The Staple Colors for Men: A Lesson in Basics

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If you’ve been reading some of my articles lately, you may notice a “less is more” theme around here.

After working with many men, I've concluded that most men's style problems come down to confusion with too many choices. Choosing the right colors is a big part of that confusion.

So what's the secret?

Go back to basics.

In the 50’s, men had a uniform. They practically lived in their conservative gray suits. There was hardly any variation. Then came the experimental burst of the 60’s. Both men and women pushed back against the drab colors of the previous decade and embraced all sorts of bright colors and unique prints.

Up until the 60’s, men were afraid to experiment. Fast forward to today, and they don’t know how.

Anytime I work with a client, I push them to develop a foundation of versatile items that pair well. They need foundational colors. Clients need to learn about fits, fabrics and honing their personal taste, well before they start playing around with fun colors. Otherwise, they're likely to waste a ton of money. 

The idea is to simplify the equation. At the beginning of your sartorial voyage, it’s best to make getting dressed as effortless as possible.

So, what are the staple colors for men?

Black

White

Navy

Gray

As some of you menswear aficionados will point out, tan and olive drab could be roped into this staple color category. I would argue that they’re not found as easily and they don’t pair as well.

Keep in mind that there can be variations in these colors. White can be a little creamier. Gray can be charcoal or heather. Navy can lighten up a bit. You get the picture.

The beauty of these simple colors is that they all play well with each other. If you had a full wardrobe of just these colors, you’d be set. You could wear a navy top with a gray bottom, or reverse it. A white and black mixture is one of the most classic pairings of all time. Gray and white? What a summer-time smash, boy!

They also play well with others. Want to wear some funky yellow shorts? A loud tropical shirt? Fantastic. Mix it with a staple color and you’re good to go. These more neutral colors allow you to anchor down some of your wilder colors and patterns to an acceptable level.

Finally, these color all look pretty good on most men. Are they going to be perfect? No. But, they look good. It’s better than standing in line at Nordstrom, wondering if you can pull off that lime green number you’re purchasing.

The pushback I get from a lot of guys is that these staple colors are boring.

Quite the opposite.

I like to see men experiment with color. Especially nowadays. But I have plenty of clients who come to me with closets that resemble floral arrangements and claim "Nothing works".

Of course not. Not yet at least.

Experimenting with color is great. But you don’t graduate to 102 until you’ve passed 101.

Still think you can’t deal with the hum-drum of drab coloring? Let’s take a sojourn in a favorite place of mine, Suit Supply - A younger brand, but one who makes very beautiful (and affordable) stuff.

Take a look at the styling below from their website….
 

 
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Notice anything?

All staple colors.

Are those outfits boring? Far from it. If you saw one of those men walking down the street, you would be struck by the stylish nature of their ensemble. The coloring wouldn't even cross your mind.

Staple items aren’t “dull”. They’re not boring. They’re classic. And items become classic for a reason: They work.

They’ve worked in the past, they’ll work in the future, and most importantly, they’ll work for you.


ps. You can find all the styles above from Suit Supply here