The Hue For You

The science and whimsy of finding “your color”
Cool skin tone
Photo by iStock / Getty Images Plus: shurkin_son

Pale skin and jet-black hair against a cherry red dress. A man’s auburn beard peeking over the collar of a forest green coat. Black skin in a burnt orange top. A blonde, tanned by summer rays, in a pastel pink dress. Visualizing these complementary images is easy, and there’s a reason for that.

How we process color is more than meets the eye.

As the retina intakes color, our brain internalizes what we associate with the color. Since the existence of humankind, red has caught the eye. It requests that our brain pay attention and be alert. Blue often lulls us into a state of comfort and trust — access to water and clear blue skies. 

The earliest color wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century. Experimenting with sunlight and prisms, he noted that white light was comprised of seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet (ROY-G-BIV). This finding opened the floodgates for the studies of optics and perception, which would eventually influence marketing, interior design, visual art and fashion. 

Swiss artist and color theorist Johannes Itten not only advanced upon Newton’s color wheel but also created the Four-Season Color Theory. When painting, Itten desired background colors that best matched the skin tone of his portraits. 

Itten noted that skin tones fall into two categories: yellow undertones, which equated to warm, and blue undertones, which he called cool. Warm and cool were then divided into light or dark, often aligning with eye and hair color. Spring is warm and light, autumn warm and dark, summer cool and light, and winter cool and dark. 

Spring colors include sunshine yellow, pale green, lilac and blush pink. Autumn would look best in olive green, crimson, burnt orange and gold. Summer identifiers shine in blue hues, gray and pale pink. Winter contrasts with bold hues of maroon, deep purple and cobalt blue. 

Itten’s theory was highly popular in the ’60s and ’70s. Where Itten’s theory failed, however, was in fully recognizing the vastness and variation of skin in people of color. 

Morgan Anthony, the lead apparel stylist at Hearth & Soul, thinks there is validity to the Four-Season Color Theory. He also recognizes it can become a bit confusing and limiting, especially regarding the combination of a person’s skin, hair and eyes. 

“The key to finding your color is paying attention,”  Anthony said. “Take notice of what color you’re wearing when someone compliments your eyes or tells you that you look great that day. Pay attention to what colors you are wearing when you feel most confident.” 

Hearth & Soul encourages customers to come into the stores and work alongside their stylists, who will pull from various colors. This process allows the customer to see how they feel in colors they may have been hesitant to try beforehand. 

“When a customer exits the fitting room door, and their facial expression is bright and excited, you know they love the color on them,” said Sarah Villella, manager and buyer of Narcissus Tallahassee. “Once we find that color, we pull colors from similar families, identifying if they look best in jewel tones, earth tones or a neutral palette.” 

Finding your hue can help you build a complete wardrobe by identifying analogous colors, which is where the color wheel comes into play.

Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel, such as blue sandwiched by teal and violet. As a result, these colors stemming from the same family line create comfort and uniformity in your closet. 

When looking at a color wheel, complementary colors are across from one another — red and green; yellow and purple; orange and blue. Colors that seem to juxtapose but instead work in unison. 

Fashion often coincides with beauty, where color theory can also be utilized.

“Wearing the correct makeup colors makes you look younger, the whites of your eyes look brighter, your teeth look whiter and brings harmony to your overall look,” said Lisa Davis, owner of Image by Lisa. “Wearing the wrong makeup does the opposite, aging you, and can tone down the brightness of eyes and teeth.”

Uncovering your perfect palette is a merging of science, psychology and play — your discovery results in increased confidence and perhaps even passerby compliments.

Cool skin tone

Photos by iStock / Getty Images Plus: shurkin_son

Cool Skin Tone

You have a “cool” undertone if: The veins on your wrist are blue or purple. Silvery jewelry flatters your skin tone more than gold. You look best in jewel-tones such as blues, purples and emerald greens.


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Warm Skin Tone

You have a “Warm” undertone if:  The veins on your wrist are slightly green or olive. Gold jewelry flatters your skin more than silver. When you look at your skin in the sun, it appears yellowish. You look best in earth-tones like reds, oranges, yellows, and olive-greens.

Warm Skin Tone

Photos by iStock / Getty Images Plus: Ridofranz

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Neutral Skin Tone

You have a “Neutral” undertone if: The veins on your wrist are blue-green. Both gold and silver jewelry flatter your skin. You look best in neutral colors such as light peach, dusty pinks, soft rose, placid blue and jade green.

Neutral Skin Tone

Photos by iStock / Getty Images Plus: stockfour

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