo with beige shorts. 

Start to think of your wardrobe as the equivalent of your very own swatch chart. You wouldn’t re-decorate your house without checking that all the swatches matchup, would you? Well, it’s exactly the same with clothes. You could even start to see yourself as a human canvas on which to paint your own individual style and combinations. But, when it comes to clothing, we’re aiming for colour coded realism rather than abstract chaos! 


Colour combinations – putting it all together!

The fundamental principle to follow when selecting your clothes and accompanying accessories is to choose colours that harmonise with one another. Plus, you’ll need to take into account your own individual colouring. Skin tones and hair colour can all look very different when matched with different clothes. It’s a well-known fact that red hair doesn’t go well with pink. It’s also hard to carry off yellow with certain complexions. But these colours are exciting and, if you can unlock the key to each combination, we guarantee you’ll start to have a whole lot of fun with your wardrobe again.

But enough of the theory, let’s put the plan into action and try out some actual clothing and colour matches. Placing the base or main colour first in our combinations, we’ve balanced out a selection of clothing you can piece together that will perfectly complement your core wardrobe items.


Cream Chinos

Chinos are the Roger Federer of menswear; they never seem to age and they just keep on serving up winning combinations. They really are an essential base colour layer, from which you can build the most stylish of outfit ideas. With such a neutral trouser, you can afford to experiment with your choice of shirt. We’re talking pink cotton shirts, burgundy or black polos – think outside the box!

Colour to match with Beige Chinos

For a real suave statement piece, you’ll want to slip on your blue blazer (more on that later!), over a fresh white shirt and a grey, fine-knit sweater for a simple – but effective – chino killer combo.

Beige Chino Colour Matching Swatch

Beige Chino Colour Matching


Dark Denim Jeans

Dark jeans give you options. They’re smart enough to partner with a button-down white shirt with a subtle print, an unstructured grey marl jacket and a patterned pocket square.

Colours to match with Dark Denim Jeans

This whole ensemble perfectly balances sophistication with a relaxed vibe. While they’re casual enough to switch the shirt for a dark navy or black T-shirt, for a more athletic alternative. Either way, your dark denims give you the freedom and flexibility to throw on your favourite white sneakers and trusty black leather belt to complete the look. This really is the gold standard of hassle-free styling.

Dark Denim Colour Matching Swatch

dark denim jean colour matching



Light Denim Jeans

Here’s the rub with light denim jeans; they really do give you the best of both worlds.

Colours to match with Light Denim Jeans

Dress to impress with your jeans as the base, combined with a darker denim shirt up top (yes, we did just suggest double denim!), overlaid with a grey V-neck sweater and finished with black leather Chelsea boots for the ultimate smart casual look. On the flipside, if you’re aiming for an even more relaxed style, you can go for the classic light jeans and white sneakers combo, with a white T-shirt on top and a grey hoodie outer layer. Simple!

Light Denim Colour Matching Swatch

light denim jean colour matching


Navy Blazer

We have to mention the navy blazer, a particular Mr. Draper favourite, as one of the most versatile base items in our colour coordinated wardrobe selection.

Colours to match with a Navy Blazer

This style icon does all the hard work, making your clothing choices an absolute breeze. Heading out to a flash restaurant? No problem, your essential navy blazer will look amazing with a complementary pair of lighter blue chinos, classic white button-down shirt, a pair of dark suede loafers and finished with a colourful pocket square. Or how about that date you’ve been planning? Simple. Dig out those dark denim jeans again, but this time pair them with a vibrant monochrome shirt (red, yellow, green or blue are perfect), a smart pair of brown leather Oxford shoes – all tied together by your multi-purpose navy blazer.

Navy Blazer Colour Matching Swatch

navy blazer colour matching


Colourful Shorts

There’s a time and a place for colourful shorts. If the sun’s shining and the beach is beckoning, that’s generally their cue. As a guy, this is one of those rare opportunities to make a bold statement with your colour choices.

Colours to match with Colourful Shorts

Bright yellow shorts go brilliantly with a short sleeved, navy linen shirt or a subtle grey polo shirt. Otherwise, a bright blue pair of shorts can be teamed with a smart white shirt for a dazzling contrast. Or offset them with a navy and white striped polo for a nautical twist. Finally, would sir care for the salmon? Shorts that is! This option goes great with a navy polo or striped, light blue shirt to achieve the ultimate preppy style. Any one of these outfits will be finished perfectly with a pair of light tan espadrilles.

Colourful Shorts Colour Matching Swatch

colourful shorts colour matching


White Shirt

We challenge any man to show us a wardrobe that doesn’t include a white shirt. Aside from the obvious black accompaniment – whether this be suit, dress pants or even black jeans – you can also build an outfit around a classic white shirt with a variety of other darker and lighter tones. Like your chinos, this blank canvas gives you the chance to play around with what suits your style best. Partner with chinos, dark jeans or a navy blazer for those smarter occasions. Or, when you’re heading to the beach or an al fresco lunch, team your white shirt with colourful shorts or more colourful chinos (sky blue, salmon or green) and loafers.

Whatever your regular clothing selections might be, by adding some must-have base items to your wardrobe, and applying some colour matching logic, you can quickly and easily begin building up your layers of colours. So why not give it a go and take a fresh look at your wardrobe with a completely new and more colourful perspective? 


Armed with these handy hints and tips, isn’t it time you brought some colour back into your life? Join Mr. Draper today and let our dedicated stylists redefine your style.

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