THE COLOR CONNECTION Wearing just two colors gives a man a reliably elegant, put-together look


Q: Some time ago you printed a formula to help men know what colors to put together. The guys who dress well seem to have this ability instinctively, but I'm not one of them. Would you print your system again to make life easier for a lot of us?

A: Wearing two colors is the top executives' way of dressing. It is striking and never goes out of style. When you notice an especially well-dressed man, you may turn to see what he has done to catch your eye. Usually, he is wearing only two colors. A classic example: navy suit, pale yellow shirt, and blue-and-yellow print tie.

Reliable and easy, two-color dressing offers possibilities for dozens of elegant combinations. Once you have the hang of it, you can practically never go wrong. It becomes second nature. This is the system:

* Start with the suit. It is your base color.

* Add a second, contrast color with the shirt. It is your accent.

* With the tie, you tie it all together by repeating the two colors.

Your suit, let's say, is dark gray, making gray your base color. Next, add a shirt in a contrasting color, maybe a red and white fine stripe. Now you have two colors -- gray and red. (White in the striped shirt doesn't count.) Your third selection is the necktie. To tie the colors together, choose a pattern in some shade of red -- from bright to burgundy -- with a small gray (or black) pattern in it. Your three-piece outfit is complete, with two colors.

Some morning as you're getting dressed, you may put together an outfit that your mirror tells you doesn't quite make it, but you're not exactly sure what's wrong. Check to see how many colors you are wearing. Probably you've added a heavy dose of (( an extra color. Not that you can't have a third color in a stripe or in the pattern of your tie, but in effect your eye should see two colors.

Q: I am 26, over six feet, and quite thin. Being one who abhors the traditional blue suit concept, I have tried to alter that style, but am careful not to violate the business-like attitude of my profession given the clients I must deal with. As I have always liked the style of the 1940s and '50s, I've tried to adopt a style reminiscent of that time. Obviously, I am pleased that current men's fashion reflects that era since the "peg leg" style of pleated pants and a double-breasted jacket both match my preferred style and help disguise my overall size.

My question relates more to the "finishing touches" of the suit, namely a tie clip. I wonder if a tie clip is considered out of style and if there is a proper way of wearing one (halfway down the tie, whether the clip must span the entire tie, what color clip should be worn with different color suits, etc.).

A: Your question shows a refreshing awareness of what works best for you, especially that a double-breasted jacket helps disguise your slim build. Too few men understand how to camouflage what they perceive (even if others do not agree) as their body flaws.

Though tie clips have been out of vogue for some time, some men who are not afraid to swim against the mainstream have always worn them -- Jesse Jackson's signature stick pins come to mind. Cole Haan Accessories just introduced a collection of tie clips and bars, based on recently discovered old dies and molds.

A clip is worn about halfway or a little lower on the tie; it does not span the entire tie's width (with today's wider ties approaching four inches, that would be a major piece of jewelry); and the color of the clip need not change with different color suits, but rather should relate to your other jewelry -- gold or silver.

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