There are two ways to choose the colour suits we wear. One way is to wear what best flatters our complexion. The other way is to dress according to our surroundings, which considers the physical location, its climate and the season. This is the most traditional way men pick the colours they wear, particularly their suits. Just as there are four general types of complexions, the same four types each correspond to a location and a season.
Winter and the City
Suits for the city reflect the cold-looking grey stone and metal and the blue asphalt of the city, hence grey and blue are the suit colours worn there. Because it is where business is conducted, the city is a formal place, and blue and grey suits may have become the most formal colours for suits due to their association with the city. And since the city is a formal place, the blues and greys of the city are dark, serious shades like navy and charcoal. City greys can be in lighter shades than city blues since medium grey retains an austere look whilst medium blue looks more festive. Black is traditionally reserved for more formal clothes than lounge suits, and because of this it will not be discussed along with blue and grey suits. City suits are typically in smooth, dressy cloths such as serge, herringbone and plain-weave worsteds as well as in woolen and worsted flannels. For more luxurious city suits, mohair, cashmere and silk may be blended in with the wool. City suitings are, for the most part, the only suitings that appropriate with pinstripes and chalk stripes.
These dark, cool colours of city suits belong to the winter season, which feels as dark and cold as the stone and metal of the city. The colours of the city fit in well anywhere that is dark and cold. These colours can be worn quite appropriately outside of the city in the winter, and grey tweed is an example of this for winter in the country.
Timothy Dalton wears a navy suit with grey chalk stripes in The Living Daylights
Dark, cool city colours best flatter people with a “winter” complexion, which is a cool complexion with a high contrast between the skin tone and hair. James Bond classically has this sort of complexion, and it is exemplified by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Bond usually wears classic city suits when at the office and around London. Sean Connery’s navy worsted suit in From Russia with Love, George Lazenby’s navy herringbone suit and flannel chalkstripe suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Roger Moore’s charcoal rope stripe worsted suit in Octopussy and Daniel Craig’s grey herringbone track stripe worsted, silk and mohair suit in Spectre are all solid examples of suits to wear in the city.
Autumn and the Country
The colours of country suits are earth tones from nature, and the trees tell us what colours to wear when surrounded by nature. Tree trunks are brown, and brown is at the core of country suits. We generally think of leaves as green, hence another country colour. In autumn, leaves turn red, orange and gold, and these in turn are also country colours. The most traditional country suits are in shades of brown, olive and rust, which reflect the colours of the country but aren’t as bold as the colours of autumnal foliage. Country suits have more texture than city suits to reflect the textures found in nature, and they also need to be in harder wearing cloths to withstand country pursuits such as riding and shooting. Because the British countryside is a cool place, country suits are traditionally heavier suits. Often they are made in hearty tweed, cavalry twill, covert twill and whipcord wools. Cotton corduroy in a great choice for more casual suits in the country.
Though autumn is a cool season, autumn and country colours are warm and best flatter people with a warm complexion, particularly one with a high contrast. Auric Goldfinger has the classic complexion that looks best in country colours.
George Lazenby’s brown tic-pattern tweed suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Roger Moore’s brown donegal tweed suit in Moonraker are classic country suits. Pierce Brosnan exchanges browns for something cooler and wears a charcoal windowpane tweed suit in the Scottish countryside in The World Is Not Enough. Charcoal is more flattering to his cool skin tone than earth tones are, and because it is wintertime, Brosnan’s wintry charcoal is appropriate in a country tweed. James Bond wears very few country suits throughout the series, partly because the classic Bond’s cool complexion doesn’t look good in country colours and partly because heavy country suits tend to look old-fashioned.
Summer and the Tropics and Desert
Though the tropics are wet whilst the desert is dry, both are hot places where light-coloured suits are worn so they reflect the heat of the sun rather than absorb it. The suits worn in the tropics and desert are in light, neutral colours such as light grey, tan, beige and cream. Lighter muted blues such as air force blue are also excellent in the tropics, though they may look too colourful in the desert.
Suits for the tropics and desert foremost need to breathe. Warm-weather wool should be high-twist in an open plain weave, such as tropical wool or, ideally, fresco. Twills should generally be avoided, though gabardine has the right look in the tropics for those who can bear the heat. Mohair and linen are the fibres that are best-known for their cool-wearing properties. The former is perfect for dressier suits whilst the latter is better for the most informal of suits because it wrinkles the moment it is donned. Cotton poplin is also popular for warm-weather suits, but its only advantage is that it is inexpensive. Though it feels light, it doesn’t breathe as well as open-weave wool, mohair or linen, and at the end of the day it only looks marginally less wrinkled than linen looks. It also wears out more quickly than other warm-weather suitings and isn’t worth being made as a bespoke suit.
The colours of summer suits best flatter someone with a light, low-contrast and muted complexion. Grey is best for people with a cool complexion like Sean Connery, whilst tan, beige and cream are best for people with a warm complexion like Roger Moore. Sean Connery wears a light semi-solid grey mohair suit in the tropical Bahamas in Thunderball, and he wears a light grey tropical wool suit in the Las Vegas desert in Diamonds Are Forever. Also in Diamonds Are Forever, Connery wears a classic summer cream linen suit in Las Vegas. Roger Moore continues with a light grey tropical wool suit in Live and Let Die when visiting the tropical island of San Monique, but he switches to a more flattering (colour-wise) cream polyester suit in Moonraker that looks appropriate in sunny Rio de Janeiro but surely must wear warm. Pierce Brosnan darkens Bond’s tropical suit with tan linen suits in GoldenEye and Die Another Day. Daniel Craig brings back the light grey suit in linen in Casino Royale when arriving in the Bahamas.
Spring and the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean is a colourful region with beautiful weather, and the suits to wear in the Mediterranean and regions with a moderate mediterranean climate reflect this. Blue suits in medium shades like marine blue and air force blue recall the sea and the sky. Brown, tan and cream suits recall the sand of the Mediterranean beaches. These warm colours fit the sunny yet moderate weather of the region.
The rich, warm and bright colours of mediterranean suits follow the essence of spring and best flatter people with a low-contrast warm complexion. For those with cooler complexions, medium grey—particularly in checks—fits in with the moderate weather. Mediterranean and spring suits are typically in medium weight worsteds, from lighter serge to gabardine to fresco. Cloths with a sheen, such a mohair and silk, are also excellent for mediterranean areas since they take full advantage of the sunny weather.
Sean Connery wore many medium-grey-toned glen checks throughout his Bond films, including two in the mediterranean Istanbul in From Russia with Love. He also wears a grey pick-and-pick suit in Istanbul in From Russia with Love, which Daniel Craig wears in a lighter tone when Bond returns to Istanbul in Skyfall. Roger Moore wears classic warm-toned mediterranean suits, not only because he spends a lot of time in the Mediterranean in his Bond films but also because these mediterranean colours best flatter his warm complexion. His suits include a marine blue mohair suit in Beirut in The Man with the Golden Gun, a light brown dupioni silk suit in Sardinia in The Spy Who Loved Me, a grey dupioni silk suit in Venice in Moonraker and a light brown gabardine suit in Corfu in For Your Eyes Only. In A View to a Kill, Moore wears a tan gabardine suit in San Francisco, where there is a mediterranean climate. In Spectre, Daniel Craig wears a medium blue Prince of Wales suit in Spectre in Mexico City that reflects the region’s moderate weather.
These are all only guidelines as to the best cloths to wear in different locations during the different seasons. All four of the categories presented have some overlap with every other category. The best-dressed man looks both in to himself and out at his surroundings when choosing his clothes. The ideal colours for us to wear need to be a compromise between what flatters our own complexions whilst fitting out with our surroundings. For example, someone with a light complexion should avoid the dark colours that dominate the city suits in favour of medium shades of blue and grey. Someone with a cool complexion should wear greys instead of tans in mediterranean regions and mute the browns of the country with taupe and grey.
Since dark city colours are the most formal, they can be made up in non-city suiting for formal occasions in other types of locations and climates. Daniel Craig’s dark and breathable midnight blue mohair tonic suit in Quantum of Solace is an example of this. Country colours can be made up into more formal city worsteds for suburban business. An example of this is the dark brown mohair suit that Sean Connery wears to the office in London in Thunderball. Because it is brown, this suit should have ideally been worn further from Whitehall. But this particular brown is very dark and mixed with black for a serious look that doesn’t stand out amongst the standard navy and charcoal. This would be a flattering choice in the city for someone with a warm complexion who doesn’t look good in the usual city colours. There are many ways to bend the guidelines presented here, and with a bit of thought one can always be well-dressed to suit both his surroundings and himself.