The MANual: Formal Wear
Complexion And The Color Of Your Suit
When you are shopping for your wedding suit, you have to find a color combination that compliments the complexion of your skin, and the contrast between your skin and hair. With the right color, you’re a movie star. With the wrong color, you’re an office drone with the stomach flu.
At this point, a couple of decades into your life on earth, you probably think you know what clothes look good on you. Maybe you have a particular t-shirt that makes your blue eyes bluer or your dark skin richer. Unfortunately, you can’t get married in that t-shirt.
Instead, you are trying on different suit/shirt combos, looking in the mirror and thinking “Why do I look so…what’s the word? Awful. Yes, awful is the word.” Usually you don’t look this bad unless you stayed out all night doing tequila shots. But last night you stayed home and got plenty of sleep. You should look great. Congratulations, you have just learned an important fashion lesson: the power of complexion.
Women have been dealing with this for decades, with fashion magazines telling them they need to determine their “season” based on a mysterious equation of hair, skin, eye, and vein color.
Men, however, are told to determine their complexion based on the contrast between the color of their hair and the color of their skin.
Men’s complexions basically fall into three categories: There’s high-contrast, such as dark hair and pale skin (think Jon Hamm); low contrast, with skin tone and hair that are similar (Ryan Gosling); and medium contrast, which is basically everyone else (George Clooney, Bradley Cooper). Statistically speaking, you are probably medium contrast. (Statistically speaking, you are also much less handsome than any of the men mentioned above).
Before you get stuck trying to determine your contrast type and puzzling about undertones, start with this principle: You want people looking at your face, not your outfit.
- Men with high contrast complexions want a suit that will mirror that high contrast.
- Men with low contrast complexions should go for a suit/shirt combo that creates a more monochromatic look.
The end result will be a sense of balance that keeps the viewer’s attention on your eyes, cheekbones, and chin.
Most grooms have four colors to choose from when it comes to suits: black, blue, grey, and tans/brown. No matter your complexion, you can probably wear any of these. The trick is picking the right shade.
If your skin is whiter than a Mormon family at a Kenny Loggins show, dark colors like black, navy, and charcoal are a relatively safe bet. If you have both fair hair and fair skin you might want to swap out your white dress shirt for a monochromatic or tonal shirt to keep the focus on your face. If you are having a spring or summer shindig and want to wear a lighter color, blue grays or tans can work well. And if you have a lot of confidence, pairing a light suit with a darker shirt will really bring focus to your face. If you have freckles, and blush easily, you’ll want to stick to richer tans and olives and avoid anything too close to your own skin tone or hair color.
A medium skin tone tends to look its best against warm and bright colors. If you are wearing a traditional black or navy suit you can incorporate these brighter and warmer colors into your accessories. You want to avoid tans and greens that might be too close to your own skin color. If you do want to wear a less than flattering color the trick is to keep it away from your face.
Congratulations: you look good in basically everything. But you can pick color combinations that make you look even better. Don’t pick browns that are close to you own skin tone, and when you wear darks (like black and navy), break them up with bolder and lighter colors near your face.
The old expression “look good, feel good” works both ways. If you look lousy, you’ll probably start feeling lousy. But go into your Big Day in a suit that matches your complexion, and your mood will rise to the happy occasion.
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