What Is Tonal Dressing?

Tonal dressing is wearing different pieces together that fall within the same color family. It sounds easy to do, but there’s more to it than just wearing one color from head-to-toe. There’s an art to mixing the same tone using textures, patterns and solid shades in order to make each piece gel together. We’re showing you a few ways you can pull off this technique using your favorite staples. By opting for pieces you already like, getting started and leveling up to bolder colors will be easy.

Read on to see how to dress in tones, from neutral colors to brights.

blue toned clothing

How to Wear Blue Tones

Blue is a great color to start with: It’s universally flattering, your most likely have a lot of different options in it already and it works year-round. The key to nailing this type of dressing is to make sure you vary the tones across lights and darks. If you’re going for dark blue shorts or jeans, make sure the shirt you choose is lighter or has a pattern or texture, and vice versa—dark up top, lighter below. When adding in the last piece or accessories, such as shoes or jackets, you can either go all in with a solid shade, or mix it up with two shades that complement each other. 

olive toned clothing

How to Wear Green Tones

Earth tones are another avenue that’s easy to navigate, and green has been making its way into more closets. From olive to pine to chartreuse, there’s a shade of green for every guy. You can opt for the same color in different tones, or even start with a camo piece (which matches everything), and build your look from there. If you decide that wearing an entirely green outfit, even in different shades, feels like too much of a commitment, introduce a few khaki pieces. It’s close enough to match, but different enough to not feel monochromatic.  

brown toned clothing

How to Wear Brown Tones

Brown falls into the earth tone family and is another go-to shade for easy entry into tonal dressing. Complement the main color of your outfit by adding depth with contrast tones, patterns and details. Case in point: A khaki suit welcomes a break in monotony with dark brown oxford shoes and a textured belt. Go in the opposite direction with your shirt—a lighter color (cream, ivory, beige), with a minimal print or subtle detail, such as an unexpected color placket, will add visual interest without overpowering your look.

white toned clothing

How to Wear White Tones

Wearing an all-white look means stepping into bold territory, but you got this. Since feeling comfortable is the driving force behind trying something new or different, start with your favorite styles: T-shirts, button-down shirts, jeans. Follow the same rules of mixing different shades—a stark white shirt, beige jeans and white sneakers with colorful details reads as all-white, while a waffle-knit henley can bring the necessary texture to visually differentiate the pieces. If you decide to go with the same shade of white from top to bottom, add an accessory in a contrast color for emphasis.

pink toned clothing

How to Wear Pink Tones

Once you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of tonal dressing with the customary colors, it’s time to go for the bold. Pink has made its entrance into menswear and shows no signs of slowing down. Although it may seem trickier to wear in general, let alone from head to toe, the same rules apply: Vary your tones, textures and patterns. Balance out the amount of pink you’re wearing by adding in a few white pieces—it’s neutral enough that it won’t detract, but will help tone down the volume. 

Are you ready to master tonal dressing?  Take your style quiz, sign up for a Fix and tell us what shade you want to try first. Your expert stylist will get your color palette up to speed and build from there. Shipping, returns and exchanges are always free. It’s as simple as that.

Style Advice, Anytime

Get expert fashion advice without the expert price.

Get a personal stylist

Get articles and style advice—straight to your feed.

Follow Us