As above, so below: contrast theory made simple


When it comes to dressing well, contrast is everything. Contrary to what you and most people might think, contrasting has nothing to do with color and everything to do with tone.

So forget about color wheels and focus on framing your face – because that’s where you want people to look – by choosing the right tone of light or dark for whatever you wear just below your face. In other words, we’re talking about your shirt, jacket and accessories. 


To cite an extreme example: a man with very dark hair wants to wear navy trousers with a light grey sport coat.

Because of his dark hair, our man is high contrast, so where is the contrast to frame his face? At his crotch. Problem. All of the color is drawn out of his face down to his torso.

To draw the color – and the eye – back up to his face, he should reverse the outfit, going with a navy sport coat to better enhance his contrast. 


A fair-skinned, balding man – in other words, low contrast – wants a dark suit for business.

He insists on either charcoal or midnight blue.

He's way out of his contrast. After a second scan of his face, we notice his eye colour, skin tone, maybe glasses, all of which form part of his contrast.

If you can’t talk him out of the dark suit, the choice of the shirt and each accessory just below the face become crucial. His shirt must be a pale color to soften the incorrect contrast of his dark suit. Same goes for his tie, pocket square and lapel pin.


The idea is to treat the face the same way you would treat a portrait, making sure to harmonize the tones above (the hair, for instance) and below. It’s as simple as that.

If you would like to discover tons of inspiration for matching your own personal contrast level, consult our Pinterest photo gallery or come visit us in-store!