Let's see, should I wear blue, blue, or blue today...
September 19, 2013 4:15 PM   Subscribe

How come the only color that looks OK on me is blue?

If I wear a black, brown, green, orange, yellow, or white shirt, it just doesn't look good...at all! I'm not sure how to describe why, but it just overwhelms my face in some way. No, it's not just me thinking this - my wife and other shopping companions have always confirmed my assessments.

I can't even wear dark blue, it has to be medium or light blue. I can get away with pink, light grey, and light purple too, and even some medium reds. But for guys, blue is much more readily available than pink and not-too-dark red and purple, and it's less boring than grey, so I end up wearing blue most of the time. (I look good in red, but it's a very narrow range of light-medium reds that work and almost impossible to find).

OK I'm not horribly bothered by the monotony of my wardrobe, but I do wonder whether people who see me regularly will start to think I have some kind of obsession with blue, and it would be nice to have a little more variety, even if I'll never be one of those people who can wear almost any color.

Why is it that so many colors don't look good on me? I presume it's something about my skin color, but what? I'm Caucasian and fairly light skinned, but not pale. I have brown hair and brown or hazel eyes.

Is this a common problem? Is there any other color I'm not thinking of that I should try? Can I get custom color polo shirts somewhere?
posted by Dansaman to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm having a tough time trying to figure out how anyone could look bad in such a wide range of colors. Maybe a photo or two would be helpful?

As for places with lots of colors, try Express. The flagship store here in Chicago has literally two entire floor to ceiling walls filled with men's shirts in every color of the rainbow.
posted by phunniemee at 4:22 PM on September 19, 2013

In the '80s there was a fad for "getting one's colors done" and people (women) wound up classified as a winter, spring, summer, or fall according to their coloring. On this scheme, you sound like a summer (I think) -- maybe go online to a site like this and see what they recommend for you? Oh and as far as getting stuff in a range of colors, is there a Uniqlo near you?
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:24 PM on September 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

Check it.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:25 PM on September 19, 2013

Don't feel bad -- my palette is very limited, too. I consider it a feature, not a bug -- it simplifies clothing shopping, and means many of my wardrobe items match by default.

One thing you could try to expand your options: try on heathered versions of colors that normally don't sit well on you. Or, try patterns or stripes that incorporate blue, and see if that flies.

There's nothing wrong with having a signature look, including a signature color. Many people default to black-grey clothes, for example; your default just happens to be blue.
posted by nacho fries at 4:30 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have seen men - especially redheads or men with "soft" coloring (light brown hair, fair skin, light eyes) - get slotted into very limited color ranges, partly because I think men are "allowed" a more limited range of colors, and partly because certain colors, like blue, are "safe." I don't know if this category applies to you, but lots of people DO play it safe with colors and fall into a rut.

Consider getting your colors done. Most people can wear a wide range of colors, it's the shade and intensity of the color that counts. I'm sort of the opposite of you in that I always thought I looked terrible in blue, until I got my colors done and discovered the shade of blue that was best on me. I got my colors done at my city's Parks and Recreation Department - a woman was holding a class, so I went. I now wear a MUCH larger variety of colors than I used to, and the colors are much more flattering.

If you don't get your colors done, and you live near a Nordstrom's, make an appointment with a personal shopper. Nordie's personal shoppers will work within a budget and will find clothes that look good on you, that you might not have thought of. Or, alternatively, visit a Target or Gap or other large store and spend the morning trying on shirts of all shades and colors. Not just one shade of (for instance) brown, but light and dark browns, red and taupe browns...You will eventually find something that clicks.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:38 PM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

You sound like me... the colors that do and don't look good on you even match! Which might be kind of strange because I'm Asian, but I'm really pale - washed-out pale. My biggest peeve with my own skin tone is that I look terrible in black. Black makes me look downright ill. So my base color in the winter is often light grey.

I think it's a good thing that you know what colors suit you, but you're right, wearing similar colors all the time gets old. I guess it's different for women, but I try to add the colors that don't look good on me with layers that only show a bit, or with a scarf or necklace etc. So if you're going casual, maybe layer T-shirts to make the color show a little from underneath, or if you're dressing for the office, wear a tie in whatever color you want to try.

Or, like I do sometimes, if you want to wear yellow just wear it, color palette be damned!
posted by misozaki at 4:48 PM on September 19, 2013

Since winter is coming up (well, in half the world at least) you could start wearing scarves! Assuming it matches reasonably well this can open you up to wearing other colors on your torso while accentuating your Good In Blue-ness with a blue scarf.

be forewarned that you may receive accusations of hipsterdom
posted by elizardbits at 4:52 PM on September 19, 2013

Definitely get your colors/season figured out. This is a quiz aimed toward women, but you get the idea. These will give you an starting point, but the best thing is to test out different colors in different lighting. I know my sewing class had this ring of colors that you could hold up to your face to determine which colors looked best. Maybe do the same with paint swatches you can get for free? Or strips of fabric?

I think since you seem to do better in lighter shades (pastels?) perhaps you can try to look at stores that market toward younger or trendier crowds. The "in" looks right now include things like pastels, and often places like Old Navy and Target as mentioned above play to this age group pretty well. So I say take a day and try on everything! Maybe some patterns with mixes of colors will be better?

Maybe there is a seamstress or tailor who could custom dye clothing for you? Dye is super cheap but if you haven't done it yourself or don't want to fuss with it than maybe you can hire someone. Then you could probably just buy some white cotton shirts/button ups and have them died to a nice range of colors that are harder to buy.

Also, I wouldn't worry about what other people think but I totally understand being bored in the same colors. Also keep in mind that even a slight tone change can look different on you. Dark blue looks nice on me but an electric blue looks weird. I can't do white well, but cream looks good, etc.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:04 PM on September 19, 2013

Nthing the "get your colors done" idea.

You don't really have to go to a professional. This site gives a good rundown with lots of photo examples and advice about what colors to wear vs. avoid.

I'm apparently a "soft summer" and all the color palates include lots of mauve, which makes me stabby because I don't even LIKE mauve. On the other hand, they also usually include navy and a lot of gray, which is interesting because like your tendency to just stick with pale blues, I already gravitate to grays and deep blues. So, good luck I guess and I hope what you end up with doesn't lead toward colors you hate. Like mauve.

As far as shopping, armed with the "navy, gray, anything purple or deep blue, teal, maybe some pink" laundry list of colors, I just make a beeline for things in those colors and don't consider much else unless it's something I really love. I'll also wear greens, chocolate brown, and darker reds, and despite the warnings that black "washes me out", I still buy it because duh. But I just consider the seasonal thing a handy guide to what colors to even bother with. I kind of like just owning my color choices, because it simplifies shopping a lot.
posted by Sara C. at 5:47 PM on September 19, 2013

Go to a used bookstore or Amazon and look for a copy of Carole Jackson's Color for Men.

That's the next best thing to a professional color analysis. I have the book and like it for myself, and I'm giving a copy to a guy I know who has lost 150 pounds and is replacing things.
posted by jgirl at 6:55 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dansaman, out of left field - are you Aquarian?

Without getting too woo-woo on you, my personal experience is that you have discovered something important about what works for you.

Just go with the flow and enjoy the blue!
posted by The Illiterate Pundit at 11:44 PM on September 19, 2013

The colors you actually see, and how you process and thus perceive colors may not be as close to the median response of the rest of humanity as you might hope. There are people who, because of various physical, aging and neurological factors, aren't actually color blind, in the usual sense, but that have more or less acuity for certain colors than others. There are tests that can demonstrate this to you (not the usual tests for genetic or congenital red-green color blindness), if that is actually your case, which would let you be more confident in the clothing color recommendations of others, who you might now be discounting, in favor of your natural bias to agree with others who find your perceptions of color in your clothing choices similar to your own. You might want to schedule color vision testing with a qualified ophthalmologist, before you do a whole lot more clothes shopping.
posted by paulsc at 12:03 AM on September 20, 2013

Seconding nacho fries's recommendation of heathered colors.

I'm pale with dark blond hair and I too struggle to find anything beyond light blue that really works for me, but I have several of the heather colors of American Apparel's 50/50 t-shirts and I get lots of good feedback on dark colors like forest green and plum. Even the heather orange looks good on me somehow. Similarly, white dress shirts with fine blue stripes, or an oxford (?) weave where half the fibers are white, can still look light blue without giving off the same I-am-wearing-blue feeling that a single solid color does.

I've also found that accessorizing with brown (shoes, belt, watch) helps me pull off other earthy colors like olive green.
posted by RobinFiveWords at 1:45 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are concerned about people noticing, don't. For reasons of mostly neuroticism, I have worn only blue for over a decade. Nobody has ever noticed it on their own. Sometimes, if I point it out to people they will have a retrospective realization. But if your concern is truly just "will people notice and think I'm crazy?" As a crazy person who only wears blue, I can tell you that nobody cares.
posted by dipolemoment at 3:40 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

You probably have "cool," blue undertones to your skin. I do, too, and really only look good in blue and offshoots of blue (purple and pink, and some bluish, heathered grays).

All the colors you mentioned looking bad in have brownish tones, which would look best on those with "warmer" (more golden) skin tones. White looks hideous in me, off-white looks fine. My wardrobe is 90% blue. No one notices or cares.
posted by ravioli at 6:36 PM on September 20, 2013

White, navy blue, light blue, brown, and light brown are all classic colors for male fashion. Light blue especially pairs well with almost every skin tone so it's no great surprise that you think it looks best on you.

I think what's probably going on is that your strange color shirt in isolation looks weird. Depending on the color you may have to pair with dark jeans or light chinos. Shoes and belt also make a big difference, as well as a matching jacket or coat.

This thread on Reddit may give you some ideas on how to pair colors.
posted by rq at 3:16 PM on September 21, 2013

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