Pick Shirt Colors That Match You, Even If You Have No Eye For Matching
What you are about to read is your salvation. It is freedom from the tyranny that is choice paralysis. It is independence from relying on your significant other’s recommendations just to perform the simple act of getting dressed. It is the one true word. It is how to pick a shirt.
This is not how to buy a dress shirt, we’ve discussed that at length already and gave you the keys to that kingdom already. This is how to choose the right color shirts for you.
Now, understand something, this is a fishing lesson. As in, give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. If you are seeking a fish handout, you are in the wrong place. If you just want to skip to the answers, there are no right answers. Anybody who has never seen you (as we haven’t) and tries to tell you that they have the answers and know what shirts go with you are either arrogant enough to believe they know what’s best for you or a bold-faced liar. In other words, they’re either full of themselves or full of shit. Either way, don’t trust it. Accept no fish, take this fishing lesson, and learn to feed yourself.
If the problem has gotten bad enough that you’ve turned to the interwebs for advice on what shirt to wear, then we’re pretty sure you will be a better man for reading this. Because you will never need to check another website for advice on what shirt to wear again.
Like we said, this is your salvation. Who are we to presume to offer you the keys to the kingdom? What special knowledge can we impart? How do we know the magical secrets? Easy. It’s not magic. And it’s no secret. You will see nothing here you haven’t seen a thousand times before in every other men’s style publication, a shit ton of well-dressed men. The difference is we’ll explain how they got so well-dressed and why they look so good in their shirts.
Enough about us. You’re the focus of this article. You’re the Luke Skywalker, we’re just the Obi Wans in this piece. So here’s your lightsaber. It’s time to begin the training. This is where things get interactive…
Shirt Matching Step #1:
Take a second to look at yourself in a mirror. What color are you? Not like, what ethnicity you are, but what color is your skin. Take a look at this spectrum below and choose the color that most matches your face and note the number below. Don’t worry if it’s not exact. This is more science than art, but there is still some wiggle room.
Shirt Matching Step #2:
Now look at your hair color and find it on the spectrum below. As with your skin tone, you don’t have to find an exact match, just the closest color to your hair.
If you’ve got a mix of gray and colored hair, choose the number that matches the color of the majority of your hair. If you’re bald, choose the color that closest matches your scalp.
Shirt Matching Step #3
Finally, note any other colors on your face. What color are your eyes? How about your lips? Do you have a mustache or a beard that adds color to your face? How about freckles? Hell, even rosy cheeks count? Whatever colors you see are fair game. This is an important step. As you continue through this article, you won’t use it right away, but the information you gather at this stage will prove valuable later on, so hold this thought for a while and keep going.
Building Your Shirt Collection
Imagine looking at a set of shirts and not being completely overwhelmed by choices. You now have enough information to build a collection of shirts with the confidence that the colors and patterns will look good on you.
Alright, so you’re probably tired of looking at yourself in the mirror now, unless you’re a narcissist. Let’s start putting this information to use.
At this point you’ve got all you need to handle the basics of matching shirts to you. You can confidently choose solid colored shirts that will work for you. Here’s how.
Shirt Color Matching
As we’ve said in these pages before, a man can build a dress shirt collection on just two colors: white and blue. That still holds up. White can work for everyone. Why? Because it isn’t a color after all. It’s the lack of color that makes it so easy to pair. White doesn’t clash with anybody’s coloring and it’s always acceptable, whether you’re going for a super formal look or a laid back casual feel.
Colored shirts are a different story. We like blue because it complements a wide range of faces. Blue is a big family of colors from pale blue to midnight blue and everything in between. Other colors can work and we’ll get to how to incorporate them later, but none look as good on men in such a large array of shades as blue.
In fact, understanding which shades are right for you may be the most important part of choosing a shirt. To do this well, take a look at the numbers you noted above.
Understanding Your Numbers
If your skin and hair numbers were both low, you’re on the lighter side of the spectrum. That means you should be careful with dark colored shirts and heavily saturated shirt colors. So a light blue dress shirt will work for you, but a dark navy shirt might make a jarringly stark contrast that only makes you look paler.
On the flip side, if your numbers are both high and you’re darker with little contrast, a darker shirt color can work for you. More saturated colors are also a safer bet.
Following these guidelines, you can start to choose shirt colors that work naturally for you and take the guesswork out of looking at a range of hues and shades. Knowing what works for you, you can pick from the shades that cast you in the best light.
What To Do If Your Numbers Are Far Apart
So far we’ve kept it simple with solid colored shirts and guys with lower contrast. But here’s where things get interesting. Lots of people have a bigger gap between their skin tone and their hair color. If your numbers are more than three apart on our spectrums, then you have a medium to high contrast look.
Why does this matter? Because the human eye is good at picking up contrast. That’s why, when we want to express how something is clear, we say that that matter is “black and white”. We crave black and white. We have evolved to be sorters so that we can cope with all of the stimuli coming at us that we need to process. When things are less clear, the “gray area”, our brains have to work extra hard to understand the world around us. We don’t like doing extra work.
All of this gives those with higher contrast an advantage when getting dressed. You naturally cut down on the amount of work someone has to do to see how great you look.
You also cut down on the amount of agonizing you have to do over color choices. If your skin tone is a 4 and your hair color is a 9, you can wear much more of the color spectrum because you cover a lot of the spectrum. A shirt color that might create dissonance on a low contrast guy, creates visual harmony when combined with your strong contrast.
A Note About Contrast and Skin Tone
All contrast is not the same. The darker your skin the more built-in contrast you have. A guy like our Skin Tone: 9 example above, may have dark hair, but his skin contrasts with the whites of his eyes and teeth. So darker skinned guys have built in contrast that lighter skinned guys don’t.
When there’s a significant difference between your skin tone and hair color numbers you not only have high contrast, your clothes can have more contrast too (it’s no accident that we chose a contrast collar to show in the looks above).
So you should feel free to explore the wonderful world of shirt patterns. Start here.
Choosing Shirt Colors for Patterned Shirts:
Patterns are made of contrasts. So, they work well when paired with high contrast guys. Here’s a high contrast guy with a high contrast patterned shirt:
Of course, lower contrast guys can wear patterned shirts too. Just adjust the amount of contrast to match yourself. Here’s a low contrast guy in a lower contrast patterned shirt.
Got blue eyes? When you’re choosing a shirt pattern, consider your contrast first and you won’t go wrong.
Adding Colors With Patterns
Remember when you first looked in the mirror and we asked you to note the other colors on your face? We said we’d come back to that and now we’ve arrived at that all important section. Let’s say you noted that your lips have a distinctly reddish-purple tone that adds character to your face, like the guy featured here. Bring out that distinguishing feature by echoing the color with your shirt pattern and you get a killer look, like this:
This little trick works especially well on patterned shirts, but you can use the same technique to choose colors of solid shirts, like this pink shirt which brings out this gent’s natural ruddy complexion.
This style tip even works for other items besides shirts. Take a look at the best dressed men you know and you’ll probably find that they create this kind of color harmony, intentionally or not, when they choose clothes.
Where To Go From Here?
So now you should be able to pick that ultimate collection of dress shirts. You’ll have no more time wasted trying different shirts. No more worrying about your shirts matching. You’ll be able to choose with confidence. Ready to build that collection right now? If so, we’re ready for you.
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