Your complexion: The Power of Colour

Contrasting complexions

In our previous blog on colour coordination, we gave you some basic guidance on how to mix and match your shirt and tie with respect to choosing colours. So, you can now go forth and buy that shirt and tie combination with confidence right? Well, sort of. There’s still the matter of your complexion to bear in mind. If your clothes aren’t right for your colouring (your hair, skin and eyes) then you run the risk of looking washed out or at the least, not making the best of your assets. As Alan Flusser says, “One of the most important – but least understood – functions of male attire is to lead the viewer’s eye toward the face…when the face is surrounded by tonalities than invigorate and illuminate its presence, its ability to provoke immediate and marked reactions is amplified.”

The ‘rules’ for dressing for your complexion are relatively straightforward, however some men may find it hard to work out which category they neatly slot into. Rest assured, these rules are a good guide and with a little bit of experimentation, you’ll be able to put together your next outfit with the knowledge you’re putting your best foot forward.

High contrast complexion

As the name suggests, starkly different colours between the hair and skin tone generally characterise high-contrast complexions. The key to looking good for men with high contrast complexions is to dress in a suit, shirt and tie combination that mimics this colour difference between your skin tone and hair colour– the two primary colour signposts. Men who are high contrast and wear an outfit all in light tones risk looking washed out or pasty. Instead, high contrast men should wear outfits with both light and dark tones to help frame the face and ensure the skin looks healthy and vibrant.

Men with High contrast complexions: Fair or light skin, Dark brown or black hair (blue or green eyes enhance a high contrast complexion). Asians mostly have high contrast complexions, as do men of Irish decent with black hair, pale skin and blue/green eyes. You may think that black men would not fit into this category of high contrast, however they are the exception to the rule. The reason is that almost any colour next to dark skin provides a large amount of contrast, so a black man should approach his clothing choices as a medium to high contrast complexion.

Good colours for high contrast: Complementary colours from the colour wheel will provide the strongest contrast, or triad colours are also a good option for a suit, shirt and tie combination. For example a dark suit worn with a shirt and tie combination such as Ferdinand and Dots Gold provides a great frame for a high contrast man’s face. Not to be overlooked is the ‘banker’ style collar of Der Chef , Greenback Boogie and Fuchsia Fiasco – the white collar provides the ultimate contrast to frame the face.

High contrast celebrities: John Hamm, Zac Effron, Tyson Beckford, Robin Thicke

Contrasting complexions

Low contrast complexion

Low contrast men are the opposite to high contrast men, with hair colour similar to their skin tone. Men who are low contrast and wear an outfit with highly contrasted colours can risk being overpowered. Instead, low contrast men should wear outfits with varying shades of the same colour or a monochromatic look. Wearing a patterned shirt and tie is a great way to add extra flair to an outfit, rather than going all out with greatly contrasting colours.

Men with Low contrast complexions: Fair skin, blonde, ash blonde or red hair or bald men. Nordic and many fair anglo-saxon men have low contrast complexions. As men age (and their hair goes grey) they can change from being high-contrast to low contrast complexions, and their wardrobe choices should change too.

Good colours for low contrast: Analogous colours or varying shades (degrees of lightness) of the same colour on the colour wheel are the most flattering. Opt for warmer, softer shades and neutrals or pastels. Low contrast men will also look good in dark blue shirts and earth toned dress shirts combined with a dark suit. Philippe Perzi Vienna’s Los Gehts shirt with a navy suit and Niki Louder (Marrone) paired with a pair of beige chinos are stunning outfit choices which would complement a man with a low contrast complexion. A low contrast man can also wear white shirts but should then wear a light coloured suit in tan or light grey to avoid too much of a contrast.  Low contrast men can wear colour and contrast, it just needs to be less dramatic. Low contrast men need to make sure that their choice of shirt and tie combination isn’t too bold, as it can draw too much attention away from the face and towards the torso.

Low contrast celebrities: Simon Baker, John Slattery, Ryan Gosling

Contrasting complexions

Medium contrast complexion

Men in this category have the most latitude of any type. Men who have an obvious contrast between their hair and skin tone but not as much as with high contrast men will fall into this category. If you have tanned or brown skin, then you’ll probably find yourself in this category and you should wear medium contrast clothes. It should be stated however, that most men will either lean towards the high or low contrast categories and therefore do have quite a lot of leeway when it comes to choosing their colours so the rules are a little less hard and fast. We would say that the eye colour comes into play more with medium contrast men, as the eye colour can be used to complement and highlight the colour combination chosen.  Medium contrast men have their feet in both camps but the key is to avoid extremes.

Men with medium contrast complexions: Brown skin with black hair, tanned skin with light-brown hair. Hispanics and Southeast Asians mostly fall into this category, as well as some black men. Also, if you tan easily, for example if you’re of northern Italian decent, you could move from being a high or low contrast to a medium contrast complexion in the summer months.

Good colours for medium contrast: Triad colours are a good choice, but the key is to avoid extremes. Complementary colours in very bright shades will offer too much contrast, however muted analogous colours is similar shades of brightness will may you look too washed out. A good shirt and tie combo for men with medium contrast is Nel Blu and Solid Bronze tie. With a charcoal or navy suit, this is a winning combination.

Medium contrast celebrities: Prince Harry, David Beckham, Ricky Martin

Contrasting complexions

Remember: Rules were meant to be broken and there’s always exceptions to every one of the above mentioned guidelines. The key is confidence and comfort in your clothes, as they really are a second skin. Philippe Perzi Vienna’s signature shirt and tie collection offers all men a wide range of options – from your ‘safe’ blues and whites to more eye-catching hues. Start shopping now!