Too many people just grab the first set of clothing they find and throw together an outfit – no matter the color. This can often result in brutal color combinations that just look terrible.
Finding the right color combinations for your clothes can be a daunting task. For both men and women, there are guidelines to follow when deciding what colors go together well or don't go together at all.
The best way to go about deciding what colors do go together is by understanding which ones clash and why. Luckily, we've put together a list of the most common offensive color pairs in the world of fashion.
Number 10 might surprise you!
Colors That Don’t Go Together in Fashion (Top 10)
10 Colors That Don't go Well With Each Other
When you know which pairs to avoid at all costs, you're bound to make fewer mistakes when dressing up. Here are 10 no-nos when it comes to matching colors in your outfits:
1. White and Silver
While this may seem like a smart and wonderful idea, silver and white go together like oil and water (unless you mix in something special). Sometimes the clash is so overwhelming that it just looks tacky on you.
White and silver don't pair well because they are too similar and don't contrast.
That said, there are use-cases for this color combination. The combo works quite well when you show a lot of skin when wearing it. This is because your outfit will contrast with your skin well enough. For example, many wedding dresses are comprised of white and silver - but they always leave enough space for skin to shine through.
So, if you can't resist the temptation, make sure you go with minimal amounts of each color. Also, either show a lot of skin or diversify and add in other colors like black, blue, or dark brown to give some necessary contrast to the outfit.
2. Magenta and Red
You may be surprised to learn that red and magenta just don't work. It's amazing how so many people go through their entire lives without realizing this little fashion mistake.
Whether you're trying to wear a red shirt with a bright pink tie or a pretty magenta dress with red shoes, avoid pairing these colors together because it just looks bad! But why?
Magenta is the brightest, most saturated version of the family of purple. Because of this, magenta lies two slots counter-clockwise to red on the color wheel.
Every color that lies two slots apart from any other and has similar brightness and lightness is going to clash. It's as simple as that.
A color pairing from the red and purple families could work if the contrast is high enough, though. Go for a dark, deep purple and accent with a nice light red (rose), for example.
3. Green and Yellow
No. Just no. Do yourself a favor, forget this color combination (when it comes to fashion), and choose something else.
Maybe, just maybe, super dark yellow could work with bright green. But don't even think about wearing both bright variants together.
4. Green and Orange
This combo is an absolute no-no in clothing. Green and orange work terribly and clash heavily with one another.
In most cases, you'll want to choose two colors from the same color family in order for them to work well in a coordinating outfit, such as orange and brown or green and olive. But don't mix both of these families together.
Bright orange doesn’t go so well with a vibrant green when it comes to clothing because they clash with each other. This is due to the fact that both colors have similar luminance and are a triadic pair.
Interestingly, if you were to choose either a darker or lighter version of either color, for example, a very dark orange (aka brown), they would harmonize quite well. This is because brown has much a higher contrast to green than orange does.
Also, a triadic color combination is actually not a bad thing. Thousands of fashion designers have used triadic schemes to put together stunning outfits. You just have to know how to do it in the right way.
5. Green and Red
There's a lot of green in this no-go list, isn't there? Well, there's a good reason for that. Bright green just isn’t a great color for clothing. It’s just too unusual! More on this at the end of this article.
Anyways, green in combination with red just always gives off a Christmas vibe, doesn't it? Especially when you pair these two colors with white and/or gold of sorts, you will most certainly make anyone around you think of our favorite holiday season.
Why is that? Well, it's all about color palettes, how we perceive them, and what their meanings are from a socio-cultural perspective.
We discuss this topic in a few of our other articles. You can read about a Christmas color scheme in this post.
6. Brown and Gray
There's still the notion that brown and black are a bad match but, in all honestly, that's complete rubbish.
Average brown goes quite well with black, in fact. A color that it doesn't go well with, though, is gray - especially darker gray. But why?
The answer has to do with contrast (again). Both colors have a similar amount of luminance and, thus, don't have enough contrast to each other. Additionally, both gray and brown resemble bodily colors too much, reducing the contrast to a person's hair, skin, and eye color to a point where nothing is in the spotlight.
If you know how to accent an outfit correctly, though, you might be able to put together something awesome from this color pairing. Follow our guide on accenting with colors to learn how.
7. Purple and Yellow
Purple and yellow may go well when it comes to decorations, but not when matching clothes – unless you're the Lakers, of course.
It’s important to know that purple and yellow don’t actually clash. They just have a special look in combination: One that isn’t very common in clothing.
These colors are too difficult to go along with each other, especially when you're trying to create a look that flows naturally. This can be considered as one of the hardest color coordinations in the world.
You will not have an easy time trying to match them in any variation, be that as shades, tones, or tints. Trust us. You're way better off wearing gray or white with purple and dark brown or light blue with yellow.
8. Blue-Green and Yellow-Orange (Turquoise and Gold)
This is a massive no-no. Bright turquoise, a mix of blue and green, does not go well with anything halfway between yellow and orange – at least not in clothing and fashion.
Interestingly, in jewelry, this is quite a common combo. Think of a gold necklace with a pendant made of turquoise (the stone). Even in design, both colors go well together. But just not in clothing.
Why is that, you ask? The answer is simple:
Because the pairing is so uncommon that something just looks "off".
However, as soon as you darken the turquoise so much that it effectively is teal, the situation changes. Teal and yellow-orange look classy and sophisticated together – as long as you don't wear too much yellow-orange and only use it to accent your outfit.
9. Brown and Burgundy
Brown and burgundy are very similar, yet not quite the same. In fact, many people even mistake one for the other.
Brown is essentially a very dark variation of orange, whereas burgundy is a very dark red.
Now, do you remember what we wrote about colors that are two slots apart from each other on the color wheel? Well, red and orange are. Inevitably, brown and burgundy are as well.
From afar, both colors look almost identical but close up they don't. This makes it difficult for people to consciously tell what is wrong with the combination, even though it's quite obvious. Both colors are just too similar, yet not similar enough.
10. Nude and Yellow
Nude, a very light tint of red-orange clashes quite drastically with yellow – especially with light yellow. Astonishingly though, this combo is rather common among modern-day young women!
Separately, these colors look great on the ladies - there's no question about that - but together they make an outfit a complete mess! Why?
By now, you should be able to guess why... It's for the same reasons as with all the previous colors:
The contrast between both colors is too low
Both are too similar to your bodily features (especially nude is)
The distance between both hues on the color wheel is within the "danger zone"
We're not used to seeing this uncommon pairing
Nude is a great color to wear - just pair it with something other than yellow. Please.
Why Certain Colors Don't Pair Well
As we've proven so far in this article, there are actual reasons why certain colors don't go together in clothing and fashion. Here's the rundown for why some color combos don't pair well:
Lack of Contrast to Each Other
Both colors aren't contrasting enough. This means they either do not have enough difference in luminance or in hue (or both). Or in less scientific terms: When both colors are too alike, they tend to clash.
Not Enough Contrast to Natural Coloration
Both colors are too similar in color to bodily features such as hair, skin, or eye colors. Wearing clothes that resemble your body's own coloration just looks odd because of the lack of contrast.
Wrong Distance on the Color Wheel
When it comes to matching colors, there are a few ways of pairing that usually tend to work well. The most common are pairings using a complementary, split-complementary, analogous, or triadic color scheme.
Note that if you were to start out with the color blue (like in the image above), every "good" color to choose from falls into one of the four categories. The resulting "bad" colors are those that are either two or three positions clockwise or counter-clockwise to blue.
Any color paired with another from two or three hues to the left or right on the color wheel will be difficult to pull off in any outfit.
So yes, the saying “blue and green should never be seen” does in fact ring true.
The Pairing is Unusual
Often, it's simply the fact that you've only very rarely come across an outfit with such a color combo that makes it seem like something's "off". Good examples are some of the pairings we've mentioned in this article like green and yellow or turquoise and gold.
The Combo Resembles a Certain Theme
Stand-alone colors are great, but sometimes, when two are paired, they make us feel a certain way or think of something specific. We mentioned red plus green resembling Christmas but there are other mixes that have similar effects.
Black and red combined make us think of Dracula, purple and orange make us think of Halloween, and green plus magenta are Barny’s, our favorite dinosaur, colors.
Obviously, there are many more color combinations that don't go well together. We've only listed our top 10 in this article since these are the ones that a lot of people seem to choose for their outfits.
If you were wondering what colors go together and which ones don't, this article should have given you a better understanding of which colors most definitely do NOT go well together. We've listed 10 no-nos for matching colors in your outfits to help avoid some common fashion mistakes.
If you’re still uncertain about how to pair colors, you can always just go for monochrome outfits. Then you can be sure all you’re clothes match up perfectly.
We have many other articles on how to effectively mix and match outfit colors to get the results you want. We suggest reading up on a few of our top articles on color in fashion here. You're bound to find one that interests you and can show you exactly how to pair color the right way easily.
What Does Wearing Gray Symbolize?
What Does White Clothing Symbolize?
What does black clothing symbolize?
What Does Chartreuse Clothing Mean?