Wardrobe Color Coordination from Conservative to Wild!

Wardrobe Color Coordination

Conservative? Fashion-Aware? Totally Wild?
Which Is Your Comfort Zone?
- - - by Alexander Kabbaz

Which color/pattern of socks/scarf/tie/accessories to wear with which clothing is a personal decision ... but one with a few basic rules. Color coordination has a strict set of of "no-no's" for the conservative dresser, a middle ground for the more fashion-aware, and a totally wild side for some of us out here at the edge of reality.

Too Many Choices? Read On ... We'll Find Your Comfort Zone!

In this article I'll discuss the generally accepted parameters for three styles of dressing ... from Conservative to Wild ... and a few of the more sophisticated ways in which you can differ while remaining within the boundaries of good taste.

At the outset I'll refer only to plain-colored socks. As well as solid colors, I include in my definition of "plain" such very muted patterns such as birds-eye, pin-dot, and herringbone.

More distinctly patterned socks - stripes, argyles, paisleys, harlequins, and a plethora of novelty designs - require a further overlay of style coordination which is discussed in the Fashion-Aware and Totally Wild sections.
For these purposes, suffice it to say that the most conservative dressers will wear only succinct and muted small patterns. Those of a more contemporary ilk who sport stronger patterns will regard the sock's predominant color as their guiding one.
Let's focus on five areas:
  • Conservative Styling for Dress Clothing
  • Conservative Styling for Casual Clothing
  • Fashion-Aware Styling for Dress Clothing
  • Fashion-Aware Styling for Casual Clothing
  • Totally Wild Styling for the Most Adventurous!
Author's Note: The photos accompanying this article are solely examples of some of my favorite sets. I'll link them to the actual page when possible but better to come up with your own ideas! :-)

Bresciani's Merino Dress Pinstripe in Colors from Conservative to Fashionable

| Click Here to See the Socks

Conservative Styling:
Dress Clothing

An often hotly debated topic on many clothing and fashion forums & blogs, what to match? Here the discussion centers upon whether socks should match shoes or suit/skirt/dress. A few simple caveats cover it. For black shoes, there are two equally vehement - and equally justifiable - schools of thought:
One school ordains: When wearing black shoes, wear black socks. In most cases, any other color combined with black can be jarring due to black's harsh aura. The other mandates, with equal fervor: When wearing black shoes, match the socks to your trousers, skirt, or dress. Neither is wrong. Go with whichever you feel more comfortable.

With brown, cordovan, or other non-black shoes you have more freedom. Here the most acceptable conservative course is, again, to match your sock color to your trousers. For example, brown suit with brown socks, charcoal shirt with charcoal socks, or navy suit with navy socks. Even in more contemporary firms, one can never go wrong with these basic color combinations.

Black Skirt & Top with Black Pumps - Always In Style

| Click Here to See the Socks

However, it is a worse "sin" to fail to match your shoes, trousers, shirt, or dress by selecting a color which, though the color name might be the same, is an obviously divergent shade. If you can't pretty much exactly match the color, it's time for a few new pairs.

Some of the more staid, old-line firms may frown upon any but black shoes ... in which case observe either black socks rule religiously.

Conservative Styling:
Casual Clothing

Widely accepted myth is that traditional casual dressing equates with the "anything-goes-casual-Fridays" outlook. Nothing could be further from reality. From the top down:

The Blazer: A navy blazer is most often seen accompanied by grey or khaki trousers or skirt. The best course to follow is to match your socks and accessories colors as closely as possible. However, better than a non-matching relative from a grey or khaki family member is to wear navy socks as close as possible to the shade of the blazer.

On the next rung down the ladder comes the "odd jacket" or "sport coat" paired with a woven, collared shirt. Again, the safest course is to match socks to trousers or socks to shoes. The truly conservative dresser will not want a divergent third color playing peek-a-boo at the juncture of trousers and shoes.

Bresciani Pinstripes again, this time in a more Casual Cotton

| Click Here to See the Socks

Finally, at the least formal end of casual dressing we encounter the sweater or polo shirt. And again, the most common matching ground will be the same as the previous two ... although closely matching the sweater or polo shirt is also acceptable.

Note: Lest this cause confusion, matching your socks to a white polo shirt is not acceptable unless playing active sports or sailing. In this instance, match socks to trousers.

Fashion-Aware Styling:
Dress Clothing

Color can be beautifully coordinated and stylish without observance of the "match socks to shoes/trousers/skirt" maxim. Though barristers best not read on ... and members-of-the-boards of old-line banking or investment firms ought do likewise ... sock and accessories color coordination is one of those areas which can let personality shine through.

Add a bit of panache to an otherwise traditional "uniform" and stand out with flair while keeping within the bounds of elegance. Sporting less conservatively colored accessories doesn't mean wearing an orange suit to the weekly vice presidents' strategy session. Granted, it is a bit more "work" and best done either the previous evening or after that morning shower has had its waking effect.

Where to begin? Begin by relegating the color of your suit or skirt to the back of your mind. Don't completely ignore it - blue suit with Kelly green accompaniments can wake the dead. Instead, concentrate on shirt/blouse/tie/scarf/pocket square ... your more colorful items of apparel.

Color Coordinating Your Socks

The easier two are shirt/blouse and tie/scarf. Locate a particular color - one which stands out such as the blue of your shirt or the base color of your tie. Now to your sock collection. Find one which matches ... or is close enough to coordinate with - that base color of your shirt, tie, or scarf. Here are a couple of examples:

Pink Pima cotton socks with a pink shirt/grey tie accompanied by a flannel grey pocket square sporting a pink Swiss dot around the border to accompany a charcoal or grey suit.

Atlantis or Ocean blue cotton socks, light blue blouse with Atlantis pinstripes, plain blue scarf with light blue ribbon edge coordinated with a navy suit.

Think your way through your own top and accessories wardrobe and you'll undoubtedly come up with at least a few pleasing combinations.

Wine Colored Sock Coordinates

Contemporary Styling:
Casual Clothing

This is the more adventuresome area for most. The basic tenets of Contemporary Color-Coordination for Dress Clothing all apply. However, the scope of your universe is vastly broadened. Colors can now coordinate among not only the standard items of business apparel, but also the sweater, polo shirt, camisole, tank top, jacket, belt ... perhaps even a particularly noticeable lapel pin or brooch. Use the color-coordination principles in the foregoing paragraphs and apply them to the greater breadth of the additional articles.

Feeling a bit more stylish? Consider the possibilities of complimentary color vs. matching color. Yes, Orange is in fact the compliment to Blue. Why? These colors, as well as Yellow + Violet and Red + Green are direct opposites on the color wheel, the use of which I'll write about in a future article.
Color Coordinating Your Socks

Absolutely Wild:
For The Bravest Among Us!

It would be somewhat ridiculous to show you the self-evident black socks with black shoes or charcoal socks with a charcoal suit. Even I can figure that out without pictures! Following are a few wilder color coordination examples which you may find new and useful.

The World of Orange

For the truly self-confident, I'll take a quick stab at the World of Orange:

Orange works fabulously with greens or browns in the suit realm. Shirts and blouses include yellows, a range of greens - especially musk, and even some bolder blues.

Color Coordinating Your Socks

If you've got the moxie to sport orange, don't "chicken out". You've already decided to Be Bold. Strut your stuff with confidence and elan. One thing of which you can always be certain with orange accessories which, by the way, have been all the rage for the past few seasons, is that you will be Noticed!

And its more subdued cousin, Brown

Don't want to be Noticed with a capital "N"? Browns will work in most places where Orange might dare to go. Brown will offer a much softer appearance - less noticeable, less of a "conversation starter", more acceptable in less fashionable environments.

Venturing Beyond Color

Paisleys and patterns such as agyles or tartans are distinctive. While paying attention to colors is paramount, you can also coordinate within your color schemes by playing with patterns.

To the right are two stunning RVR ties with two of our time-tested Alexander Kabbaz designs of paisley socks. Although the colors of each item are not exactly the same, there are sufficient color matches in each sock to make them obvious color coordinates with their accompanying tie.

A word to the wise: When you start to play with pattern coordination, limit yourself to two patterns at most.

For example, if you're going with a paisley as your base for socks, tie, and pocket square ... and perhaps a muted plaid jacket such as a basically brown cashmere-silk number, stay away from a striped shirt. Wear a plain solid color.

Similarly, if you find a patterned shirt which works well with your paisley combination, go with a solid color suit, blazer, or sport coat and trousers.

Warning: Once you start coordinating patterns as well as colors it may become a full-time avocation. You may want to hire a valet.

Color Coordinating Your Socks

Color Styling:
The Wrap-Up

For now, remember that when wearing a business suit, one is neck to ankle or knee in a solitary color/pattern. Some say "proper" ... others opine, "boring". The exceptions include necktie/bowtie/scarf, shirt/blouse, pocket square/handkerchief, socks, shoes, and, secondarily, possibly belt, jewelry, walking stick, boutonierre, lapel pin, winter scarf, coat, hat. There should definitely be a very concerted effort to come to some sort of complimentary and/or coordinating color theme amongst the first furnishings/accessories group. There should also be a strong awareness that the secondary furnishings/accessories group can have a strong impact - good or bad - on the first group.

Even in a business environment, socks and other accessories are the few places where we can flash a bit o' dash, exhibit a touch of élan, claim the rights to color, confer a modicum of contrast. The possibilities are endless, thought is necessary, the result is that of a person who considers dress carefully. And, as many will undoubtedly register, the opportunities for screw-ups are limitless. In short, tastefully executed, socks can be one of the subtle manifestations of your personality and style. Don't bypass the opportunity.
Color Coordinating Your Socks

You've got the basics. Ready to give it a shot?
Click one of the links to be transported a playgound!

Begg Cashmere Scarves

| Click Here to See Light Scarves | Dark Scarves

Kabbaz-Kelly Neckties

| Click Here to See the Ties

Need a few more examples from the wilder side?
Examples: Reds and Black - A Strong Coordinate Examples: Purples, Reds, & Lilacs
A Whole Lotta Coordination Goin' On!