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Building a Wardrobe from a Sustainability Perspective: Colors

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

This is a part of an ongoing series called 'Building a Wardrobe from a Sustainability Perspective', to access to the main page of the series, click here.

Cool tone colors for a deep winter person. (Photo credits to Buzz Tang)

When I first decided to start this series, I had in mind that finding the right color palette is perhaps the most crucial aspect of building a personalized and long-lasting wardrobe.

This may sound less relevant to some men than me, perhaps because of my own experience in wearing more colors than the average man.

True. Men tend to start building their wardrobe with garments coming in shades of blue or grey, then slowly gravitate towards other colors such as brown, green, or oatmeal down the road.

This has perhaps become the 'universally-known' formula; because not only everyone is doing the same thing (hence it's safe to just follow suit), but also this is what many menswear publications have taught us to do as well.

Now, while I have nothing against this conventional way of building a wardrobe, I should point out that color doesn't need to be approached in a one-size-fits-all manner. After all, other than those who work in industries that have a strict color dress code, it really isn't compulsory to wear these traditional colors.

The purpose of this guide is to offer advice to those of you who are interested in wearing classic menswear with more variations in color while remaining subtle.

Let's start off by pointing out why choosing the right color palette matters for sustainability, or eco-friendly purposes.

At some point in building our wardrobe, we always ended up having that one or two items that don't seem to work with the rest of the garments/ accessories we have because of the odd shade it comes in.

My best example, again, is the red three-piece suit which I have shared on this blog for a couple of times now, especially on how it had been quite difficult to match with until very recently (more on that in this article).

Needless to say, because the only way to make good use of clothing like that is to add more that could bridge the existing gap, ultimately you would still be acquiring things which you otherwise would not need, shall you go down another path initially.

In contrast, a well-thought color palette could serve as a strict guideline for you to decide what (and what not) to add to the wardrobe from the beginning, thus preventing any wasteful purchases fundamentally.


Obviously, it is going to be more challenging to execute this ideal plan in reality, given how easy it is for us to be distracted by, for example, a remarkable tie that only comes in a certain shade or a limited edition cloth.

The point, however, is that if we could all be more conscious about these principles when we are making any purchases or commissions, we could then increase the versatility of each piece of clothing or accessory we have in our wardrobe. All in all, being 'greener' collectively.

With this sorted, let's now proceed to how to find your own color palette.

There are many ways to determine what colors fit you the most. The first (and perhaps the most common) way is by looking at your complexion, and this goes back to the whole theory on the 4 (or 12) seasons color analysis.

Now, I'm not going into details in here, since there are plenty of resources on this topic on the internet already (link available at the bottom).

Basically, depending on three factors ― your hue (whether you suit warmer or cooler colors), value (whether you are more suited for lighter or darker colors), and chroma (whether you have highly contrasting complexion and whether you look better in saturated or faded colors) ― you are associated with a specific set of colors which you look the best in.

Even for black-tie ensembles, some combinations are better for some than the others. A white tuxedo would be less suitable than a midnight blue one for me. (Photo credits to Rikesh Chauhan)

For example, I am what you would call a 'dark/ deep winter' person, for the following reasons.

Hue ― While my skin color is quite cool for East Asian standards or even sometimes in comparison to an average caucasian person, it is not as intense as, say, Tilda Swinton. In fact, my skin undertone is actually rather neutral. This allows me to be able to pull off mostly silver but also some gold accessories.

Value ― I tend to get quite 'washed out' when I wear clothes coming in a lighter shade (except white or greys) because of their close proximity to my skin color. They also have the tendency to steal people's attention away from my face, making me more suitable to wear darker shades as a result.

Chroma ― Finally, if you are familiar with Alan Flusser's theory of high/ low contrast in his book Dressing the Men, then you could immediately tell I am a high contrast person because of the sharp distinction between my hair and my skin color. Since there are no soft and dusty shades coming from any of my facial features, I could wear more pure and saturated (and bold) colors, as shown below.

The deep/ dark winter color palette. (Photo credits to