Working with men is one of the many pleasures that makes this colour analyst’s job even better. They are content to work with what is, both in their appearance and in their palette. The clothing choices are more limited. And I could look at ties all day long.
*Sam asked about his Soft Summer colours:
I am an [urban professional], which means I have to dress within fairly narrow (conservative) confines. I have to wear a medium/dark suit in blue or grey (easy enough), and a light shirt (usually in blue or pink) with understated if any pattern, and a mid to dark tie. Any tips on how to pull this look together as a soft summer, so that I don’t over-contrast but the suit, shirt and tie still pop (the pop seems like such an essential part of the look)?
Pop is a loaded word that can go two ways. The first way is desirable, where one colour can energize another without becoming a distraction. The energizing effect is 2-way, where we can see both colours equally and appreciate their contribution. Both are more together than they are apart.
Eyes are a special case because eyes are special. Their colour and sparkle should be the #1 focus for our attention. Every part of makeup and apparel plays a part to build them up. We want to look at the eyes without our gaze being distracted by or dropping to the lipstick or tie.
When a person’s colouring falls between two Seasons, this is one of my tests with the Luxury Drapes. In one Season, if my eye keeps dropping to the drapes and away from the person, it will not be my choice. The other one may feel too safe but that’s probably just because of the comparison. Every decision we make depends entirely on the comparison of the moment. Change the comparison; you usually change your decision about the very same colour. Especially on men, looking too juicy can reduce the power and nobility, though this applies less to Spring colouring (and Gamine archetypes, I would think).
The Fashion World meaning of pop usually refers to one item becoming prominent by muting the rest. Who has not heard the word at the makeup counter? In interior design, my recent student tells me, an accent is made to pop by muting or neutralizing the surrounding colours. This could be great in a room. On a person, it reads an unbalanced, not an association we want others to have about us. It is the makeup wearing the woman. It is the tie that walks in the room before the guy and does not leave when he does.
Keeping the colours we add in harmony with each other and with the person is how we energize the whole equally, creating impact with unity.
Sam knows all this. I asked him what pop means to him.
The question sprung from the combination I wore yesterday: A dark blue suit, a muted blue/white striped shirt and the perfect, soft pine green tie. I liked the way my face (and especially my eyes) looked, but the clothes themselves didn’t feel quite right. The green didn’t really define itself against the blue. As you put it, they didn’t stand apart from one another (and, as a result of that, they didn’t create much visual impact as a group). It feels like standing apart is what the suit/shirt/tie (and maybe any outfit) is all about.
So I went home and tried to figure out what to do differently, but solving the problem felt like a catch-22. To get the pieces to stand apart seems to require increasing the contrast between them. But increasing contrast seems to violate a fairly basic principle of soft-summer dressing (and my experience confirms the risk). To top it all off, a lot of the palette is off-limits for work clothes (I’m not stuck in white shirts and black shoes, but I am stuck in dark blue or mid-grey suits and light shirts).
I know it’s not actually impossible, because sometimes I get it right (today’s mid-grey suit, soft white with tiny blue checks shirt, and dusty navy tie feels good though a little boringly monochromatic), but I don’t always know why. The question is how to a get the three basic pieces to stand apart from one another within the confines without violating my seasonal integrity or the tenets of moderately conservative men’s business dress.
About the first outfit Sam describes, we would have to see it, of course. What drifted through my head was that the white of the shirt was too white. Almost every pure white is too white under a Soft Summer face.
Panel A: Standard navy and charcoal. Formal enough, not black, great with the right white shirt. Tie 1 may be a little too shiny and saturated, risks the shirt white looking dusty or dirty. Tie 2 has a nice play of teal and mauve in the textile’s reflectivity, so effective with this person. Tie 3 is a tone on tone, also great with this person, plus looks like Summer in the shade, as does the person. Tie 5 is a conservative, traditional, regular pattern that won’t twinkle because the blue is muted.
In 12 Season colour analysis, Soft Summer describes a group of natural colouring in which the heat setting of every colour that makes up this person – your teeth, your silver hair, your sunburn, your windburn, your freckles, your veins, the whites of your eyes, the entire person – contains warm and cool, but mostly cool. The colours are between chalk and charcoal in darkness. The colours are heathered and soft.
Under this face, pure white develops into glow and dominance for our attention the longer we look at it. With a blue stripe, the white might cool off even more and read silvery or alien. Silvery is great on a True Summer whose skin reflects light that way already, but the Soft colouring will dull in relation to moonlight. The relationship is the same as if our jewelry is brighter than us, we look duller by comparison. Alien white is how Winter white looks under Summer faces and how the Summer face looks in return. Picture Viggo Mortensen holding a flashlight under his chin.
Another possibility was the colour of the suit. A suit is a big block that the viewer sees in its entirety. If the blue is getting close to Winter saturation, which some Soft Summer blues certainly do, the tie won’t be able to hold up its magic. Especially so with the blue/white stripe in the shirt. One way for the tie to stand out is to keep the suit and shirt more muted.
Soft Summer has a definite saturation range. It is not nearly as wide as the value (light-dark) and hue (warm-cool) ranges. The sat level is lower than Winter, lower than True Summer, lower than the value and hue settings are. But there is still some movement. We have blue fabrics in the Luxury drapes that are very muted with very little blue pigment. We have others that contain more pigment, at the upper saturation limit for the Season. A Winter palette takes over. When people order their set of Personal Luxury Drapes, they often specify for one of each. (Drapes are only available for analysts until March/April.)
Panel B: Tie 1 is a gorgeous colour on Soft Summer and a brightness many could balance easily. Ties 2 and 5 have texture. Tie 3 is an outstanding eye colour intensifier. Tie 6 combines gorgeous colours, the right red being exciting everywhere on everybody, in a traditional design that still looks work appropriate. A shirt in the colour of the flowers in 3 or lightest stripe in 6 would be good. Also, wear 6 with a white shirt (red, white, and blue is a good mix on Summers). More comments in the text.
1. Value contrast (light to dark) is built into the palettes. It defines your lightest to darkest. Within that, wear any mixture you like. If a dusty navy suit and a soft pink shirt feel too contrasting, organize and calm the disparate feeling with a tie in the colour of the suit and shirt both. Men generally wear the highest darkness level of the palettes easily. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper might be a Soft Summer. Darkness is fine.
When Sam says that increasing contrast was unsuccessful for him, not to argue, but I need some convincing because I see too many in this Season dressed too medium in every possible way. Take still pictures of yourself in what you believe works and doesn’t. Hold them side-by-side. Give your eyes a comparison. Over and over, the look that a person in any Season is convinced they cannot do today is their new favourite in 3 months. Summers (and Classics?) are seldom in a hurry to change their mind or force the boundaries.
2. Colour contrast (how far apart are the colours on the colour circle) is among Soft Summer’s special unlimited gifts. Because the colours are quiet, the more are worn together, the happier my eyes get. Even large blocks of near-complements are fine, like a blue chino and a creamy-dusty yellow polo or an antique turquoise shirt and maroon sweater.
The more colour activity, the busier the look, the more heat we feel from activity, meaning warm Seasons do this better. The hush in Soft Summer adapts the overall to look strong, interesting, creative, and not hectic. Make clothing items pop, as in a mutually energizing effect, by colour contrast. If the shirt is blue, wear a bit of yellow in a blue tie. It’s eye catching. Your yellow is too quiet to cause any stir and easy to find in ties.
3. Saturation in Soft Summer colours may be stronger than we think. I have yet to meet one who dresses too brightly after they know. The Corporate colour palettes from True Colour Australia are worth owning.
Panel C: Soft Summer Effects.
Tie 1: In the print, we see the rope, the knots, the grid, the spur. In the understated Summer way, they say, “I work in an office but I’d rather be on a boat or a horse.” If I were the date or the interviewer, I’d think, “He’s reliable but not a total square.” (thrill to me because I am) He knows his physical side, nice for the Yinner Summer man where boldness doesn’t read as real. We are used to women pretending with their appearance. Men look vain because we see through it right away anyhow, on everybody. A man’s appearance is better very up front, when it says, “Let’s get to it.” Many great neutral colours to pick up in shirts.
Tie 2: The yellow rep tie. That could be great on Soft Summer. Soft Summer or Soft Autumn yellow? Picturing it with soft berry lips or terracotta, I pick the berry. I’m wondering what colour shirt. Soft navy could be very cool on the more Yang types.
Tie 3: The texture looks like rock and bark, both great associations on Soft Summer. Still a mauve gray, not Winter stainless steel or battleship. Good tone on tone early feelings of plaid. Any Autumn influenced colouring considers 3D depth very important to looking defined. The near and far of plaid is good but Autumn is but slight in this colouring. The Summer influences are still stronger. Nice with a pink or mauve shirt.
Tie 4: Smoked purple is so native to the person that it blends right in and almost disappears. Good colour for adding a small element of shine.
Tie 5: More texture with nice colours. Like pebbles, bark, rope, braid, all good in Soft Summer colours. Natural, not pixellated.
Tie 6: Wear that colour. Wear it a lot. We like looking at you in it.
4. Red is instant excitement because it picks up blood colours in the face. Humans are wired to react. The brown-reds of Soft Summer are effective in understated wardrobes. They read as the quiet elegant burgundies of a high end office, almost flesh tones.
Panel D: Ties 1 and 5 show cooler and warmer red options. Tie 2 is one of Soft Summer’s beautiful pinks, always elegant. As ever with a man wearing pink, even one single dot, everybody in the room saw it. Can’t speak for the men but the women like it. Pink denotes power without aggression, which exerts a magnetic effect on women. Tie 3 shows the excitement of red in a colour balanced presentation so the red does not read as bold or in your face, which Summer Man never is. His Winter brother can have more to prove, especially if Yang in essence, and be more satisfied by the taste of revenge (his Winter sister too). He might as well wear blood red. It speaks the truth of him.
5. Know your whites, beiges, taupes, and grays. Soft Summer can wear chalk, vintage white, dust, and shadow. Beiges and taupes are united by a slight pink undertone. Since the shirt must be light, try more neutral tones as the picture below. Women’s blouses were sampled because Polyvore offers more choice. Get to know your yellow. It looks good. The background colours for Tie 1 in panel C is good, could even go a touch greener.
In Panel E below, Top 1 has a pink tinge on my screen that will pull it into Summer looks. Tops 2 and 7 are a bit lighter than the palette, but the muting and neutrality will participate well in the wardrobe, and they will be seen with the tie and jacket, not as a single large block. Top 3 is greenish, thinking about being Soft Autumn, could work well for the warm Soft Summers. Summer wants a pink-mauve look to its neutrals, as we see in Tops 5 and 10. Tops 1, 4, and 9 are whites. About the colour of Top 6, if I have neglected to mention this, own it and put it near your face every chance you get.
6. Shine in the tie. A pearly or brushed metallic effect, not gleaming satin. Ties 4 and 5 in Panel C, where 4 is an easy, easy colour that almost needs the shine to have impact, so native is it to the person. Tie 5 dilutes the gleam effect with texture. Gray is another good neutral for shine, similar to women’s eyeshadow.
7. Use your cool to warm range and choose items from each side. Soft Summer people often look warmer than they are. Your warms and cools can bounce off each other in most interesting ways, just as they do in you. The purple silver smoke undertone will pull the whole thing together.
8. Pick up the tie in a pocket square.
9. Add texture as shown in panels B and C. Soft Summer colouring has more muscle than the other Summer groups as Autumn earthiness appears. Colours are more solid. Texture is a nice way to communicate this man’s strength and add variety to a monochromatic look.
Sam’s question had a part b):
Many ties I’m drawn to feature small scale patterns, made up of multiple, highly saturated colors that, from afar, combine to read as more muted. Should I consider these colors as they appear from afar, or should I avoid them because something about the strong colors persists even as they combine to read as more muted. I’ve tried to figure this out on my own, but I can’t seem to look with objective eyes once I know the tie is made of strong colors–I see it as too strong even though perhaps it’s not.
Go with the overall effect from a social distance, not the individual colours. Perhaps the ties in panels F and G are as big a print element as could fuse in the distance. In prints, colours definitely affect one another by the same simultaneous contrast that they do in faces and everywhere else.
Panel F: Some of the colours above, the navy background for instance, may be very pigmented. The overall picture is quieter. To me, this is a superb tie. The play of pink, blue, and purple say Summer to me. Your yellow, like your pink, is sophisticated and calm. This might not be it exactly but it’s close enough. It would work with many shirts. Too much is good about this item to avoid it. Seems too blended for a Winter man’s face.
Panel G: This is a purchase I would think twice about. The colours settle from a distance but not enough. The navy looks near black. The print looks graphic, digitized, like little TV sets. Maybe on a dark Dramatic Soft Summer, but I’d leave this item to the Winters. Of the 2 ties above, which would be most effective on a Winter like Robert Downey Jr?
My thanks to Sam for stepping forward and sending questions we can all learn from.
Rachel (the line and archetype expert, linked here to her new website in case anyone is having trouble finding her) and I have added Well Dressed Men, a Pinterest board for Sam and all the other men (and women) who are evolved and progressive enough to understand their clothing as an investment in themselves. Feel free to ask in the comments if there are examples of something you would like to see.