How to Match Colors in Your Wardrobe

What matches with blue? What can you wear with green pants? Are orange and purple “complementary” colors?

If you’re not used to the idea of matching colors in your outfits, these questions will sound like a daunting challenge. Many people buy their clothes at random, hoping (without knowing) that their clothes will fit seamlessly into their wardrobe.

Let’s take away that lack of awareness and build a solid foundation of what it means to match colors in your outfit.

Know Your Color Wheel

It all starts with the color wheel: all of the visible light arranged into a neat little circle.

  • Monochromatic: This one’s easy: just pick one color and stick with it. Ever hear the song “Different Names for the Same Thing”? That’s what’s going on here. You can wear different shades—light and dark—of the same essential color to give a simple, modern look. Pair this Blue Graphite Blue Sweater with this Classic Vintage Twill in “Slate” to pull two colors from the same side of the color wheel and fashion together a consistent outfit.
  • Analogous colors can be found close to each other on the color wheel—yellow and green, blue and purple, red and orange. They’re not far removed from the concept of “monochromatic,” but in this case you really are choosing two or three separate colors to create one unified portion of the color wheel.
  • Complementary colors can be found by simply picking a color of an opposite hue on the other side of the wheel. Blue and orange, red and green, purple and yellow—these colors are all starkly different form each other, yet still don’t clash. This 2 Button Waffle Henley in Desert Sand contrasts with Sahara Twill in Hunter Green—yet somehow they complement each other and don’t clash.
  • Triadic colors are like complementary colors, but instead of dividing the color wheel in two, you divide it into thirds. Green, purple, and orange fit into this scheme. Triadic colors are great for layering because of the amount of pieces involved. Try a Yard Dyed Plaid shirt in Texas Orange, a somewhat off-purple pair of Sahara Twill Baltic Blue trousers, and layer your plaid shirt over a simple green T-shirt. It might seem like a lot of colors, but you can always pick one or two of the colors in a more subtle shade to “subdue” the overall effect without losing the overall color scheme.

What about white, grey, and black? These are general “neutral” colors that pair well with just about anything else on the color wheel. You can use them to add a little bit of minimalism to your outfit or bring down the outfit’s “volume.”

Choose the Right Clothes

Once you have an idea of what colors match well with others, you’ll find plenty of value in consulting the color wheel.

Start using the color wheel when you look at your wardrobe and shop for clothes online. When it comes time to pick a colors you like, check your wardrobe and see which colors you already own; then pick a color scheme and match them. Even your favorite shirt can go unworn when you never feel quite “natural” when pairing it with anything else in your dresser. When you color match, that problem will go away and leave only confidence in your clothes and your overall sense of style.