Color blindness is a real thing. Much like your cursing threshold, it is inherited from your mother. Much like false bravado and back hair, it only affects men. I suffer from color blindness (and the other two as well) in a really bad way. People don’t really understand what it means though, or how it affects daily life. All people seem to know is from YouTube videos where macho dudes wearing sleeveless tees put on glasses which fix the color situation, and instantly turn into a puddle of tears as if watching the jersey scene in Rudy.
Let me tell you what it’s like, and some rules I use to get dressed.
DON’T TELL ME IT’S MAGENTA
I don’t see black and white. I see colors. And no I don’t know how different what I see is from what you see. I just see less colors. Red and Brown look very very similar. Green can look like either of those. I have no clue what colors navy, aqua, and cobalt are; they’re just blue.
So next time I can’t pick out that thing someone is describing as magenta, think who the asshole is for calling something magenta.
How has this affected life, you ask? I go by the placement on the traffic light because the yellow and red lights can look similar. My dreams of going to the Air Force Academy were dashed as you can’t fly aircraft if you’re color blind. I was never good at art because the kids in elementary school thought it was funny to rip the color names off of the Crayola wrappers and crush my delicate spirit. And worst of all, I used to wear terribly matched clothing. Then I learned some basic rules.
NEUTRALS ARE YOUR FRIEND
Simple universal colors. I don’t go bold with colors. Anytime I have anything yellow, orange, or green on a piece of clothing I’m doing something wrong as these things clash. I love bright colors because I can see them, but they are not for my clothes. White, gray, black. I build from there. Mix those together and you rarely go wrong. These three alone make for a bland wardrobe though. So some other rules came in to play.
GET A GOOD TAILOR
I came to grips with the fact that I wasn’t going to be the guy with the bold tie/suit/shirt combo. But this taught me the importance of tailoring. A well-fitted outfit will always get noticed, so you don’t have to rely on strong color combos.
I check that nothing pulls across the chest. That my hem has a half break; or if going for the Thom Browne look, it’s good to make sure it looks intentional. Cool socks help, and making sure the hem is tapered. I don’t know about you, but I can’t pull off the short boot cut look.
Sleeve length matters; I don’t want to look like I’m wearing my father’s shirt or jacket. A good tailor can make sure it’s not too long or too short. This matters for casual jackets too, not just suiting.
I check that the waist is comfortable but not so much that my pants sag halfway through the day. That screws up the entire leg fit too.
And I’m not blind to neck size. I know if I get the right neck size in shirts, it will likely fit better all around, not just on my neck.
White sneakers go with almost anything and never go out. When wearing dress shoes, match the dress to the belt. This can be done by wearing one while shopping for the other.
As a general rule: brown shoes in summer, black shoes in winter. It’s not exactly adventurous but makes my life easier.
MAKE SALESPEOPLE YOUR ALLIES
Salespeople can be helpful if you’re honest. By professing my color blindness up front and asking for their help—as you have trouble with matching—the commission is sometimes superseded by fashion conscience. Plus they love a project and will give you extra attention.
SUITING: NUMBERS AND A SHARPIE
For those who must wear suits and ties, a little trial and error is necessary. I number my ties on the back with a sharpie. I then write the number of the tie on the shirt label when I know I have a match. Hopefully the shirt label is big enough for a few numbers.
And I have absolutely brought two or three shirts to the store while tie shopping to find a good match. Once again—I’m not matching a plaid tie with a striped shirt; I’m keeping the patterns simple.
FABRIC IS KING
For the trends, I look at the cuts and fits. I’m not going to have the ambitious combo that some stylist put on a red carpet or magazine cover. I try to look at what fabric and style they are wearing, and see if I can find them in simple colors that are relatively innocuous. A color blind person should not try to be at the cutting edge of Spring ’22 collection—they should try to make sure they don’t look like they’re wearing Spring ’12 collection though.
I like to focus on fabrics with some textures. Cord, velvet, and flannel for Winter. Seersucker, linen, and cottons for Summer. These are classics and win out over all trends that come and go.
If I’m going to wear those colored seersucker pants, it will always be paired with a white shirt. Can’t go wrong there. Seersucker is a summer fabric, and white is a summer color. That much I know.
When wearing corduroys or velvets, i.e., winter fabrics, I generally stick to darker shades.
When in doubt, a slim-fit white button-down shirt tucked into a trouser or even jeans with a good slim belt can’t lose.
Bring layers and ask people’s opinion. Fashion is subjective. Ask someone who you trust if what you’re wearing all goes together. If it doesn’t, layer up over that shit! Layering can fix a lot of problems as it is a last ditch ripcord on a suspect look.