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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Look book - The Well-Dressed Men Series - The Use of Color

Whenever we watch House M. D. and Omar Epps appears on screen, my husband whimpers. Deservedly so, for Mr. Epps, who plays Eric Foreman, has by far the best business wardrobe of the entire cast. As a man who likes to dress well, my husband understandably covets Mr. Epps' immaculately tailored and coordinated outfits and dreams of inheriting his entire wardrobe after the show ends.

In fairness - and I am absolutely not being racist here - gentlemen of African, Latin or Indian descent can get away with a wider variety of color choices in their clothing. It's just the way darker skin tone works.

The same applies to the ladies. Those of us who are very pale or slightly olive-toned can only dream of getting away with the rich tropical hues and bold patterns that look phenomenal on the dark-skinned women. As a side bar, when I was getting married, I remember looking for a wedding dress and working my way through the endless list of the shades of white: eggshell, ice, candlelight, champagne, ivory. Each color came with a recommendation - if you are very white-skinned, wear this but not that; if you are olive-skinned avoid ivory and champagne, because you'll look jaundiced and so on. The last paragraph said something like, "Dark skin ladies? Forget everything we just said - you can get away with any shade of white or just about any other color you choose."

Back to our gentlemen. Do make a point of figuring out which colors look good on you and which ones make other people ask whether you are feeling ok. Once you have your colors, follow the lead of Mr. Epps here and start mixing and matching.

You may begin with something very, very simple. Here, for example we have a basic neutral suit. The subtle pinstripe elevates it from the blah beigedom. The crisp white shirt creates a nice contrast and a great backdrop for a very elegant and interesting tie. Notice, the tie is all neutral colors too - black and white. But the pattern is fun, and the whole thing works.

Note to all - all neutrals play well together, but you have to be careful as they might get boring. You don't want to look like a filing cabinet or blend in with walls, do you? Neutrals are: black, white, brown, beige, navy, and gray. Dark red is almost a neutral, but it has to be picked very carefully - a tinge of orange or purple in that red can drastically change the appearance of your skin.

Let's nudge it up a tiny bit. We are still working with neutrals here - a classic gray suit (a three-piece worn without a jacket here), a subtle pinstripe shirt, and an essentially neutral tie with a classic diamond pattern. There is just the merest touch of royal blue in the tie. What makes the entire thing work is immaculate tailoring. Everything fits. Nothing is sloppy. The overall effect is sophisticated and super-sharp, despite the subdued colors.

Moving on... The jacket is neutral (it looks black in the photo, but it is actually a very dark blue - midnight or navy), the shirt is white but we make a radical change to the tie and the vest and make them lavender. Yes, straight men can wear pink and lavender, as long as they do it right - as shown here. Notice the subtle tone-on-tone stripe texture in the tie. Mr. Epps doesn't look like a groomsman at an 80s wedding - he looks every bit like a smoking hot confident man that he is. Are you man enough to try this color?

Alright, we are about to go really high-tech. Are you ready? The two following outfits justify the need to pre-set your clothes the night before wearing them. You don't just grab these combinations from the closet - not unless you are wise and have them hanging together.

In both cases, the shirts are not neutral - they both carry colorful stripe patterns. The first shirt has a white background, but the second one is all color. The ties work because they each pick up colors from the shirt. In the photo on the left, the tie is purple with cream, beige and pink stripes - all but the pink make appearance in the shirt, and the pink works because it is in the same color group as the purple.

In the outfit on the right the colors of the shirt and the tie match perfectly. The differences are in the texture of the fabric (the shirt is matte, the tie is shiny), and in the pattern (the shirt is vertical stripe, the tie is diagonal stripe). It is all combined against another immaculate gray pinstripe suit - a fitting backdrop for such a classy and imaginative combination.

So, go out and try out some colors and patterns, gentlemen. Push your envelope and send me pictures - I'd love to see how you made out.

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