What to wear for your skin tone

When it comes to fashion, one size does not fit all – especially if you’re choosing colours that complement your skin tone. Selecting the right shades for your wardrobe can elevate your style from ordinary to exceptional. This guide is tailored for the discerning gentleman, focusing on formal and semi-formal attire such as suits, blazers and dress shoes. 

Understanding your skin tone

Skin tones can be broadly categorised into three types: light, medium and dark. Each has distinct characteristics and responds differently to various colours. Let’s look at the typical undertones for various skin shades, and what colours of clothing complement them best.

Light skin tones

If you have a lighter complexion typical of Northern European or Northern Asian heritage, you’ll want to avoid colours that are too close to your skin tone, as they might make you look washed out. Instead, opt for deeper, richer colours. Particularly light skin can sometimes edge towards a cooler, bluer tone. If you try to warm up the overall look by choosing a warm colour such as rich maroon or a reddish brown, it can have the effect of accentuating the coolness, which might be a look you’re going for, but we’d recommend mirroring the hue with more blueness or a cooler grey. If you want a warm shade, perhaps go with a light pastel colour. 

  • Suits and blazers: Navy, dark grey, and charcoal are excellent choices. These darker hues create a striking contrast, enhancing your appearance.
  • Shirts: Light pastels like pale blue or even light pink can add a touch of warmth.
  • Shoes: Dark brown or black leather shoes are versatile and elegant.

Men's navy blue double breasted jacket with gold buttons

Medium skin tones

With a bit more warmth to your skin, you have the advantage of versatility in your colour choices. So if you’re of Mediterranean, South Asian or Latin American heritage and you feel your skin is neither light nor dark, you probably fall into this range. With this added depth, you’ll probably also find there’s more warmth, with undertones of oranges and reds that completely eliminate the blueness of white skin. It means there’s no penalty for dressing in warm colours, but you can also dress in cooler blues and lighter tones too. The lightness is also less punishing whichever way you go, so you can be pretty relaxed when shopping.

  • Suits and blazers: Earth tones like olive, brown and even brighter blues work wonderfully. Grey suits are a classic that also works well.
  • Shirts: Crisp whites and bolder colours like royal blue or burgundy can look stunning.
  • Shoes: Experiment with different shades of brown or stick to the classic black for more formal occasions.

XPOSED Sky Blue 3 piece suit for mens

Dark skin tones

Darker skin tones can handle a wide range of colours, including both very light and very dark shades. If your heritage is of Sub-Saharan African, Southern Indian, Afro-Caribbean or indigenous Oceanic origins, you’ve probably got skin that is glowing, with subtle but rich warm hues. Since it’s almost impossible for you to look washed out, you can wear practically anything, from a black suit that emits unflappable sophistication to bright colours or grey hues for when the occasion is semi-formal.

  • Suits and blazers: Embrace colour! Light greys, tans and even pastel shades can look exceptional. For a bolder look, try jewel tones like emerald or sapphire.
  • Shirts: White is always a classic, but don’t shy away from vibrant colours or even patterns.
  • Shoes: Both black and brown shoes work well, but consider oxblood for an unexpected twist.

Tan Corduroy 3 Piece suit for men's from XPOSED London


Accessories are the finishing touches that can make or break an outfit. Ties and pocket squares can be used to introduce a pop of colour or a complimentary shade to your ensemble. Belts and high quality wristwatches finish off the look, but make sure these match the tone of your shoes for a cohesive look.

A little thought makes a big difference

Most of us probably don’t pay too much attention to the underlying hue of our skin, no matter how proud we are of our heritage. But taking a moment to work out if you edge towards cool or warm tones can make a big difference to your wardrobe choices. Of course, you might be a pale-skinned man with warm undertones, or a dark-skinned man with cooler hues, so consider these factors when you’re clothes shopping. 

Green Velvet Wedding suit for mens from XPOSED

While these guidelines are here to help you select colours that harmonise with your skin tone, don’t be afraid to experiment and express your personal style. Dressing well for your skin tone is about striking the right balance between contrast and harmony. By choosing the right hues for your suits, shirts and accessories, you can create an ensemble that not only looks impeccable but feels like a natural extension of you. Remember, fashion is as much about confidence as it is about style.