As the first in a three part series based on selecting the proper neckwear color, pattern and texture, we've teamed up with Mr. Rishi Chullani, a men’s necktie entrepreneur and formal wear fashion blogger with The Dark Knot, a line of ties that is focused on helping gentlemen dress better. The Dark Knot provides approximately 120 designs across a range of patterns, in both hand made woven and printed silk tie categories.

Choosing the Right Tie Color

You’v had your eyes firmly fixed on that elusive piece of neckwear you’ve been deliberating on for the last few weeks. You’ve finally summed up the courage to go ahead and make that purchase. You know you’ll look damn good in it. Except for one minor issue. Doubt starts to creep in. Slowly at first, and then fully accelerated. You’ve gotten cold feet quicker than you knew what to do with, and you’re stuck. How exactly are you going to wear this tie you’ve been contemplating for a while? What color suit and shirt will it go with, and how do you present yourself in the best light possible? Don’t stress. We've all been there at some point, including myself as an aspiring igent.

Color Wheel Properties

Color confounds even the best of men. We are often in a dilemma about what to wear, because we simply do not comprehend the concept of color the way we wish we could. A color wheel is the perfect foundation for understanding the properties of color and color theory.

The color wheel was designed so that colors that you pair or choose in groups of more than two, when together, provide a sense of harmony. So what is color harmony?

Color Harmony can be defined as something that is pleasing to the eye. Color harmony engages the viewer and creates a sense of balance from a visual perspective. The task of creating a harmonious ensemble is to mix and match color that creates a balanced look. Providing it is balanced, where we would like it on the balanced scale is at your discretion, and as a well-dressed gentlemen, you can afford to take such liberties when choosing color that reflects your personal style.

The wheel above exhibits color in two broad based groups: Warm and cool. Warm colors are vivid and stronger, including red, orange and yellow, whereas cooler colors exhibit more calm such as blue, green and purple.

Colors are considered to follow a monochromatic scheme when darker (shade) or lighter (tinted) variations of a color are presented on the same spoke of the wheel. Hence, a color scheme including pink, red and burgundy would be considered monochromatic, as would one including light blue, royal blue and navy.

Insider's tip ~ A monochromatic color scheme places darker (shade) of colors against lighter (tint) of colors.  In this case, a darker blue tie against a striped light blue shirt creates a harmonious look with minimal contrast.

A close cousin of the monochromatic color scheme is a similar color scheme, where adjacent colors are paired together. This creates a level of harmony where color contrast is relatively low, as colors with similar properties (i.e. warm/cool) are paired together. An example of this would be a blue shirt with a green tie.

Complementary color schemes involve colors that are directly across from each other on the wheel. These combinations create the strongest contrast and provide the most pop. Hence, an orange tie would coordinate well against a blue or light blue shirt. 

Insider's Tip ~ A complementary color scheme pairing an orange tie against a blue shirt. Complementary color schemes provide extremely strong visual contrast. 

Triadic color schemes involve colors that form a triangle inside the color wheel, e.g blue, red and yellow.  While these colors complement each other, the contrast is not as strong as with a complimentary color scheme, and hence provides a more harmonious look.

A triadic color scheme involving a red a blue tie provides a level of contrast that is less visually bold than a complementary color scheme, but provides more variation than a monochromatic color scheme, and hence, creates the most balanced look, in my opinion.

If we were to classify a color scheme based on level of boldness, transitioning from least bold to the strongest, the order would be monochromatic, triadic and complementary color schemes. Therefore, it would be fair to say that a triadic color scheme provides the most balance with your ensemble. So, why is this the case? I believe that this warrants a deeper dive into the properties of color theory.

As mentioned at the start of our color wheel explanation, the wheel is largely divided into warm and cool colors. We can see at first glance, these colors are grouped as such and have different properties. A complementary color scheme is essentially placing a warmer color against a cooler color (or vice versa), hence creating the most contrast.  Analogous color schemes are using a tint and shade of the same color (e.g a navy tie against a light blue shirt), which creates less contrast between foreground and background. Take note however, the Triadic Color scheme, which places warm and cool colors against each other, does not take the strongest contrasting point. Therefore, instead of matching a blue tie with an orange shirt, as we would with a complementary color scheme, we are matching a red tie with a hint of yellow against a blue shirt, creating a warm/cool balance in what would be considered a more harmonious manner. Hence, the triadic color scheme provides the most balanced contrast of color. 

Color Beyond the Wheel

It is best to coordinate the secondary color in your tie with the prominent color in your shirt. In addition to color wheel theory and properties discussed above, a general rule of thumb when choosing the right tie color is to have the secondary color in your tie match the color of your shirt. Given that most well recognized tie makers have implemented designs where color theory is already intact, this should help to harmonize your look and provide an added element of elegance, while minimizing the direct contrast. As an example, the striped blue and orange tie above sits perfectly against the blue shirt, helping to diffuse the bold contrast that is exhibited by a pure orange tie against a blue shirt.

Choose a tie color based on your personality or occasion. While a whole other article could be written on the topic of color as related to personality and settings, here are a few key points to keep in mind:

Decoding Colors

Red ~ The most demonstrative and powerful color. Red ties pair best with a strong personality and/or if you are in a sales or presentation setting and are looking to make an impression.

Insider's tip ~ If you are looking to make a statement, where a bold, bright red tie

Burgundy/Navy ~ Pair these two colors together to exhibit an inherent sense of maturity and trust. Burgundy and Navy are great for business settings, and show that you are reliable and professional, which is the kind of message that one wants to portray.

Pastels ~ Light pastels are fantastic for the spring and summer months, and demonstrate a level of affability that helps to break the ice when meeting new people.

In summary, a color wheel helps us, as men, navigate the world of color in a manner where there is more order.  The goal is to create harmony by pairing colors that work well together. Whether we are looking to create a bolder look (complementary),  a more monochromatic look or something in between (triadic) is really at our discretion, which is what makes personal style interesting and fun. Beyond that, paying attention to additional details such as the prominent color of your shirt being visible in your tie, and picking out tie colors according to occasion or to better reflect your personality, will ensure that you feel confident and well dressed the next time you hit the road in your favorite suit.