When combining colours in an outfit it is easiest to pair cool with cool and warm with warm. Cool tones most easily harmonise with cool tones and warm tones most easily harmonise with warm tones, and it is the most basic way one can coordinate their outfits. Cool colours are green, blue and purple while warm colours are red, orange, yellow, cream, brown, tan and olive. “Earth tones” are warm colours, though warm colours encompass a wider range of colours. White, grey and black are completely neutral, but for the purposes of how they pair with other clothes and how they read against one’s complexion they are cool. While red is a warm colour, it is used as an accent colour in menswear and boldly contrasts both warm and cool clothes the same.
For the purposes of menswear, here are the main colours of classic and Bondian menswear separated into cool and warm:
White grey and black act as cool neutral tones while muted and pale browns are warm neutrals. Neutrals are easiest to pair with other colours, though too many neutrals together without much contrast in light and dark can often—but not always—make for a bland outfit.
Cool and warm is a spectrum, and these terms can be used when describing colours overall (as I did above) or when comparing two hues of the same colour. While blue is overall a cool colour, there are cool blues and warm blues. Sky blue is a warmer blue than periwinkle, and muted blues appear cooler than vibrant blues.
Cool colours are city colours and are seen as more formal and classic. Warm colours are country colours because they are the colours we associate with nature or autumn, and these are seen as less formal. Cool colours look best on cool skin tones while warm colours look best on warm skin tones. Traditionally a man would dress for his surroundings rather than for his skin tone, and to dress our best we should consider both.
Wearing Warm and Cool Colours Separately
The classic James Bond outfits are made up of either cool tones or warm tones. Sean Connery’s Bond wears blue or white shirts and blue or black ties with blue or grey suits and jackets. And he wears ecru or yellow shirts and brown ties with brown suits and jackets. He pairs blue blazers with grey trousers and brown jackets with fawn trousers. We occasionally see him wear an ecru shirt with a blue or grey suit, but that is an exception to the rule just to break up the monotony. Literally.
George Lazenby follows Connery’s Bond colour rules but adds in the red tie, which is a warm accent colour but does not break up a cool outfit. Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig also combine colours in a Connery-like way, usually wearing cool with cool and warm with warm.
Mixing Warm and Cool Colours
Combining cool and warm non-neutral colours together takes an experienced eye to avoid looking like a clown, a sports team mascot or a holiday-season sweater. But combining cool and warm colours can also look elegant, especially when either the cool or warm tone is a neutral.
Roger Moore has a warmer complexion than his Bond-actor predecessors and wears a lot more warm-toned outfits in his Bond films, particularly when warm colours were trendy in the 1970s. He also mixes warm tones and cool tones together more than his predecessors so he can wear the classic and more formal cool suit colours in a more flattering way. Roger Moore often wears cream shirts with grey suits to warm up cool city suits to better suit his complexion and avoids white shirts whenever possible because they look harsh against his complexion.
Moore also often wears red ties instead of blue or black to better flatter his complexion with an outfit of otherwise cool colours. A red tie does not contrast with a cool-toned outfit in the same way that other warm tones do, and it can equally flatter cool high-contrast complexions, as it does on George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Moore mixes cool and warm colours in a popular way when he pairs his blue blazers with khaki trousers. This is not to add warmth to flatter his complexion, since colours away from the face have little effect on how they flatter one’s complexion. While grey trousers would match the cool tone of the jacket, khaki trousers make the outfit look less formal. This is because they contrast the blue blazer in both temperature and in lightness, and warm colours look less formal than cool colours.
While Moore usually adds warmth to otherwise cool outfits, we occasionally see him do the opposite. In The Spy Who Loved Me he wears a blue shirt and tie with a tan jacket, and similarly in For Your Eyes Only he wears a blue shirt with a fawn suit. Daniel Craig likewise wears a blue shirt with a tan corduroy suit in No Time to Die. This is a good way to cool off an earth-toned suit or jacket for a someone with a cool complexion, but it flatters most warm complexions too.
Pierce Brosnan combines warm and cool regularly by mixing blue with brown, tan, ivory or gold. While his complexion is cool, by combining warm colours with cool the overall effect is neutral, and it suits him well. It may be a blue and brown tie, a blue and tan checked suit or a blue suit with an ivory shirt and a gold tie.
One of the less popular ways that Bond mixes warm and cool is when he pairs black shoes with a dark brown suit or with tan or khaki trousers. Black shoes are not the best pairing for a brown suit because they clash with the warmth of the suit, but Bond wears black shoes with a brown suit to dress up the suit with a more serious look. However, I cannot think of a good reason why Bond would ever pair black shoes with warm-toned odd trousers unless he is wearing a black shirt.