Choosing your suit colour can be a dilemma, we got you.
Alan Flusser, the eminent American menswear designer, once said: “One of the most important – but least understood – functions of male attire is to lead the viewer’s eyes toward the face … When the face is surrounded by tonalities that invigorate and illuminate its presence, its ability to provoke immediate and marked reactions is amplified.”
You probably think that as long as the colours in your outfit complement one another, you’re fine. That’s what “matching” is all about.
One thing you may have overlooked: the colour contrast between your facial features (including your hair). To look your best, it’s important to identify your personal contrast level and create a similar contrast level for your outfit. Most of us at some point in time in our sartorial journey, probably would have thought to ourselves – The guy on Instagram looked so good in that outfit. I wonder if I can pull it off too. Thankfully identifying your contrast level isn’t as daunting as you think it is (it is in fact quite mathematical).
WHAT IS MY PERSONAL CONTRAST LEVEL?
Follow these three easy steps to find the contrast level between your facial features:
1. Look into the mirror or your mobile phone’s selfie camera; remember your hair colour and your facial skin tone.
2. Refer to the colour scale below and give yourself a value for each of them.
3. Calculate the difference in the values.
(Determine your contrast value from 1-10.)
Let’s say your face skin tone is 3 and your hair colour is 10. So the contrast value is 7 (10 minus 3).
Broadly speaking, contrast values fall into three types:
● High contrast: between 7 and 9
● Medium contrast: between 4 and 6
● Low contrast: between 1 and 3
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
Now do the same with the different components of your outfit and find the contrast value. Once you’ve got that, match your personal contrast level with your outfit contrast level. For example, if you're a high contrast individual, you'll look best in a high contrast outfit.
HIGH-CONTRAST FACIAL FEATURES
A high contrast individual in both a low and high contrast outfit.
(High contrast facial features match with different types outfit.)
The high contrast outfit (right) stands out immediately and looks more harmonious as compared to the low contrast outfit (left). On the contrary, he looks washed out in the low contrast outfit. Similarly, a low contrast individual will look washed out in a high contrast outfit.
Let’s look at a real example:
(MediaCorp artiste Elvin Ng has a high contrast facial feature. Image source)
Elvin Ng has a relatively fair skin tone (3) and very dark hair (10). He is a high contrast individual (10 – 3 = 7). So the high contrast ensemble looks better on him than the low contrast ensemble.
Here’s another example:
Kim Soo Hyun carries this classic look with high-contrast matching well because of his fair skin tone (1) and dark hair (10).
LOW-CONTRAST FACIAL FEATURES
Again, compare the two guys in this picture:
(Low contrast individual matches well with a low contrast outfit. Image source)
Certainly, the guy in the dark suit draws your attention more. However the fact is that your attention is drawn to his outfit instead of his face. If you look into his eyes, you will realise that you can’t help but get distracted by his suit.
(Good examples of low contrast matching. Image source)
For someone who looks like the guy on the left, you find that you have no problem looking into his eyes while having a conversation with him. That’s because his low-contrast profile matches his low-contrast outfit, which doesn’t take attention away from his face and complements it instead. In this case, a light grey suit and white shirt ensemble will suit him more.
MEDIUM-CONTRAST FACIAL FEATURES
Which in a European country, is probably the majority
(More outfit colour choices can be explored with a mid contrast facial feature. Image source)
If you have a dark skin tone and black hair – you're a medium contrast individual – there’s more you can do. You look good in colours that are in the medium-contrast range.
BOTTOM LINE: SAME CONTRAST LEVEL BETWEEN YOUR FACIAL FEATURES AND YOUR OUTFIT
Your outfit should lead anyone who’s looking at you to focus on your face. It should contribute to an overall look that is balanced and doesn’t distract or cause discomfort. To achieve this, making sure your outfit has a similar contrast level as that of your personal contrast level would help.
Do try out the methods outlined here and discover the colours that suit your skin tone.