Warm and Cool Colours, and How to Mix Them


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.

Sean Connery wearing a very cool-toned outfit in From Russia with Love

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

Sean Connery wearing an entirely cool-toned outfit in Dr. No

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.

Sean Connery wearing an entirely warm-toned outfit in Thunderball

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 warms up his grey flannel suit and grey grenadine tie with a cream shirt in For Your Eyes Only

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.

Roger Moore wears a red tie to warm up a blue shirt and a grey suit in Octopussy

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.

In Moonraker, Roger Moore wears a blue blazer with khaki trousers, cool with warm

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.

Roger Moore wears a cool shirt and tie with a warm jacket in The Spy Who Loved Me

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.

In Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce Brosnan combines a cool navy suit with warm light brown coat and a warm ivory shirt with a tie that includes the colours of both of the suit and the coat.

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.

Daniel Craig wears black shoes with his brown suit in Quantum of Solace


  1. Really interesting. Thanks, Matt. I really like warm-coloured casual outfits, but as someone who definitely looks better in blues and cool colours, it can be tricky. One combination that worked for me was an dark olive Barbour jacket, black long-sleeve polo, and either buff-coloured moleskin trousers or medium brown cords. But perhaps a navy jumper would work just as well in place of the polo?

    Out of interest, do you have a favourite Bondian outfit in terms of how it combines warm and cool?

  2. The psychology behind the colors – cool to keep it professional and intimidating, warm to give it a sense of lightness. I often wear a monochromatic blue outfit. It certainly is weird, especially with my Asian complexion, but it did imparted a lot of that professional aura.

    It may just be my problem, but I cannot see a camel or khaki coat with a navy suit. Then again, part of Brosnan’s wardrobe was a product of the 1990s, and that was the charm of it. I cannot see myself putting anything else too warm on a navy suit past a natural, ecru silk shirt.

    • A camel overcoat is unconventional, but not unheard of or inappropriate for businesswear. It dates back at least to the polo coats and buttonless overcoats popular in the 1930s. It’s a subtle way of being flashy, in that you would stand apart from those around you wearing dark blues, grays, or greens, but you wouldn’t necessarily stand out from them.

      From a metafictional standpoint, it works well to dress Bond in a coat like that, because it signals to the audience that he’s someone important without looking like he wants to be noticed. A similar coat was used to make it clear Robert Shaw’s character in The Sting was the boss and his goons, dressed in dark suits or overcoats, were not.

  3. I was dismayed to learn I had a summer complexion. I thought it was the most difficult to have fun with, wishing I could just have the starkness of a winter or warmth of an autumn and be done with it. What I’ve come to find, however, is that if I’m clever with it that means I’m able to pull off both.

    I wear a lot of creams and rose toned browns now to contrast the navies and greys I also wear. It’s nice especially coming into the Australian summer to have that choice!

  4. So even though I have a high-contrast cool complexion I can wear a tan or earth toned suit or jacket if I pair it with a cool coloured and tie?

  5. Matt’s discussion about warm- or cool-toned colours in clothing is – as usual – on point here.
    The separate issue of one’s complexion I just fail to take on board. Flusser has several pages in his books wherein he discusses which kinds of colours should be worn by people of certain complexions and I personally don’t buy into it. Not least because as a White man living in a generally sunny climate my own complexion can vary from cadaverous through puce to walnut depending on the season and whether I remembered to grease up before heading outside. In any event if formal business requires a ‘cool toned’ navy or grey suit with white shirt then that’s what must be worn regardless of one’s status on a melanistic scale. I do tend to avoid white shirts these days as they can wash out a Blondie like me but that’s about as far as it goes.

    • I think you make a good point here about complexion but it doesn’t disprove the theory.
      It’s not really as simple as you have x coloured skin therefore you are y complexion. Like you said, the colour of our hair and skin is often in flux. But humans are creatures who, as a rule, like things to be divvied up and labeled.

      The truth is that very few people fit perfectly into one category to the excusion of the others. See it more of a guide in order to help you find the colours which work well for you.

    • Undertones are what determine your skin tone, not your complexion. I’m much paler than my wife, but she has a cooler tone than I do.

      Also remember that gray and navy, while cool toned, don’t clash with warm skin tones because they are also fairly neutral. As Matt points out, you can tone up a blue piece by using a sea blue shade, like ink or navy, rather than a sky blue variant, like AF blue or azure. Similarly, you can also tone down a warm toned piece with shading, like charcoal brown or feldgrau.

      • Undertones are part of one’s complexion. Warm and cool undertones can change a little with a tan, but other things like hair colour and eye colour define one’s coloring too, to a lesser extent.

        Most people can make most any piece of clothing work, it’s just entire outfits that can be difficult for some people to wear.

  6. Update on my Deo Veritas shirt: The fit is still good after I got it laundered and pressed. The interlining lost some stiffness by getting beat up a bit, so the collar and cuffs rolled more elegantly than they did right out of the box as well.

    Unfortunately, my dry cleaner cracked the collar button, so I’m bringing it back for repair today. The good news is that it gave me a chance to examine the button more closely and I can confirm it is natural MOP and not plastic, since the grain is visible in the cross section where layers of pearl deposited on the shell’s surface.


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