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making faces :: seasonal colour analysis for boys

what's good for the goose is good for the gander
i said i would and somehow i convinced dom to let me drape him to help determine what shades
worked best with his skin. he drew the line at a lipstick drape but i really wasn't expecting to be able to get away with that.

although most colour analysis texts and web sites are directed towards women, there is absolutely no reason why men should be excluded. after all, this is just dealing with colours that work well with the skin. it's not a question of putting on makeup [although it can help you choose makeup colours if you do wear it] or doing any sort of styling. it's just about putting on the kind of colours that you'd want to choose that are going to make you look your best. and who the hell wouldn't want to do that?

aside from the question of whether or not you want to look attractive, colour has a significant impact on the impression others have of you. the wrong ones can make you look older, unhealthier, even smaller and weaker without you ever having said a word. and the human brain will perceive those things no matter what you say to contradict the perception.

dom, like a lot of us, had found certain colours that he gravitated towards. his french background has given him what i think of as typically gallic colouring- medium skin with a noticeable olive-tan tone and very dark hair and eyes. seriously, you're not a whole lot more likely to find a natural blonde in many parts of france than you are in china. his assertion going into this exercise was that he had always found that he could wear black and earth tones.

i'm strictly a dilettante in this field, but what little i know about colour analysis told me that that wasn't possible. true black is a cold colour, at the top end of the saturation scale. earth tones are uniformly warm and usually muted. being able to wear both would require a rather significant contradiction. so i remained open-minded, but quietly convinced that only one of those choices could possibly be correct.

and as it happens, one of them kind of was.



meet dom, wrapped in neutral grey, sitting against a makeshift backdrop of bristol board and an old grey sheet.

he's happy to be here
for a few reasons, i think that dom makes a great test case for this sort of analysis. his face has a tendency to colour fairly easily, far more so than mine does [contrary to what you would think, given that i'm paler and look pinker/ cooler in tone], on top of which, he is fighting some seasonal allergies. so when a colour isn't a good match, it's immediately obvious in the form of patchy redness in the cheeks, redness on and around the nose and more obvious dark cirlces under the eyes.

i did have a suspicion as to where dom might land, although i had reason to doubt myself [i'll get to why later]. his eyes are a very dark brown but, viewed closely, have a remarkable ring of chestnut that looks a little like what happens when you stir up the bottom of a pond. that sort of deep earthy warmth encased in cooling darkness immediately made me think that either dark season- autumn or winter- could work for him. that said, seasonal matching is primarily about the skin. find the right match there and the eyes will naturally look brighter, sharper and more balanced.

up close
i started off using autumn drapes, since it did seem likely that someone with olive skin would be able to wear that palette fairly naturally.

first up, a neutral-warm deep autumn red. at least, i thought that was what i picked. the colour looks almost cherry on dom. you can see some redness on his nose, but the effect on his skin isn't terrible. what strikes me about this shot is how much louder the colour seems on him than it looks on me. [see for yourself]

dark autumn
where this option falls down for me is in the emphasis it puts on the darker colouring under his eyes and how it seems to make the rims of his eyes look a little enflamed. his face is picking up too much of the red and can't handle it. one down.

this true autumn drape threw me when i saw the photo. for a few reasons, i didn't use the same drapes on dom that i used on myself when i tried this exercise. primarily, i thought this would work better if i chose colours that a man would actually want to wear, which wouldn't extend to everything i picked for myself.

true autumn

but in this case, this is exactly the same orange shirt that i used. both of these sessions were done on overcast days, in the early afternoon and while i can't guarantee that the lighting conditions were the same, i can say that they were pretty similar. so this actually makes an excellent comparison point. against my skin, the shade is autumn's muted pumpkin. against dom's skin, it seems considerably brighter. it's overbearing.

it has a "meh" effect on the skin. i find that the redness and under-eye area are about the same as in the dark autumn photo, but i also feel like he has a bit of a yellow cast to both his skin and eyes. 

finally for the warm, earthy season, i picked a soft golden-green for soft autumn, i would have to say that i didn't hate the shade. in fact, i find it's the best of the autumn seasons.

soft autumn
there's less redness and the overall tone of his skin looks a little healthier [certainly healthier than for the true autumn shade]. the thing that stands out to me here is that his eyes seem brighter, clearer, the first time that we've seen that effect.

moving backwards in seasonal time, i tried out summer shades next.

one of the few summer browns, this sort of dusty cocoa colour is a natural for soft summers. on him, it's nearly as tragic as the season was for me.

soft summer
i don't think it's as good as the soft autumn, but it's not bad. and on me, this season was terrible. here, there's a nicely even complexion, good definition of the features, but no "wow".

i was starting to give up hope by the time that we got to true summer, because it was increasingly looking like nothing was really clicking. then this happened.

true summer
true summer, or cool summer, was decent on me, but it's even better on dom. here, his skin looks soothed and the under-eye area is much more even. i also find that his eyes seem to have snapped more into focus, always an important sign.

light summer, by comparison, was a step backwards, but not a big one. part of the problem is that i'm pretty certain the light shifted and i just didn't notice it at the time, so a lot of the yellowness you're seeing comes from that. i wasn't going to go down the road of starting to play with colour levels, because then i'm just imposing my will on things.

light summer
once again, this happens to be the same blue shirt that i used on myself. ironically, this colour really did give me a bit of a jaundiced cast, but it wasn't from the sunlight. on dom, i don't like it as much as the true summer shade, but, despite the more visible allergy redness, i find his complexion is pretty even and the eyes still look pretty good.

and light spring was a more definite step in the wrong direction. it's interesting that it's so much worse than the green i used for soft autumn.

light spring
immediately, you can see how much dark the area under his eyes has gotten. you can also see the allergy-plagued nose turning red, even though the only thing that's changed is the colour of the wrap around him.

now, i'm going to post the photo of true spring that i took, but i think we may need to disregard them. i couldn't find the shirt that i used on myself, which proved so surprisingly workable [it was buried in the laundry, where i discovered it later]. so i went for a vintage raincoat of mine that's in that perfect, sunshine and rubber ducky yellow that just screams "spring!"

concerned that the outside of the coat would reflect and cause a glare or a whitening effect, i flipped it over and used the lining side, which looked at a glance like the same colour, but when photographed looked lighter and cooler and not really like a spring yellow at all. i'd actually say this becomes a winter yellow, because it certainly doesn't have the buoyant warmth of a spring tone.

true spring?
for what it's worth, i don't hate the colour on dom. i find it leaves him a bit pale [dom's take was that it turned him blue], but it adds some pink to his cheeks [as the bright yellow did to mine] and doesn't highlight the allergic reactions. where it's decidedly not doing favours is under the eyes, but it's still not terrible. just not terribly good. but it's also not really a representation of true spring.

for reasons i'll discuss later, i didn't think it was worth a do-over on this purely warm season.

which brings us to the first of the bright seasons.

bright spring
i could see right away that dom's complexion just couldn't handle this level of saturation. in the photo, the effect is even more pronounced than it was in person, but it clearly wasn't a fit. he's completely overwhelmed by the bright orange, so much so that it looks vaguely like his head has been photoshopped in from somewhere else. intense saturation swallows him up like nothing else. you can't even tell what the effect is on his skin, because the brightness effectively erases him from the picture.

up next... bright winter. this was one of the seasons that worked the best on me.

bright winter
where are you dom? again, the bright shade is just rolling right over him. looking at the photo, i'd say that the cooler variant is a little kinder to his complexion than the warmer one, but the greater point is that i really have to concentrate on the photo to get that information. my first impression is that it looks like he's being swallowed by something.

i moved on as quickly as possible.

true winter
... and was kind of shocked by the transformation. pure black, the wintriest of winter colours, just deadened my complexion, despite the fact that the bright shades were no problem for me. on him, it's much more forgiving. his face has colour, but it's healthy colour. he looks balanced. do we have a winner?

well as it turns out, dark winter was not bad either. it's not quite as clean-looking as true winter, or true summer for that matter, but the plum shade i used here doesn't emphasize any redness.

dark winter
i find that this renders him just a little more drained of colour. his skin is even, but it doesn't have the same zest that either of the purely cool seasons had. i'd put this alongside light summer as an "almost, but not".

so what's the verdict? well, i'm not sharp enough to be able to say for certain, but looking at these photos, i'd be willing to bet that dom, despite his olive complexion, is a purely cool season, either a true summer or a true winter. the runners-up, light summer and dark winter, don't give him quite the composed look that you get when all warmth is removed. [the clear lean towards a completely cool palette was why i didn't think it was worth the effort to redo the true spring drape.]

the black drape works very well, but i'm inclined to say he's a true summer for a few reasons:

1. although black is a winter colour, darker summers can cheat it in because they have the hair [trust me on this one] and the eye colour to balance it.

2. winter seasons are marked by their ability to carry saturated colours and nothing was as bad on dom as the bright season drapes. one would assume that on a winter, bright season saturation could look a little much, but in this case, it's borderline offensive.

3. summer complexions are often described as possessing a certain fragility, which is what i see here. the introduction of almost any amount of heat seems to damage his skin, as compared to mine, which has a fairly wide tolerance for temperature, the hallmark of a neutral season.

colour analyst christine scaman describes some cool-toned skin as having what she describes as a "false overtone". it's where purely cool complexions are mistakenly thought to contain warmth because they appear olive. in fact, it's perfectly possible for skin that looks warm to be cool because what's important is the undertone, which isn't always evident. admittedly, she sees it more applying to winter skins, which might be an argument against what i've said here, but i stand by my semi-educated guess. dom's a true summer.

so what do you think? am i onto something here? or have i gone horribly wrong along the journey?

many thanks to dom for his patience letting me do this to him.

and yes, if you were wondering, the boys colouring book is a real thing. it's available through major booksellers everywhere.

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