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man with cool complexion in a suit

Warm & Cool Complexions

We’ve written quite a bit about how to coordinate color in an outfit. This is important for obvious reasons, but color is more than just the clothing you wear. When we coordinate our clothes with the colors in and around our face, we look our best. With that in mind, it’s time to talk about warm and cool complexions.

Complexion Types – Warm & Cool

color wheel for men's clothes
Warmer colors tend toward top right on a color wheel. Cooler ones tend toward bottom left.

To discuss warm versus cool complexions, we need a bit more background. Why do these terms exist? To find the answer, look at your face in the mirror and discern the colors you see there. Your hair and eye color are pretty straightforward, and don’t require much explanation as a result.

There is, of course, the color of your skin, but we need to look deeper at your skin’s undertones. These are the colors underneath your skin that give your face its aura, and we’ll learn how to look at them in the section below.

How Can You Tell Your Complexion?

man in khaki long sleeve polo shirt
Note the “peachy” cast of this man’s warm complexion.

The challenge here is that our undertones aren’t immediately apparent in many cases. This is particularly true for darker-skinned men, but we can still train ourselves with a bit of guidance.

Cool complexions are more common than warm ones. Men with cool complexions tend to have dark hair (or grey hair, depending on age), light eyes, and pink-ish undertones in their face. Ruddy is a good word to use for them. If you see a few of these elements in the mirror, chances are you have a cool complexion.

man with cool complexion in a suit
Note the pink undertones in the cheeks. Classic cool complexion.

Guys with warm complexions, on the other hand, tend towards light brown and blonde hair. Their eyes are usually hazel, brown, or green. Instead of the pinkish undertones found in cool complexions, warm ones tend to have a gold, peach, or even greenish cast to them. If this looks like you, you probably have a warm complexion.

Another way to discern this is to look at the veins on the underside of your forearm near the wrist. If they look blue-ish, you’re likely cool. If they look green-ish, you’re probably warm.

What Colors Go Best With Which Complexion?

The best colors for you specifically will mirror the undertones in your skin and eye color.

You will always, always look your best when the colors that surround your face (tie, shirt, scarf, etc.) mirror those found in your face. This is why blue-eyed men look particularly good in blue shirts, and this is why dirty blondes with light brown eyes tend to look good in burnt orange ties. Below are a few quick bullet points that we think are helpful:

Cool Complexions Look Best In

  • Blues
  • Greys
  • Pinks
  • Purples
  • “Blue” reds like maroon and burgundy
  • “Blue” greens like emerald or forest green

Warm Complexions Look Best In

  • Greens
  • Browns & other Earth tones
  • Burnt oranges & yellows
  • “Yellow” greens like lime
  • Taupe (brown/grey)
  • “Orange” reds as opposed to “blue” reds

There’s An Exception To Every Rule

man in blue polo shirt and wayfarers
An example of a warm complexion wearing “cool” clothing.

None of this is to say that you should only ever wear colors that complement you in such a way. As with most things, we aren’t talking hard-and-fast rules, but rather various places on a continuum. We still need to account for your audience, the image you wish to project, and your personal taste.

Everything is a matter of degree. For example, let’s say you’re designing a custom polo shirt with us and you have a cool complexion. Making the base cloth a blue that complements your eyes is a slam dunk, of course. Why not have a contrast plaid in the placket that utilizes orange, even though that may not be the best for your complexion? After all, blue and orange are complementary colors, and such a small amount wouldn’t fight your own coloring very much.

Another factor to consider is distance from the face. In this same example, the cool-complected blue-eyed man might not look great in a bright yellow shirt. But if he puts on some yellow socks, he can add some flair to a casual ensemble that doesn’t compete with his face at all.

Color Analysis & Wardrobe Building

As image consultants, we’re here to help you both understand your coloring and design a wardrobe around it. Give us a call at 215-310-0219 or email us at info@henrydavidsen.com to start a conversation.

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