4 Key Menswear Colour Palettes

Along with fabric and cut – the cornerstones of any stylish man’s wardrobe – color plays an integral role in creating a commendable look. And yet it’s one of the most difficult aspects to ace. Which hues work for which season? Which shades suit your skin tone? And which colors complement one another? The challenges, gentleman, are myriad.

With this in mind, we’re set to break down four fail-safe palettes that should form the core of your wardrobe.

1. Earth Tones

Taking its name from naturally occurring materials like soil, moss, trees and rocks, the earth tones palette consists of shades of brown, tan, green and warmer greys. Although on first glance these might seem like colours you’d wear on a survival weekend in the wild, earth tones are rich, timeless and especially versatile.

Owing to their relatively muted appearance, these hues aren’t just for autumn, but year-round, with head-to-toe tonal looks made up of lighter shades (think beige and stone mixed with tan) working well for warmer weather, and darker, more intense tones such as khaki green, chocolate brown and cement grey ideal for cloudier, colder days.

Given their versatility, earth tones team well with all skin tones, though you’ll want to take a little care if you have an olive or dark complexion, making sure that the shades you choose don’t sink into your skin – that’s, of course, unless you’re consciously (and courageously) going for the all-nude look.

If you want to give this palette a lift, try working in some white/off-white pieces, or richer hues like burnt orange, mustard and burgundy – all of which will brighten the palette for a perfect late summer/early autumn look.

Men's Earth Tones Palette Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

gant rugger aw15gant rugger ss15aquascutum ss15zara summer 2015gieves & hawkes ss16uniqlo ss15h&m aw15Brunello Cucinelli ss16dunhill ss15Massimo Dutticorneliani ss15thom sweeney ss15armani collezioni aw14reiss aw13banana republic aw15

Key Pieces

  • Allsaints Armoury Leather Bomber JacketAllsaints Armoury Leather Bomber Jacket
  • Asos T-shirt With Crew Neck And Relaxed FitAsos T-shirt With Crew Neck And Relaxed Fit
  • He By Mango Cotton Cashmere-blend SweaterHe By Mango Cotton Cashmere-blend Sweater
  • He By Mango Printed Interior Cotton BlazerHe By Mango Printed Interior Cotton Blazer
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Cotton ChinosHe By Mango Slim-fit Cotton Chinos
  • River Island Ecru Flannel Long Sleeve ShirtRiver Island Ecru Flannel Long Sleeve Shirt
  • A.p.c. Knitted-cotton Polo ShirtA.p.c. Knitted-cotton Polo Shirt
  • River Island Brown Smart Wool-blend PeacoatRiver Island Brown Smart Wool-blend Peacoat
  • Reiss Maybury Slim-fit Chinos BrownReiss Maybury Slim-fit Chinos Brown
  • Dunhill Billy Button-down Collar Linen ShirtDunhill Billy Button-down Collar Linen Shirt
  • Allsaints Pin BootAllsaints Pin Boot
  • Reiss Clarkson Suede Derby Shoes Mid BrownReiss Clarkson Suede Derby Shoes Mid Brown

2. White & Pastels

Pretty self-explanatory, this palette is all about white and soft pastel versions of colors like blue, green, pink, purple and yellow. As one of the more challenging palettes to master, there are a couple of caveats you’ll want to note before pulling together an ensemble.

Firstly, white and pale shades invariably look on-point in summer’s sunnier weather, but they can be difficult to style well during autumn and winter. Without the fair-weather season’s bright light and rain-free conditions, this palette comes with a hefty set of potential pitfalls – from soaked and see-through whites to candy-colored pastels that clash awkwardly with cloudy skies.

Also, if your complexion is pale or milky, then pastel shades and whites won’t ‘pop’ against your skin tone, leaving you looking washed out and a little sickly instead. So, if this describes you, it’s best to approach this palette with caution and a healthy dose of confidence. Or, failing that, consider a spray tan.

Otherwise, this palette looks Riviera-ready when carried on smart-casual separates in lightweight fabrics such as cotton, linen, suede and silk. Styling-wise, it’s best to use white as the grounding color in your look, with one to two (maximum) pastel shades fleshing out the rest of the outfit – for example, a pair of white trousers styled with a pale pink shirt, topped off with a sky blue blazer.

Men's White and Pastel Shades Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

massimo dutti 2015zara 2015zara 2015massimo dutti may 2014gant ss14reiss ss15dunhill ss15matalan ss15jaeger ss13reiss ss14simons ss15ti for men ss14

Key Pieces

  • Next Chino ShortsNext Chino Shorts
  • Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Cotton Broadcloth Long Sleeve ShirtUniqlo Men Extra Fine Cotton Broadcloth Long Sleeve Shirt
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Cotton ChinosHe By Mango Slim-fit Cotton Chinos
  • Reiss 1971 Wallace Slim-fit Jeans WhiteReiss 1971 Wallace Slim-fit Jeans White
  • Reiss Nigel B Contrast Weave Blazer Soft BlueReiss Nigel B Contrast Weave Blazer Soft Blue
  • Reiss Kingsley Open-collar T-shirt PinkReiss Kingsley Open-collar T-shirt Pink
  • J.crew Cotton-jersey T-shirtJ.crew Cotton-jersey T-shirt
  • River Island Off White Slim Denim ShortsRiver Island Off White Slim Denim Shorts
  • Topman Light Green Skinny Fit Oxford BlazerTopman Light Green Skinny Fit Oxford Blazer
  • J.crew Urban Slim-fit Lightweight Cotton TrousersJ.crew Urban Slim-fit Lightweight Cotton Trousers
  • Reiss Riddle Merino Crew-neck Jumper MintReiss Riddle Merino Crew-neck Jumper Mint
  • Reiss Imperial Raw Edge T-shirt Soft BlueReiss Imperial Raw Edge T-shirt Soft Blue

Red, White & Blue

Maybe it’s this trio’s innate sense of patriotism (found in the flags of numerous countries, from France to Paraguay) or perhaps it’s just the simple effectiveness of two primary colours paired with a neutral. Whether – for you – it conjures up images of liberty or a childhood spent playing with Lego, this palette is a versatile classic worth adding to your repertoire.

Seeing as there’s a clear nautical bent to these hues, you’d be forgiven for thinking it only appropriate for summer wear. But, with the right tweaks, you can style it through the other seasons too.

For the warmer months, run with the maritime theme by combining a classic Breton tee with red chinos or shorts, giving white pride of place while positioning blue as the accent color.

As the days draw in, switch it up and put navy blue to the fore, making sure to use richer hues of red like crimson and burgundy, all the while reducing white to a complementary accent – e.g. a white polo layered underneath a jumper or blazer.

Finally, if you’re looking for a fail-safe compromise between incorporating color and staying smart, try a navy suit with a white shirt and dark red or burgundy tie – a foolproof formula that works for everything from the office to a wedding.

Men's Red, White and Blue Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

j crew ss14gant ss14gucci resort ss15tommy hilfiger tailored ss14burton ss15matalan ss15digel ss15mango man ss15de fursac ss15River Islandriver island aw15several 2014

Key Pieces

  • Scotch & Soda Jumper With Breton StripeScotch & Soda Jumper With Breton Stripe
  • Selected Homme Chinos In Slim FitSelected Homme Chinos In Slim Fit
  • He By Mango Side-pocket Bomber JacketHe By Mango Side-pocket Bomber Jacket
  • Topman Peter Werth Red Flannel Blazer Topman Peter Werth Red Flannel Blazer
  • Reiss Max WhiteReiss Max White
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Cotton ChinosHe By Mango Slim-fit Cotton Chinos
  • Reiss George B Slim-fit Blazer Airforce BlueReiss George B Slim-fit Blazer Airforce Blue
  • River Island White Linen-blend Short Sleeve ShirtRiver Island White Linen-blend Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Reiss Dennis Merino Wool Cardigan BerryReiss Dennis Merino Wool Cardigan Berry
  • Uniqlo Men Dry Pique Short Sleeve Polo ShirtUniqlo Men Dry Pique Short Sleeve Polo Shirt
  • John Lewis Made In England Merino Socks RedJohn Lewis Made In England Merino Socks Red
  • T.m.lewin Burgundy Knitted TieT.m.lewin Burgundy Knitted Tie


A mainstay of streetwear and sports luxe-inspired aesthetics, greyscale may be currently trending (under the moniker ‘monochrome’), but it’s also one of the most timeless and easy to wear palettes in menswear.

Consisting of black, white and cool shades of grey, this group of colours lends itself well to minimal looks with a clean, modernist and often sporty slant. That’s not to say a white T-shirt, black linen blazer and stone chinos wouldn’t work well together – on the contrary – but a greyscale palette often works best when put across performance-focused materials like nylon, neoprene and polyurethane, or more luxurious casual fabrics such as loopback cotton and cotton-cashmere blends.

Like earth tones, you could opt for a tonal, head-to-toe approach (all-white and black-on-black looks are big news right now) or mix and match to your heart’s content – it’s hard to go wrong here, no matter what pieces and shades you choose to combine.

That said, pay attention to textures and details. There’s no arguing that black and white isn’t a classic pairing, but it can get boring quickly if you don’t mix up fabrics and prints to add depth to a look that could otherwise appear barely there.

Men's Black, White and Grey (Monochrome/Greyscale Palettes) Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

forever21 aw14bagozza ss15house of fraser aw15zara 2014gant rugger aw15gant rugger ss15mango march 2015simons ss15zara aw15penneys aw15American Eagle SS15bally aw15allsaints april 2015gieves & hawkes ss16m&s aw15

Key Pieces

  • Allsaints Figure Crew TshirtAllsaints Figure Crew Tshirt
  • Allsaints Schaller Tochigi Denim JacketAllsaints Schaller Tochigi Denim Jacket
  • Farah Chapel Large Black Check ShirtFarah Chapel Large Black Check Shirt
  • Next Chino ShortsNext Chino Shorts
  • Acne Studios Adrian Leather SneakersAcne Studios Adrian Leather Sneakers
  • Linea Welch Cable Crew Neck KnitwearLinea Welch Cable Crew Neck Knitwear
  • He By Mango Cotton-blend Pique BlazerHe By Mango Cotton-blend Pique Blazer
  • River Island Grey Flannel Long Sleeve ShirtRiver Island Grey Flannel Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Club Monaco Williams Cotton-jersey T-shirtClub Monaco Williams Cotton-jersey T-shirt
  • River Island Grey Jersey Roll NeckRiver Island Grey Jersey Roll Neck
  • Ted Baker T For Tall Norfolk Slim Fit Chinos CharcoalTed Baker T For Tall Norfolk Slim Fit Chinos Charcoal
  • J.crew Wallace & Barnes Cotton-fleece HoodieJ.crew Wallace & Barnes Cotton-fleece Hoodie

Final Word

Dressing well takes time. Save yourself some by noting these enduring color combinations and putting them into action when you’re a little light on inspiration.

Are there any other palettes you keep on rotation?

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