Trying to figure out how to mix and match the color choices in your closet can be daunting.
One of my main goals when I do men’s image consulting is teaching men the basics of color mixing and matching, and helping men look stylish and confident in their clothes.
By following a few simple guidelines, you can avoid feeling frustrated by your clothing.
Why it’s so hard to coordinate colors
It’s probably not you, but what’s in your closet.
If you take a quick look at the overarching color scheme you have, it’s possible you have too many dark colors, or too many colors in general.
Which closet is yours?
One of the first steps when I work on closet clean outs with clients is to identify which way your closet is skewing (too dark, or too crazy) and then create a balance of color which will give you the ability to mix and match colors easily.
The goal is not to have your closet look too dark or too light, but right in the middle– you want a variety of light AND dark colors as well as prints.
The hierarchy of colors
I believe that there is a long lasting style system that you can implement for your wardrobe (no matter your body type, location or profession).
One important step within the “Next Level Wardrobe Style System” is to control the amount of color you have in your closet.
Here is my Hierarchy of Color Pyramid that I use on each client and how you should think about each and every piece that you invest in.
Core colors make up the lower level of the hierarchy, and serve as the base for developing a versatile capsule wardrobe in which many of the items can be mixed and matched with any of the others.
Black, white, navy and gray are timeless selections that will complement other colors, and should represent the largest portion of your wardrobe.
In the tonal color section- creams, light grays and light blues should be a bit less prevalent than those core colors, but you should still have multiple options in these colors. This also includes prints in these light to dark color ways.
Finally, the smallest percentage of your pieces should be bolder colors and prints that include red, purple, maroon and more.
The best part of the Hierarchy of Color is that you can follow the ratios suggested (45/35/25) or you can amend them to your preferences.
Just remember that the most important part is that the majority of your closet is in the core colors so you can mix and match colors effortlessly and will help you look how to instantly look more put together.
Tips to effortlessly mix and match colors
All core colors
Now that you are an expert on core and tonal colors, it’s time to visualize yourself selecting and wearing actual outfits in these colors.
An easy place to start is mixing and matching those core colors together. You can’t go wrong with wearing any combination of white, grey, navy, or black.
You can either wear a combination of core colors with jeans (far right picture) or you can opt to keep it even more low maintenance by choosing one core color and wearing from head to to toe (far left picture)
Core colors mix and matched with tonal colors
Once you are comfortable mixing and matching core colors with themselves, you can start to add in tonal colors, such as those creams, light grays, and light blues. Tonal colors are light to dark shades (and prints!) of core colors.
For example, pair black pants with and other those colors in a well-fitted t-shirt, or wear a navy jacket, black tee, lighter gray pants, and your favorite cream or white sneakers.
These colors are all safe to mix and match and pretty difficult to mess up.
One color head to toe
You may have thought it was a fashion no-no to wear all the same color head to toe, but it can actually look great!
You can either do this with all core colors or pop of color.
If you want to baby step into this, try wearing all one core color first. Try wearing all grey clothing-using the rule that you should put the lighter shade on top and go darker towards the bottom.
If you’re more advanced with your style and want to try a bolder look- then I recommend that you try the head to toe in a pop of color.
Check out the images above. These are all sophisticated but bolder looks that play with pops of color- but noticed how they look put together and don’t scream “I want to be the center of attention!”
Don’t spend too much time thinking about what color is best for your skin tone- just wear what you like! Then choose a shade that’s lighter or darker for the coordinating piece you’ll wear. The middle shades of green outfit is great inspiration for this.
If you have a more formal event to go to, a bolder fashion statement could be pairing your colored suit with the same color t-shirt, like the far right picture. This reads more modern and youthful.
How to navigate prints and patterns
Now this is the most advanced of all the color combinations but it’s not hard to do!
Let’s take the middle example- how did he mix and match all these colors and prints?
Notice the white stripe in his shirt, that you can call an ‘accent color’ which means that it’s there but it’s not super prominent (the navy is though).
He then chose a beautiful white blazer to coordinate back to the white stripe. Also, notice the white shoes.
The key is when you choose to wear a print, you choose an ‘accent’ color in the print and make that the color for your coordinating piece.
By following this simple guideline, you will quickly become an expert on how to mix and match colors, and getting dressed will become faster and easier.
Cassandra Sethi is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. After working over 15 years in the Fashion Industry, most recently as a Senior Buyer for Equinox, she created business Next Level Wardrobe – a luxury personal shopping service for successful professionals. Cassandra’s been featured in Greatist, Livestrong and NY Mag.