And we’re not just talking white and navy
Repeating tones (covered in our previous instructional) is a simple way of matching colours but it limits what you can experiment with.
Instead, try repeating contrasts in your outfit and expand your horizons.
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.
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 POW 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.
Like Jake, stylist and fashion consultant Kate Foley, also uses subtle contrasts to her advantage.
Another member of the low-contrast class – with blonde hair and pale skin – she has opted for an oatmeal cable knit sweater and white gold jewellery, a combo with a level of contrast that matches those of her light facial features. The subtle contrasts create a harmonious look that not only sustains her delicate tones but also amplifies them.
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 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.
Ashley Owens, editor of Suited Magazine is someone we’ve long admired for her boho-sprezz and New York sartorial style. Ashley has features belonging to the less intense end of the medium contrast class with her auburn hair and light skin, and makes a killing by combining light and deep tones. Above, the medium contrast between her facial features is matched in intensity by the contrast between the blue nautical blazer (brass buttons picking up on her highlights), and an understated white T-shirt. The balance of contrasts between the white and navy in her outfit and the tones of her facial features. Her facial features then take centre stage as the white and navy supports her natural colours.
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.
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…
(photos via. Mr Porter, Pinguimo, Backyard Bill, theCut by New York Magazine, Christian Kimber, GQ France)