What Colors Look Good on You (And Which Look Like Crap)

Editor’s Note: If you want to get a few easy color-matching tricks, you should check out my guide: Color-Matching Made Easy. You’ll never have to worry about wearing the wrong colors again!

My Face against an orange and blue background
Which Color Makes Me Look Like Crap?

“That really isn’t your color.”

You may have heard this before. It’s a nice way of saying “That color makes you look like crap.”

See, we all have good colors and bad colors. And you want to know what colors look good on you (and which don’t), because…

  • Our good colors bring out all our best features, making us look younger, healthier and more energetic.
  • Our bad colors bring out all our worst features, making us look like we’re about to die from sleep deprivation. (Just watch the video below… YEESH!)

As a rule, when you wear colors, you want them to fall into the first category.

But many guys are blind to this difference, and some even try to get one of each color in their wardrobe. They’re like color collectors. Gotta catch em all!

But your wardrobe doesn’t need em all. It only needs the ones that make you look good.

So I’m gonna help you figure out what those are.

Why You Have Good and Bad Colors

Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion Lannister: Coolest of Cool, But Warm of Skin

So, people come in three flavors; warm, cool and neutral.

And no — no matter how cool you think you are, I’m not talking about your personality.

I’m talking about your skin-tone.

See, we all have natural undertones in our skin.

  • Warm people have yellow undertones
  • Cool people have blue undertones
  • Neutral people have no dominant undertones

These undertones determine how colors look on you. They determine whether a color flatters your face or washes it out.

Knowing which undertones you have will help you pick colors that make you look awesome and avoid those that make you look ill.

And I happen to know a quick test you can do to figure out where you belong on the warm-to-cool spectrum.

The Gold/Silver Test: How to Know What Colors Look Good on You

The gold/silver test works as follows:

Grab two pieces of jewelry; one silver, one gold.

Now, hold each against your skin and see which looks best on you. (Get a couple of second opinions if you’re not 100% sure.)

  • If gold looks best, you’re a warm
  • If silver looks best, you’re a cool
  • If both looked equally good, you’re a neutral

And there you have it.

Take this test, and then come back here to find out which colors you can safely wear, and which you should avoid.

(Alternatively, you can run a similar test with white and off-white fabric. Pure white will look better on cool people, while off-white will look better on warm people.)

face against white and off-white background
Left: Off-White. Right: Pure White. That Means I’m Cool, Yo.

What Are Your Good and Bad Colors?

Now that you know whether you’re a warm, cool or neutral, you can figure out which colors you look best in.

  • Warm people look best in warm colors — yellow, orange and red
  • Cool people look best in cool colors — green, blue and purple
  • Neutral people look good in everything — lucky bastards
Stick to Colors That Fall In Your Camp
Stick to Colors That Fall In Your Camp

And when you know your good colors, figuring out your bad colors becomes easy. When you’re a warm, avoid cool colors. When you’re a cool, avoid warm colors.

Now, this is a very black-and-white guideline, and exceptions exist to these rules, but in general it will steer you in the right direction.

Still, when you’re a cool and a green shirt looks very off, trust your judgement.

Might be it’s not your shade. Might be it’s a yellowish green. Might be it’s a matter of personal taste.

In any case, you won’t feel great wearing it, so put it back on the rack.

Note: If you want to go much deeper down this rabbit hole though, check out this seasonal color analysis, which is on a women’s fashion site and in womens-fashiony language. So be warned: It’s pretty fucking confusing. (I’m still not sure exactly where I land on there.)

Try it Out

Go to a mall and try on a whole range of colors.

Try on both warm and cool colors, and see the difference it makes on your overall look. Try on colors you never-ever considered trying on before. Try on everything.

Don’t buy, just try and try and try. Make the salespeople think you’re a lunatic.

Seeing the difference between your good and bad colors will help train your eye. When you have a trained eye, you no longer need guidelines like these to help you decide whether something looks good on you or not. You’ll just know.

Your gut will tell you.

You just need to train your eye and trust your gut.

But until then, stick to your recommended colors.

And rock the shit out of them

Did You Find That Useful? Then Check This Out…

I wrote a men’s style guide that simplifies the art of dressing well, focuses on what matters, and takes you through it one step at a time. Enter your e-mail below and you’ll receive three free chapters, which will show you:

  • How to build an easy-to-match wardrobe
  • How to make shirts look awesome on you
  • How to create flattering clothing combinations

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