The Biomimicry Color Theory and a “Color Tier List”

Color is perhaps one of the most difficult things to get right for beginners. We hear a bunch of things about dark blue, brown, grey being “basic colors” and very “safe” as far as building a wardrobe goes. That’s why dark jeans (navy blue), cdb in beeswax (brown) and a top like a grey OCBD so invaluable and popular. But have you ever thought about why this is? why are colors like navy blue and dark brown so easy on the eyes, as compared to something like hot pink or bright green? Why do colors like navy blue and khakis seem to work sowell together?Let me start by introducing the concept of Biomimicry ( In my business sustainability class we learned that many firms draw parallels in business processes with mother nature herself in order to increase efficiency and sustainability.I realized that similar parallels can be drawn in the world of men’s fashion. The reason why some colors are “safer” than others, and why some color combinations just work so well together can be explained through Biomimcry. Really!

The reason why some colors are inherently “safer” than others is because they are more commonly found in nature. Similarly some colors are incredibly hard on the eyes because they exist rarely outside of artificial means, or seldom appear in our surroundings at all.

Let me now introduce my “Color danger level” tier list;


The lower you go down in the list, the more dangerous territory you tread on. Keep in mind when I show a color, I am assuming a few shades of deviations are all grouped under the single color name. Now for a full breakdown of the list! TRY TO KEEP UP!

—–BLACK AND WHITE TIER – Super special no tier

Black and White are very special “colors” in fashion—they aren’t colors at all. Scroll down to the end to hear my opinion on them

—–COMPLETE SAFETY TIER – Super safe and dummy proof. God Tier Colors.

“Earthy” Browns: Doesn’t get much safer than this. Brown is seen everywhere in nature—in dirt, mud, the trunks of trees, the hide of animals, dead leaves on the ground, rocks of cliffs, and shores of sand. It is perhaps one of the most abundant colors in nature off of sheer variety alone.

Dark/Navy Blue: Ah, this is a classic. Why is this color so easy on the eyes? Because it’s the color of the god damn ocean. The god damn ocean that makes up 70% of the Earth’s surface. It’s a color that is symbolic with life ON EARTH.

Grey (and all varieties of it): Can be considered a shade of white/black I suppose, but pure white/black is hard to find in nature. Grey is a very safe color to have in your wardrobe in many different shades. Rocks come in all shades of grey. And rocks are fucking everywhere.

—–SAFE TIER – still very safe colors, although not as ‘dummy proof’ as the ones mentioned above. High Tier

Forest Greens: Well you all saw this coming. Forests, foliage, grass, marshes, are all green. The earthiest, darkest greens are the best—ones found deep inside the forests.

Dark Yellow/Gold: Wheat, Sand, the more “golden brown” of nature. Dying grass, dying leaves, the shade of yellow that is synonymous with the beginning of the fall season. Kind of on the other side of the spectrum with the earthier brown mentioned before (Khakis would fall somewhere inbetween) but both of these colors are extremely safe to have in your wardrobe.

Sky Blue: The god damn sky son.

—–CAUTIOUS TIER – possibly dangerous colors, Can look very out of place in certain outfits. Mid Tier

Maroon: Seasonally dependant, but personally I find maroon a gorgeous color. You really only see this color during the fall time on leaves but the color itself is gorgeous. With the correct shade, a deep red can make or break many outfits

Dull/Pumpkin orange: Seasonally dependant like red, but generally harder to find a shade of “orange” without approaching brown or golden brown territory. Most abundant on leaves during autumn.

—–SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS TIER – I would advise to stay away from these colors unless you know what you are doing. Low tier

Amethyst/purple: I’ve always thought the color purple is very strange to match clothing with, and rightly so, you don’t see the color purple in nature outside of certain unique flowers. That being said, I still think purple is a gorgeous color, but I still don’t own any purple clothing (apart from ties) because the territory is so foreign. The color does appear sometimes in certain seasons during certain times of the day/night in the sky, but the color is far from common.

Light/Lavender Pink: I think light pink marks the boundary line between wearable, reasonable colors and colors that begin to get ridiculous. Light pink works in certain outfits, but you have to be careful or risk looking like a flamboyant try-hard. Once again drawing parallels to nature, you find the color quite scarcely in nature, saving places like Japan which have the Sakura tree.

Now onto the fun part. Everything below I would consider dangerous, they are generally not found in nature or found only in very, very specific parts of the world.

—–RUNNING WITH SCISSORS TIER – AKA “Kindergarten colors” – Shit tier

Web Ass looking colors. All colors here are incredibly bold and I would advise staying away from them unless you seriously know what you are doing, or they are accompanied with a very monochromatic or dull outfit. They seldom appear in nature, or appear anywhere at all except in Kindergarten picture books teaching kids about color.

—–LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE – AKA “Furiously Fluorescent” Diarrhea Tier

Fluorescent colors. Try to imagine these are the “Highlighter” colors you find in your local stationary store. They are bright, obtrusive, and reflect more light then a crossing guard’s uniform. To be honest I would avoid these colors at all costs unless you lived in the 70s. They are also ridiculously artificial, they can’t be found anywhere in nature.


Ugly ass pink color- Pretty much the hardest color to pull off. Ever.


While these two “colors” are not the most abundant in nature. They have the characteristic of being able to fit into any outfit…at certain times. They are both the easiest and hardest to pull off.

END OF TIER LIST ———————————————-

—–> The concept of matching colors

If you see things work in nature, they will probably work on your clothes too. An example I used in another thread was the beach. The Ocean is navy blue, ripples of the waves are white, and the sand is golden brown.

White buttondown, navy blue sweater and chinos.

How about a Tree? The Leaves are a deep lush green, slightly wilting leaves are a shade of dark yellow, and the trunk of the trees are brown.

White buttondown with a dark yellow sweater, green jacket over it, brown chinos.

A Field of wheat. Now you may think an environment like the is would be monotonous..but take in the bigger picture. The wheat is a golden light brown, the soil beneath it much more dark and earthy, and the sky above it is light blue.

Sky blue OCBD, khakis, CDB in beeswax. The MFA uniform.

Lake inside of a forest. The trees in the forest a lush green, mountain ranges in the back a pale grey, the lake itself a deep blue, and the shadows of the dense foliage black.

Grey sweater, Green jacket over it, Dark blue jeans, and black boots to finish.

DISCLAIMER: Keep in mind this is geared towards people just starting out and looking for a sense of direction while still developing their own style. Obviously there are major exceptions to everything I wrote, people can pull off anything(dat undershirt) , and even with the most neutral colors, overuse or poor placement can still make everything look out of place. I have not taken different fabric, patterns, seasons, even occasions into consideration so there are still many factors left out of the color loop. However I still feel like this theory is a very good starting point for those of us (including me) still unexperienced.

TL;DR Imitating nature is how we define whether a color is “neutral” or not. We can also look into nature to find different combinations of colors that work.

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