The Oscars & Men’s Tuxedos & Black Tie Outfits

Ah, the Oscars: that special time of year when the stars come out to experiment with black tie. Let’s take a look at what they get right and wrong with the black tie dress code, and present our guide to mastering the tuxedo. These days, celebrities are among the few people around who have reason to don a tuxedo frequently. So, how did they do? In the past, we’ve seen everything from funny to unique, flamboyant to spot on but overall, the outfits are mostly disappointing.

To help you avoid the same pitfalls, we created a 60+ page Tuxedo & Black Tie Guide and Video.

Black Tie Pocket Guide mockup multi-screen2

Men’s Black Tie at the Oscars 2019

While the 2019 Academy Awards featured some controversy around the ceremony itself–in terms of the lack of a host as well as some of the nominees, winners, and snubs–there were a good handful of bright spots in terms of the men’s outfits. Before we cover the best, worst, and weirdest, here’s a rundown of some of the common trends we observed.

Trend: Velvet Jackets and Tuxedos

Standard wool-and-silk combinations still reigned supreme as with most years, but 2019 saw a large contingent of men on the red carpet wearing velvet in varying amounts, whether it be as an accent, a jacket, or a full ensemble.

Chris Evans in one of the more elegant velvet jackets of the evening, this one in a dark turquoise. The remainder of his black-tie ensemble is also cleanly styled. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Mark Ronson’s outfit, while more modern than classic, still achieved a certain level of elegance. His jacket features a black velvet shawl collar and cuffs, accented by white piping. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

Mario Lopez also followed the velvet trend of the 2019 Oscars, though he could still have benefitted from a cummerbund or other waist covering. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

Trend: Fly-Front Shirts

Conventional tuxedo shirts worn with studs made a strong showing this year, but so did the more minimalist fly-front shirt. As with most other elements of red-carpet black tie, it was worn both elegantly and inelegantly.

Ryan Seacrest’s burgundy-and-black patterned jacket is tastefully unique, but his pre-tied bow tie makes his Oscars ensemble less than stellar. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Viggo Mortensen’s outfit blends elements of a suit (flap pockets, high-buttoning vest) and a tuxedo (satin peak lapels). [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

The stars of “Wayne’s World” illustrate mediocre and competent black tie, respectively. Mike Myers (left) wears a notch-lapel jacket and pre-tied bow, while Dana Carvey wears peaked lapels, a self-tied bow, and a pocket square. [Photo: Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty]

Trend: Midnight Blue Tuxedos

Though the Oscars and similar award ceremonies typically see the greatest representation from either standard black ensembles or ones with bright and flashy colors, the elegant and classic alternative of midnight blue made a not-insignificant showing in 2019.

A cummerbund or other waist covering would have taken Paul Rudd’s midnight-blue, shawl-collared tuxedo from good to great. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Willem Dafoe, pictured here with Giada Colagrande, in a midnight-blue tuxedo, black shirt and necktie, and black patent derby shoes. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

The team behind “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (L-R: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) show off some of the trends of the 2019 Academy Awards, such as midnight blue and a lack of waist coverings. [Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty]

Trend: Monochromatic Looks

The black-and-white nature of a classic tuxedo was designed to give a man an idealized silhouette, but since the 1990s, monochromatic looks have made their presence known in the realms of Alternative and Creative Black Tie. More than just black-on-black, the 2019 Oscars also saw other one-color looks.

Bryan Tyree Henry was one of several to adopt some of the year’s trends, including a monochromatic ensemble and a velvet jacket. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Christian Bale, pictured here with Sibi Blazic, in his trademark monochromatic outfit. His satin peaked lapels and tie, in combination with a similarly finished shirt, are hallmarks of 21st-century “Alternative Black Tie.” [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

While Samuel L. Jackson, pictured here with Brie Larson, appears to be wearing an all-black ensemble, the stage lights during the Oscars ceremony revealed it to be closer to a charcoal gray jacket and a brown shirt. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Tyler Perry was one of several men to adopt the monochromatic look in 2019, choosing a wine-colored ensemble. Aside from the nontraditional color and button-up shirt, however, the effect of his outfit isn’t altogether negative. [Photo: Craig Sjodin/Getty]

Trend: Patterned & Textured Jackets

While patterned jackets in black tie have an historical precedent dating at least to the introduction of tartan in the 1940s and ’50s, and textures arrived in the 1960s, there were several examples of both types of personalization on the red carpet in 2019.

Not only did Javier Bardem opt for a nearly monochromatic look, but his jacket also features a faint watered texture. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

John Mulaney, pictured here with Awkwafina (left), scored points for an elegantly unique jacket and fly-front shirt, but lost points for a pre-tied bow and lack of waist covering. [Photo: Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty]

Mahershala Ali (right) in an avant-garde take on the tuxedo, featuring a patterned jacket, minimalist shirt, shoes with two finishes, and a black beanie hat. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

Alright, there’s our summary of trends covered for this year. Now, with the previews and trailers out of the way, let’s get to our feature presentation: the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2019 men’s Oscars outfits.

Best-Dressed Men of the 2019 Academy Awards

First up: the men who we believe stayed true to the spirit and history of classic black tie, and came away looking dapper and distinguished.

Trevor Noah’s tuxedo was perhaps the most classically inspired and well-fitting of the evening; it features a 2×1 double-breasted jacket with peaked lapels and jetted pockets, trousers of satisfactory cut, self-tied bow tie and white pocket square, a micropleat shirt, and patent leather shoes. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

Richard E. Grant, pictured here with daughter Olivia, in a burgundy velvet jacket with gray peaked lapels (and matching gray waistcoat). Grant’s look is classic and elegant. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

Bradley Cooper, pictured here with his mother (left) and wife, was one of the most classically styled men at the 2019 Academy Awards (aside from his boots). His Tom Ford tux would have been perfect, with the trousers worn higher and the jacket buttoned. [Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty]

Daniel Craig, pictured here with Charlize Theron, in a typical Bond-style tuxedo. The midnight-blue jacket and trousers feature classic styling, and the accessories are well-chosen. [Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty]

Michael B. Jordan in a tasteful blue velvet jacket, self-tied bow tie, studded shirt, and patent leather shoes. [Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP]

Honorable Mentions: Fair and Decent Oscars Outfits

While the above examples were the true winners in terms of elegance, there were a number of other men whose efforts should still be commended.

Along with Bradley Cooper, Joe Alwyn was another man to wear a Tom Ford tuxedo well at the 2019 Academy Awards–though he also neglected to button his jacket. [Photo: Rick Rowell/Getty]

Diego Luna’s midnight-blue ensemble featured a shawl-collar jacket and self-tied bow. Wearing the trousers at the natural waist would have made this outfit nearly perfect. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Alex Rodriguez (right), pictured here with Jennifer Lopez, in an ivory dinner jacket, self-tied bow tie, and tuxedo shirt (whose sleeves are just a bit too short). [Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty]

While Gary Oldman’s tuxedo is simple in its details (aside from the pocket square), he wears it with an understated confidence that makes him look all the more elegant. [Photo: Craig Sjodin/Getty]

Though Michael Keaton’s ensemble could have been livened up by a white linen pocket square, his shawl collar and studded shirt were dependable and classic. [Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty]

Sam Elliott’s tuxedo was classically handsome, with satin peaked lapels, a studded shirt, and a flattering fit. [Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty]

Though Rami Malek wore a proper black-tie waistcoat, his trousers were still seated too low. Even so, his outfit was one of the better ensembles at the 2019 Oscars. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Keegan-Michael Key wore a well-fitting tuxedo featuring wide peaked lapels (though the stunt wires altered his silhouette). A cummerbund or waistcoat would have made this outfit soar. [Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake]

Mixed Results (and Levels of Formality)

The following are a selection of men who had success in some areas and failure in others, when considering the metrics of fit, formality, and overall style.

David Oyelowo’s 2019 Oscars outfit was a good attempt at unique elegance, but the full-velvet ensemble, high-buttoning vest, and loud shoes push it “over the top.” [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

The overall effect of Henry Golding’s outfit is nice, but the devil is in the details; once should never attempt to mix and match black-tie and white-tie garments. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Jordan Peele, pictured here with wife Chelsea Peretti, wore a somewhat average ensemble, with pre-tied bow tie, no waist covering, and sunglasses. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Jay Hart (left), pictured here with Hannah Beachler, has good and bad elements to his outfit. The waist covering and shirt studs are appreciated, while the notched lapels and pre-tied bow tie are not. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Musician Tom Morello’s attempt at black tie was largely uninspired, featuring a notch-lapel jacket with flap pockets, puddling trousers, and a pre-tied bow tie. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

“Roma” Director Alfonso Cuarón chose an elegant brown for his jacket, but the fit left a bit to be desired. [Photo: Craig Sjodin/Getty]

James McAvoy’s jacket and trousers are cut well, but the flap pockets, multiple buttons, and long necktie mean that he’s just wearing a black suit. [Photo: ABC/Rick Rowell]

DeVon Franklin, pictured here with Meagan Good, opted for a charcoal grey tuxedo with black peaked lapels. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

Black-Tie Blunders: 2019 Oscars Tuxedo Missteps

Our penultimate category: the outfits that most will love to hate, and the critiques they’ll hate to love. The following ensembles, in our view, simply broke too many established guidelines, were too sloppy in their fit, or were so uninspired in their execution, that they can’t be redeemed.

2019 Oscars bandleader Rickey Minor, pictured here with wife Karen, in a midnight-blue velvet jacket. While his shirt, jacket, and shoes are nice, Minor’s tie is pre-tied, and his trousers feature a belt (a no-go for black tie). [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

The blue color of director Barry Jenkins’ tuxedo is nice, but his lack of waist covering and socks, as well as an overall poor fit, end up making this outfit a “miss.” [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Sam Rockwell (right), pictured here with Frances McDormand, wore an uninspired take on black tie. It features a notched lapel, two-button jacket, and a high-cut black vest. [Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty]

The cumulative effect of Shamier Anderson’s outfit is that of a contemporary suit; he wears a two-button, notched lapel jacket with flap pockets, a high-buttoning day vest, velvet slippers with no socks, and somewhat gaudy accessories. [Photo: Rick Rowell/Getty]

Though Scott Stuber, pictured here with Molly Sims, ended up with a decent trouser break, the other aspects of his ensemble’s fit are lacking, such as the length of the jacket’s sleeves and the gapping of its quarters. Further, the outfit is more of a standard suit than a true tuxedo. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

Adam Lambert’s Tom Ford tuxedo fit well, and his boutonniere wasn’t bad, but his shirt and shoes tipped the outfit into costume territory. [Photo: Jordan Straus/Invision/AP]

Nicholas Hoult in a monochromatic and pseudo-futuristic black outfit. The double-breasted jacket features excess fabric, to be worn as a sort of wrap. [Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP]

Jason Momoa, pictured here with wife Lisa Bonet, in a pink-and-black outfit made even more gaudy with jewelry and other accessories. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Stephan James bright red ensemble may have been the most egregious example of the velvet trend at the 2019 Academy Awards. While the shawl collar and double-breasted waistcoat are nice, the pre-tied bow tie, skinny-cut trousers, and white boots are more avant-garde. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

And Finally…The Craziest Outfits of the 2019 Academy Awards

Our final list for this year are the outfits so bizarre that they can’t rightly be considered attempts black tie at all; they’re in a completely different stratosphere! Enjoy…we think?

Chadwick Boseman in an outfit possibly inspired by his role in “Black Panther,” featuring a jacket with long tails and a scarf. [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

Ever the iconoclast, Spike Lee opted for a bright purple suit, blue shirt, and magenta necktie, further accented by a purple hat, gold sneakers, and various accessories related to his films. [Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic]

Pharrell Williams (left), pictured here with Helen Laischanh, in what was perhaps the most bizarre outfit of the 2019 Academy Awards. Williams wore a matching double-breasted jacket and shorts in camouflage print, along with white tube socks, chunky shoes, a white shirt, and various jewelry. [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]

Red Carpet Presenter Billy Porter, in what could conceivably be described as a “tuxedo gown.” [Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty]

And there you have it: the trends, successes, attempts, failures, and head-scratchers of the 2019 Oscars. What did you think of our appraisals–and of the outfits themselves? Share with us in the comments below. And don’t forget to take a look at our summaries of previous years, and consult our newly-renovated Black Tie Guide for more information on how to pull off Black Tie properly!

Men’s Black Tie at the Oscars 2017

As in previous years, the 2017 Oscars had a bunch of creative black tie interpretations but sadly not a single man nailed it completely in terms of classic black tie standards, even though some came very close.

Here are this year’s outfits. It seems like many men forgot their cummerbund, and some don’t know how to tie a bow tie.

Men’s Black Tie at the Oscars 2016

As usual, the most men skipped a cummerbund or evening vest for their black tie outfits in 2016. Leaving your waistband exposed on a black tie outfit simply exudes a lack of style and attention to detail, which is why you should always wear one or the other. It’s not supposed to look like a suit! Skip the belt, and go with sideadjusters or suspenders instead.

Also, studs have been surprisingly popular even though some were quite big. Likewise, the shawl collar seems to be a popular trend in line with navy blue or midnight blue.

Please click through the gallery to learn all about the details DO’s but mostly DON’Ts.

How To Find The Right Black Bow Tie For You

Finding a black bow tie that works well for you and your tuxedo is not easy. Check out our in depth guide on How To Find A Bow Tie That Works For You or watch our video.

Men’s Tuxedos at the Oscars 2014

Pharrell Williams showed up in a tuxedo jacket with shorts. While this is certainly attention-grabbing, I doubt this find will find many followers. Interestingly, he went to the lengths of picking out shirts studs and opted for a jacket with a double button.

The fit of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s tuxedo is decent, the black bow tie looks interesting, and if you disregard the long sleeves and the wristwatch, this look could have been great if he had worn a vest or cummerbund.

Brad Pitt wore a noteworthy shawl collar tuxedo with grosgrain faced lapels. His shirt features regular mother of pearl buttons that remind me too much of a day shirt even though it was made of marcella piqué.

Darren de Gallo choose a 2 button peaked lapel tuxedo without pocket square and buttonhole on the lapel. Unfortunately, you can see his shirt peaking out but that’s what happens if you skip the waistcoat or cummerbund.

Steve McQueen pulled of an interestingly knotted bow tie and a peak lapel with a bespoke feel.

Jonah Hill pulled off a more classic look than two years ago in regard to his colors but tuxedos should neither have notch lapels nor flap pockets.

The same is true for Mr. Sudeikis. He even buttoned both of the front buttons which you should never do if the jacket has such a low buttoning point. Overall, this Prada outfit is really underwhelming, but what can you expect from a big fashion house these days…

Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey wore off white dinner jackets and while this is per se a good thing, the fit of Matthew McConaughey’s jacket was very poor and looked like it came just from the rental store. A lapel should never fold like that and it just makes you look cheap. Jared Leto’s jacket fit better, but the red pre-tied bow tie and the flaps are two aspects he could have done better.

Of all these pictures, Tom Ford is once again the best dressed, however, he wasn’t at the Oscars but at the Vanity Oscars Party. His lapels are really wide but that is his style.

The Tuxedo

First of all, it is not surprising to see a complete absence of white tie – though, with so many long evening dresses, the dinner jacket / tuxedo would traditionally not be considered to be appropriate attire for such an event. Nevertheless, the tuxedo is as formal as it gets during the Oscars, with regards to men’s clothing.

How To Wear A Tuxedo

Generally, there are a number of guidelines for what a proper tuxedo should look like:

  1. Black or midnight blue cloth – often barathea or plain cloth, sometimes with a bit of mohair for an elegant sheen
  2. Classic options are: (1) Peaked lapels covered in black silk satin, repp or moiré with a single button or a double-breasted front, or (2) a shawl collar with black silk and single button closure
  3. Ventless Jacket
  4. Cummerbund or waistcoat with a single-button jacket
  5. Neither a cummerbund nor a waistcoat with a double-breasted jacket, but then you must not unbutton it – the waist must never be exposed!
  6. Wear suspenders – never a belt!
  7. A galon stripe on the side of the trousers
  8. Jetted pockets – no flaps, because these are informal.
  9. Pocket square – traditionally in white linen, but a splash of color in silk or linen is also fine
  10. White or ivory shirt with double cuffs and a turn down collar with pleats, a starched, marcella piqué front or a fly front if no studs are available
  11. Black silk bow tie – matching the lapel
  12. A boutonniere in the lapel – a highly overlooked but great finishing detail
  13. Black over-the-calf socks made of pure silk.
  14. Black plain patent leather oxford shoes (without a captoe / brogues)  or plain opera pumps

Although these guidelines can be flexible – just look at Nick Foulkes in his superb velvet evening attire or 82 year old oscar winner Christopher Plummer in his navy velvet smoking jacket – most men will look unfavorable or even ridiculous if they try to deviate too much from these classic standards. However, I can only encourage you to try new things. Usually, it is best to start with one element at the time, and make sure you do not go wild with your colors. A subtly patterned cummerbund, vividly colored socks or a red carnation are great added details!

My favorite black tie outfit from recent years was worn by Tom Ford: He wore an interesting shawl collar jacket in black. Just look at the end of the lapels and compare them to other shawl collar jackets – it is more rounded and gives him a special look without being ostentatious. In combination with the turn back cuffs, it looks like this coat was made in the late 1950’s. The buttons are covered with silk and he opted for 5 sleeve buttons in place of the traditional 4, leaving the last button rakishly undone. His turn down collar shirt features three diamond studs and a larger butterfly bow tie. With a white pocket square and a white carnation boutonniere in his lapel, he looks the part without deviating from the aforementioned guidelines.

How Not To Wear A Tuxedo

In Hollywood, most men don’t seem to care about classic men’s style and so the outcome is often funny or even gaudy – even Prince William has troubles when it comes to black tie attire. I can attribute some of the strange ensembles to the couture houses; simply choosing the brand du jour does not guarantee an elegant combination or well-tailored cut.

Although it is much easier to look well-dressed in a tuxedo, there are many men at the Oscars who simply fall short. So, here is a selected overview of the outfits and what could be improved.

Zachary Quinto wears a tuxedo jacket with flaps and slim shawl collar. Unfortunately, he does not have enough room in his chest, which is why the chest opens up. George Clooney wears a notched lapel tuxedo and  Judd Apatow forgot his cummerbund or vest. Jonah Hill tries to pull of a monochromatic look, as his dark purple shirt and bow tie are barely discernible from his black tux. Since he does not wear suspenders, the fullness of his trousers makes him look unfortunate.

Matthew Lillard skipped his cummerbund, wears his sleeves too long and combines it with boxy shoes – so it looks like he wears an ill-fitting rental tuxedo. Robert Forster wears cap toe shoes, but otherwise he looks excellent.

Andrew Garfield chose to wear low rise trousers and skip the cummerbund, which exposes his waistband and makes his legs look shorter. Also, he opted for full brogue patent leather oxford shoes – bummer.

Christian Bale shows us another monochromatic look with black shirt, necktie, waistcoat, shawl collar and pocket flaps. Each to his own, but I cannot say that I like it. Mark Wahlberg next to him skipped the pocket square for a pair of sunglasses. A tuxedo is for the evening, so you should be able to leave your sunglasses at home.

Russel Brand wore a dark navy velveteen suit with black lapels, black long skinny tie and what looks like a plaid shirt. Not my cup of tea but nevertheless interesting.

Overall, it seems like the tuxedos look worse every year – do you agree? What was your favorite men’s tuxedo at the Oscars 2014?


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6 Outfits That Prove, Once Again, The Right Jeans Are Everything

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How to Use the Color Wheel to Assemble Superior Outfits

For those who are just breaking into the world of menswear, assembling outfits that are harmonious can seem to be a daunting challenge. After all, if you just throw a bunch of garments together with abandon and they feature all kinds of different colors, the end result might be that you end up looking like a clown.

The first step to preventing this outcome then is to start by assembling a base wardrobe of solid and conservative colors. Namely things in the grayscale, shades of brown, and shades of blue. Regarding the grayscale, gray and white are far more versatile than solid black actually is.

After assembling this base wardrobe, some men will then be tempted to try experimenting with different bolder colors and this doesn’t have to be a challenge.

Isaac Newton

Understanding The Color Wheel

First pioneered by Sir Isaac Newton around 1665 to show the colors refracted from a beam of light, the concept of putting the colors of the rainbow in a circular orientation was soon applied to pigments as well thus, the modern color wheel was born.

Red, Yellow, Blue – Primary Colors

Primary Colors

The world of menswear mainly concerns itself with the color wheel used in the visual arts. As such, three colors we consider to be primary are red, yellow, and blue. What is a primary color then? Simply stated, primary colors are the foundational colors from which all other colors are mixed. In other words, you don’t mix any colors to get red, yellow, or blue, they simply are what they are.

Orange, Green, Purple (Violet) – Secondary Colors

Secondary Colors

Purple, also called violet, green, and orange. The secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors together. For example, red and yellow combined to make orange. Referring again to the diagram of the color wheel, you can see that each secondary color is located directly in between the two primary colors that make it up.

Tertiary Colors

Tertiary Colors

They’re made by mixing a primary color and a secondary color together. These colors can sometimes be referred to by their own unique names, for example, the combination of blue and green can sometimes be called teal but in more simple terms, they can also be referred to by simply combining the names of the colors that create them with the primary color coming first.

Color Temperature

This refers to the perceived warmth of a color. Of the three primary colors, red and yellow are said to be warm whereas blue is considered cool. It follows then that any combination of red and yellow will also, by default, be a warm color. Meanwhile, when cool blue mixes with one of the warm primaries, different things result. While green is usually said to be a cool color, purple is often said to be a warm color. Even so, the relative temperatures of these secondary and intermediate colors can vary. For example, while green is collectively considered to be cool, a yellow-green will still be warmer than a Blue-green.

Color Intensity

Another important concept to understand is that of color intensity or the lightness or darkness of a color. Another word for color is hue and that’s usually the word used when we’re talking about the relative lightness or intensity of a color. If white is added to any color, this is referred to as a tint of that color. The result is a lighter and less intense hue. Conversely, if black is added to any color, this results in a shade, sometimes also called a tone of that color. The result is darker and also less intense. For the highest intensity possible in a given color, just go with the default true hue.

Speaking of black and white, they’re not considered colors in the strictest sense since they’re not on the color wheel rather they reside on their own spectrum which we refer to as the grayscale since when black and white are mixed together in varying quantities, they result in different shades of gray.

It’s also sometimes said that you can achieve black by mixing together all of the colors on the color wheel though this is really more of an approximation.

You may also have noticed that brown isn’t anywhere to be found on the color wheel, this is because in order to create a brown tone, certain colors have to be mixed together.

Color Relationships

In addition to the colors on the wheel relating to each other in terms of how they mix together, they also have relationships in terms of how they interact when they’re kept separate. If that’s a little hard to understand, just keep your eye on the color wheel for these next few terms and everything should come together.

The Color Wheel

Analogous Colors

Simply put, analogous colors are ones that are similar in temperature and are found close to each other and sometimes directly adjacent on the color wheel. Any color analogous to a primary color is a color that features that primary. So for example, everything from yellow-orange to red-orange is analogous to yellow because all of those colors feature some amount of yellow in them.

Complementary Colors

The other important color relationship is that of complementary colors. In simplest terms, any two colors that are directly across from one another on the color wheel are considered complementary. Because of this distance apart from one another on the color wheel, complementary colors have the highest amount of contrast possible. Some examples of complementary colors include red and green, yellow and purple, and blue and orange.

Split Complementary Colors

In addition, the designation of split complementary colors can be applied to any one color and the two direct analogs of that color’s complement. To state that more simply with an example from the color wheel, red-purple and blue-purple are these split complementaries of yellow.

So answering our question about how to get brown then, the simplest way to achieve a brown tone is to mix complementary or split complementary colors together. Simple, right? There’s a complete overview of the color wheelout of the way.

A clash of colors makes you look clownish

Why Do We Need To Understand Color Relationships When Putting Together Outfits?

The answer is because color is the principal way that we can direct the eyes of others. The primary objective of any colors in an outfit should be directing the eyes of the viewer to your face and also making your face look as well colored and healthy as possible. What’s the best way of going about doing that?

In short, there are two main methods for achieving this effect with your outfits:

  • The first of these techniques is to match the degree of contrast between the colors in your outfit to the degree of contrast between your skin tone and your hair color. Speaking of which, you can find our video on how to early determine your skin tone here.
  • The second technique is to directly repeat or otherwise echo one of your natural colors whether that be your skin tone, hair color, or eye color in the colors of one or more of the garments that make up your outfit.
Finding your skin tone
Finding your skin tone

How To Wear & Pair Colors Effectively

Regarding the degree of contrast between a man’s skin tone and his hair color, men fall into one of three basic groups; high contrast, which is most typically characterized by fair skin and dark hair though the reverse could also be true for darker skinned men with dyed or graying hair, medium contrast where the colors are different but not to a large extent, and low contrast either fair-skinned with blond or graying hair or dark skin with dark hair.

High contrast men can more safely experiment with wearing combinations of bolder colors. For example, pairing primaries or complementary colors together. Just don’t go for the true hues of all of these colors when you’re pairing them together or you will fall into that trap of looking like a clown. Instead, try pairing primaries or complements that have been further augmented with tinting or shading.

A medium contrast man can, of course, wear a garment that is bolder in color but he should be mindful that if he does so, it will draw some attention away from his face. Again as with many things in menswear, confidence is key here.

Low contrast men are the ones who should be most careful in pairing together contrasting colors, really make sure that you’ve muted the hues of the contrasting colors if you decide to wear them as that’s the best way that you’ll be able to pull them off.

Warm, neutral, and cool, undertone
Warm, neutral, and cool, undertone

Color Temperature & Intensity

When it comes to having colors in an outfit that echo a man’s natural tones, the keys here are temperature and intensity.

If you have light skin and light hair, stick to wearing pastel shades with colors that echo your undertone. Colors like blue, green, or purple for a cool skin undertone and red, yellow, and orange for a warm undertone. Conversely, dark colors and black will most likely make your skin look washed out and ashen.

The exception here is if you’re a man with light skin and very dark hair, in which case a high contrast man, and then, of course, you can go ahead and wear these darker colors. If you have fair skin and still want to go for a subtle contrast, take the cue from your hair color. The classic example here is that red-haired men typically look very good in pastel blue shirts.

Sven Raphael Schneider wearing suits
Sven Raphael Schneider wearing suits

If you have medium skin and hair, you can start to experiment with more true hues. Slight shades or tints of colors without being too extreme in either direction are going to work well for you. You can echo your undertones for a look that’s more harmonious or you can go with the complements of those colors for something that’s a little bit bolder and more fashion-forward.

Finally, if you have dark skin and dark hair, you’re somewhat lucky in being able to wear both true hues and darker shades as your face is really in no danger of looking washed out by these darker colors. The one area to be careful in your position is if you try to wear extremely light tints of colors as the high contrast will still end up distracting from your face. If you want to wear a lighter garment, we suggest that you do so in conjunction with other darker pieces. As with medium toned men, echo your undertones for more harmony and go with their complements for more contrast.

CONCLUSION

Knowledge of the color wheel and the broader discipline of color theory is one of the most helpful and versatile tools in the well-dressed gentleman’s arsenal. With this knowledge, he can be confident that he’s put together harmonious outfits that complement his natural tones and draw proper attention to his face.

What techniques do you use in order to incorporate color into your wardrobe?


Gentleman’s Gazette

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