Monochromatic Look: 6 Tips to Make it Work

alt="monochromatic men's fashion style outfit"

Going monochromatic (wearing all one color) has gained popularity in the past few years, and some of the best dressed men in the world are making a statement with this bold trend.

While I don't attempt to keep up with “fashion”, I do like to keep things fresh by coming up with an “everyman” version of select trends that come to my attention.

When making out-of-the-ordinary style choice, the trick to pulling it off is to use other elements to make the look appear familiar. Wearing one color exclusively is strange to most and won't get many looks of admiration, unless you do it right. And you will.

The guidelines below are similar to my previous article on Go-to-Hell Pants, illustrating that the trick to wearing brightly colored items is to reign in color usage everywhere else.

So, how can the everyman have a little fun incorporating this look into his current rotation?

Like most everything else I write, I've broken this look down into some helpful guidelines to help you look like a classically well-dressed man, rather than an uber fashion forward runway model.

Here are my six tips to make this look work in everyday situations with your current wardrobe.

(1) Vary the shade

alt="monochromatic shirt tie"

The “shade” of a color refers to the lightness or darkness. Here, I'm wearing a light blue shirt with a dark blue cardigan to create  contrast. Since suits are generally dark and shirts are typically light, this a familiar combination. No one would even make the connection that everything I'm wearing is blue.

(2) Play with patterns

Patterns add variety to the look without changing the color. The shirt has micro stripes and the tie has dots. This makes for a much more harmonious look than working with all solids.

(3) Use different textures

As with patterns, textures can also help to break up the various elements of an outfit. The shirt is sort of “ribbed”, the tie is smooth, and the cardigan is a slightly chunky weave.

(4) Consider saturation

monochromatic style

Different from shade, saturation refers to the “deepness” of a color. The pants I'm wearing look sort of like a “dusty” blue, almost gray, and would not be considered to be very saturated. The sweater and tie, on the other hand, are quite saturated.

(5) Mix up the sheen

Varying the sheen is another way to make some pieces stand out and others fade into the background. My silk tie, for example, has a sheen that draws the eye to it. The pants, shirt, and cardigan are matte and act as a canvas for the tie.

(6) Cheat a little

monochromatic look shoes

Since there aren't any style merit badges to be earned (that I'm aware of), it's fine to add in a little variety in the form of brown or black leather, or a white shirt. It won't disrupt the look you're going for and no one is going to hassle you for not wearing a blue belt, shoes, and sunglasses.

If you're building a versatile wardrobe, you probably won't have shoes and belts in every color anyway.

The monochromatic final test

monochromatic men's style fashion outfit

To determine how well you've mixed up the different elements, take a photo of yourself in black and white. Looking at the photo, you should be able to see some contrast between the articles of clothing. The textures and sheen should also be apparent. If you appear to be wearing a solid-colored sweat suit, it's back to the drawing board.

Get the Look

monochromatic get the look

Cardigan, Shirt, Tie, Pants, Watch, Shoes

All the best,


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  • Reply
    Damian @ Dareandconquer
    March 30, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Great tips as always Nate!

    Can the monochromatic look be achieved with all colours? For example i have heard that wearing monochromatic grey can make you look like wearing pajamas.
    Think about a track suit with t-shirt and jacket.

    • Reply
      March 30, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Haha, I see your point . If you make all of the pieces significantly different you could absolutely wear gray. Blue is going to look most natural, but I think shades of black, white, and gray would work just fine. Also, brown, green, and maybe even purple could look really good.

      For your example specifically, I would try medium gray pants, with a light gray sweater over a white and gray stripped shirt, topped with a dark gray plaid jacket. Then, either black or brown leather shoes and belt.

  • Reply
    Chase Power
    March 31, 2015 at 12:31 am

    I could see myself wearing this. It is a good look that has multiple uses and edgy, but still has that strong masculine vibe. Ill have to look more into this when I update my wardrobe next fall. Nice post man.

  • Reply
    April 1, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    It’s a great look, Nate. Love the site too, just wish you had more posts so I could read more! ha

    A “style on a budget” post would be cool. Like, going into a thrift shop and finding items you could make a kick-ass outfit out of. Many would appreciate that.

    You should write a guest post for Return of Kings. It’s male-centric and would get plenty of traffic to you. I’m not sure about your politics, but the site is pretty alt-right and they may even call you a hipster lol. But I think your contribution would add some value to it.

    • Reply
      April 2, 2015 at 12:00 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Trouble! I’ll have plenty more in the future. If you haven’t already, you can grab my free eBook and you’ll also get updates when I post new articles. I’ll have to check out that site – Thanks for the tip.

  • Reply
    April 3, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    I’ve never thought of style in the precise terms of saturation and sheen. Something I was sort of gunning for intuitively, but now have proper clarity on. Thanks.

    • Reply
      April 5, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      Glad I could help, DJ. I think it’s something we all recognize, but don’t really give it much thought or put it into action.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2015 at 1:25 am

    Good post! Have you read well built styles post about high contrast and low contrast men? The monochromatic look is definitely low contrast maybe you could do a post on high contrast looks an matching colors just a thought

    • Reply
      May 15, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      I’ve read some articles on their site, but I don’t think I saw that one. I’ll look again. I don’t give color a ton of thought so it should be a good read for me.

  • Reply
    May 18, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    you hit the nail on the head and I really doubt anyone that considers himself much of a man will wear blue shoes, blue belt, and blue glasses. Advocating for timeless style is the only way to go. I see men, young and old, attempting to keep up with the latest trends but in reality all you need is a closet full of timeless pieces. A few suits, a few shoes, a few jackets, a few shirts, a few watches, and the rest will take care of itself. One last thing, watch the fit.

    Great post,

    • Reply
      May 19, 2015 at 1:59 am

      Haha, we definitely don’t want to look like runway models. That’s about the only place you can find extremes like that. By the time us normal guys get wind of different looks, they’re much more tame.

      I like to keep my style about 80% or 90% classic and then have a little fun with the rest as long as the look suits me. You can always tell when someone is blindly following trends because it never looks like “them.”

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