#1. Red (And Pink)
I’m going to group red and pink together because they should only take up about 2% of your wardrobe.
Red evokes passion. It makes you feel more aggressive, important, and courageous and look more energetic and dominant.
A 2014 study out of the Journal of Psychology and Marketing also found that wearing red makes you more persuasive.
Pink has a totally different set of connotations. It specifically evokes the emotions of youthfulness, love, romance, and supportiveness.
And for you smart guys who are asking, ‘If they’re so different, what happens in between red and pink?’ – lighter and brighter reds do have some of the youthfulness of pink. It’s the darker hues that evoke the older, more dominant feeling.
So how to bring red and pink into your wardrobe? The easiest way is in accessories, like neckties and pocket squares.
A well-dressed man, especially with a darker skin color, can also look great in a classic pink shirt (or a white shirt with a red pattern, which looks pink from a distance.)
I’ve also seen it used to highlight the second hand or some of the complication dials on watches, or in contrast stitching on the strap. It gives it a bit of a sporty look and really stands out.
If you don’t like red or pink, orange is a great alternative.
The feelings it evokes are uplifting, fun, playful, and creative.
Again, it should only make up about 1% of your wardrobe. You don’t want to burn people’s eyes with a whole sports jacket in orange – stick to accessories like pocket squares and maybe accent stitching. I’ve seen orange accent stitching that looked great on boots, and I’ve also got it on a jacket.
Think of orange, red, and pink like spices – just add a pinch of them to the recipe.
Brown is one of my favorite colors in a man’s wardrobe. If you include tan and khaki, it should make up about 10% of your wardrobe.
The emotions that it evokes are earthy, natural, sturdy, comforting, reliable, and rustic.
In general, brown is more casual. It’s the go-to color for less formal shoes, belts, and watch straps.
It’s also very easy to match when you’re building an interchangeable wardrobe.
Green is one of my favorite colors. It evokes the emotions of being grounded, stability, and being encouraging.
Some guys only use green in accessories as a spice (an herb?) but I also use it as a main ingredient. A lot of my jackets and quite a few of my sweaters are green. Maybe it was my time in the Marine Corps, but I love a green sweater.
One of the limitations of green is that green trousers are a lot less interchangeable than brown or khaki. However, they can work for you if you have enough blue shirts and jackets to pair them with.
Blue is easily the most popular color in a man’s wardrobe. If you want some specific numbers (don’t worry – they’re just a guideline) about 26% of your wardrobe should be blue, and it should be skewed a little towards navy – 14% navy blue and indigo t0 12% true blue.
The emotions these different blues evoke are slightly different.
True blue is a serene color – trustworthy, free, wise, and inviting. Dark blue and indigo evoke responsibility, honesty, and loyalty.
Like brown, blue is easy to match – so when you’re going for your base pieces like your first suit, your sports jackets, and your jeans, blue is a very safe choice.
White should make up about 20% of your wardrobe.
It sends the signal of being clean, virtuous, and healthy.
However, pure white can look a little sterile. It’s classic in dress shirts, but in a jacket or sweater you’ll probably want to go with off-white or cream.
I also think white works great for a polo, especially during the summer. Or try a white linen shirt if you want to feel really cool. Because white reflects sunlight, it actually helps keep your temperature down in hot weather.
Black makes up a suitably gothic 13% of the average man’s wardrobe. But this is something that varies a lot from man to man – Aaron Marino wears way over 13% black, I wear very little.
Black is the most formal of all the colors, and the emotions that it evokes are power, authority, and elegance.
So black belongs with black tie. It’s also the color of the smartest business shoes. For a lot of guys shoes are where black is going to dominate. For others, it’s a casual color too.
So do I like black suits? Personally, they’re not for me. I think they’re a little too much of a stark contrast, they don’t match a wide variety of shirts, and they’re so formal they really deserve to be with a black tie. I also don’t think black dress shirts work with most complexions.
My personal opinion is that most men overuse black. I think it’s better reserved for formal occasions.
The emotion gray puts across is practical and conservative.
At 18% of your wardrobe, I think it’s best used in an overcoat or jacket that’s going to get dirty. Gray is a very easy color when it comes to dealing with stains, and also when it comes to matching.
That goes for shoes too – gray is a non-color, so a light gray shoe can match a variety of lighter colored trousers.
Gray flannel trousers are also very versatile. They’re a classic that doesn’t get enough love. In every shade from charcoal to light gray, they’ll work with a wide variety of shirts and jackets.
#9. Purple And Lavender
Making up about 2% of a man’s wardrobe, these colors have a long history with royalty.
So when we think of purple we think of luxury. We also think of mystery, especially with darker purple.
As with reds, the lighter version is more playful. Lavender can be a very fun color for a dress shirt in the spring.
#10. Yellow And Gold
Here’s the last 1% of your wardrobe.
The colors yellow and gold evoke a feeling of spontaneity, happiness, and relaxation.
I think gold is an underutilized color. It’s one that’s a little bit harder to bring into your wardrobe, but I think if you get the color right it’ll really stand out in a good way on accessories like pocket squares and neckties.