It is true that the colour combos you choose can ultimately make or break a good outfit. Start mixing multiple colours, as per the current high-fashion trends, and things can get disastrous.
Sticking to one-tone looks is a great place to start and gives you a chance to work out what suits your overall complexion, but if you’re having trouble in the contrast (or multiple colour) department, we have you covered.
The Contrast Classes
Contrast classes categorise appearances based on the degree of contrast between the tones of your facial features. Generally speaking, most people’s features fall into one of the following contrast classes:
- Low Contrast
- Medium Contrast
- High Contrast
Matching the amount of contrast in your outfit to your contrast class produces combos that amplify your natural colours. (Bear with us here.)
People with low contrast complexions have a combination of light and pale facial features. These features include blonde, red and grey hair, fair skin, and pale blue or green eyes. Due to their delicate appearance, subtle contrasts best enhance their soft tones.
Jake Grantham, formerly of The Armoury, illustrates how something as simple as a grey, blue and navy combo can kill when styled correctly.
In the outfit above, Jake’s bright red hair and paler skin creates a low contrast, which he complements with the low contrast between his light-grey Prince of Wales check jacket and light blue shirt.
The outfit seems just right – no colours overwhelm Jake’s delicate facial features. But the apparent simplicity belies a real sensitivity to colour, allowing Jake’s features to stand out even when the outfit colours don’t. And that beautiful Florentine style jacket (phwoar!) just seals the deal.
Guys from the medium contrast class have a mix of light and deep-toned facial features. This includes brunettes and people with rich and swarthy complexions. “Deep” is therefore best understood as referring to the intensity of colour, rather than darkness or lightness of shades. Anyone from the medium contrast class should combine light and deep tones for best results.
Since the medium contrast class describes any combination of light and deep facial features, it also includes guys with rich brown features like Neil Watson, photographer and editor of A&H magazine. Like Ashley, Neil also benefits from light and deep tones. Above, Neil matches the medium contrast between his tanned skin and chocolate brown hair in his choice of clothes.
Firstly, the contrast between the colours of his baseball cap equals those found between his facial features. The mocha cap with white lettering (runes for all the LOTR geeks out there) mirrors the combination of dark and rich tones in his face. Secondly, the same level of contrast is also echoed in the balance of tones between his white T-shirt, denim over-shirt and cocoa flight jacket. This repetition of contrasts, produced in two ways, brings out his natural deep features by punctuating their intensity.
People from the high contrast class have a mix of light and dark facial features. Bold combos, featuring colours from opposite ends of the spectrum, best accentuate their vivid tones.
Joseph Au, RRL designer and Aussie expat, for example, has picked workwear items that complement the high contrast between his black hair and warm skin. Above, the dark stripes of his T-shirt and navy riders cap match the intensity of his dark hair while the olive work jacket and yellow pocket-square reflects his olive complexion. This balance of contrasts in his face and outfit, maintains a sense of visual continuity that accents his striking features.
Dark blokes are also considered to have high contrast complexions since they have features so dark a high degree of contrast will almost always exist between their outfit and the tones in their face.
This makes colours seriously easy to match but Edwin Guerre, street style photographer, doesn’t take this for granted. The grey jacket with white and black Prince of Wales check is already a perfect match for his complexion but his turtle neck and fedora add extra oomph. Like Neil Watson’s cap above, Edwin’s fedora helps bring out his darker features and the way his turtleneck picks up on the jacket’s black windowpane checks while also contrasting with its grey base produces a dramatic finish. Some guys just have it all…
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