Friday, October 13, 2017

Warm Grey and Cool Grey - Spotting the Difference

Last week when I told you that I saw lots of women in Paris stocking up on varying shades of grey, it brought up the question of different greys - warm and cool.

Of course, in its purest sense, grey is just black mixed with white, and thus should be neither cool nor warm. But when you start talking about textiles - many of which have a natural, underlying warmth to them (think unbleached cotton, or raw wool), things get more complicated.

Rather than try to come up with a theory about all of this, I'm just going to share with you a whole bunch of various items, arranged as best I can from the warmer toned to the cool. And yes, I completely cheated by putting a gradient background under these, so you can more easily see the yellow or blue undertones in each item!

Wool is often the easiest fabric in which to see warmth or coolness, because the original color of the wool was decided creamy and warm. I found that it was easier to find cooler greys in darker colors - which makes sense since that would use more dye!

And I think the gold facing on the first sweater might be a hint that it's warm, but it could also be put there as a stark contrast for a cool color... So it wasn't really a hint at all! Shortcuts would be so helpful...

grey sweaters from warm grey to cool grey
nubby crewneck – Topshop; v-neck – Banana Republic; polo – Banana Republic; bow cuffs – Banana Republic

Yes, Banana Republic has lots of cool grey sweaters right now - I particularly love the slight innovations like the collar, or the bow cuffs. A bit of distinction without being wierd or outrageous...

grey canvas shoes from warm grey to cool grey
first – Satorisan; second – Vans; third – Converse; fourth- Paul Sperry

Personally, I think that this first top is actually beige or taupe - that elusive taupe! But it was described online as grey...

And yes, the bottom right tee shirt is sort of cheating, since the color is "blue grey." Those are the kinds of indications that can be really useful when purchasing online!

grey cotton tops from warm grey to cool grey
wrap top – Alexander Wang; long-sleeved – Fat Face; bottom left – J. Crew; bottom right – Banana Republic

Grey leather is almost ALWAYS more warm than cool - another reflection of the inherent warmth of the raw material.

grey handbags from warm grey to cool grey
leather crossbody – Kate Spade New York; nylon crossbody – Marc Jacobs; nylon tote – Longchamp; backpack - Fjällräven

Just in case you're looking for a backpack in a particular color, the Fjällräven one comes in THIRTY-THREE colors...

grey jeans from warm grey to cool grey
top left – Golden Goose; top right – Marks and Spencer; bottom left – Fat Face; bottom right - Dondup

Some of the perception of warmth in a striped or printed garment will of course come from the other colors in the print - that bottom right striped top with navy in it is almost guaranteed to "read" as cool because of the blue...

grey striped tops from warm grey to cool grey
grey & white – Marks and Spencer; green striped – Current/Elliott; bottom left –Dorothy Perkins; bottom right – L.L.Bean

Please, if anybody ever buys a $50 bottle of nail polish, please let me know what you thought of it. I'm thinking that it has to provide a rather "out of body" experience to be worth that much! (and I've never seen a grey "Daffodile"... - maybe he meant "Crocodile?")

grey nail polish from warm grey to cool grey
top left – Chanel “Monochrome”; top right - Christian Louboutin "Daffodile”; bottom left – Deborah Lippman “Higher Ground”; bottom right – Chanel “Liquid Mirror”

I tried to find a cool grey pleated skirt - like the ones that I saw all over Paris last week - but I couldn't get a good image of one...

grey skirts from warm grey to cool grey
top left – Banana Republic; top right – Uniqlo; bottom left – Banana Republic; bottom right – L.L.Bean

Another case of the colors that are with the grey having some serious influence on how a color appears. The bottom left shirt has a warm pink hue in there, but I didn't feel that it overshadowed the bluish feel of the grey - your opinion may differ!

grey plaid shirts from warm grey to cool grey
top left – Uniqlo; top right – Banana Republic; bottom left – Lands’ End; bottom right – L.L.Bean

Here's a great example of the complexity of genuine pearls - the frankly fake bracelet in the bottom right is strongly metallic dark grey, while the multi-strand bracelet above it could really be either warm OR cool, depending on what it was with. Worn with navy, this plum and peacock blue in these pearls would stand out, and the entire bracelet would have a cool feel...

grey pearl bracelets from warm grey to cool grey
top left – Sydney Evan; top right – Bloomingdale’s; bottom left - Majorica; bottom right - Nadri

There are no rights or wrongs in the choices of grey - it's strictly what you like. But it is worth bearing in mind that some greys might not play nicely together - carry the essential pieces with you if you must match or blend your undertones!

love,
Janice
Warm Grey and Cool Grey - Spotting the Difference
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30 comments:

  1. Thankyou for a great post. Definitions can get in the way of a good post. Grey is black and white mixed together so no colour (achromatic). I go a bit crazy when told grey is a cool colour. All depends on definitions. Perhaps cool is an absence of warmth (orange, yellow & red). Set theory - Cool is the complement of warm (orange, yellow & red) so grey, white and black are cool. Oh dear! Personally, I think that grey is the absence of colour but I agree that greys can sway a bit to warm or a bit to cool. Carol S

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    1. You think the same way I do - set theory in the world of colors... We're nuts, in the best of ways!
      big hug for Friday,
      Janice

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    2. I have been known to tea dye some of my light grey t-shirts to sway them to warm. The tea I use gives them a dull reddish brown look. Carol S

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  2. Personally I don't like gray color.But the images you provide in your blog is such an amazing very beautiful.Thank you so much for the amazing blog post.

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  3. I have the Chanel nail polishes (they were a birthday gift) and I can tell you that while they do last years without getting thick or gloppy, they go on the same as any other decent nail polish.

    Grey is very in style currently but the light grey is very hard to wear for most women. It often makes you look washed out when worn near the face. If I am going to wear grey, I try to stick to dark grey.

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    1. Good to know! I want to hear from anybody who has ever purchased the Louboutin polish too - it just seems TOO extravagant...
      hugs,
      Janice

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  4. Strictly speeking, only pure white and pure grey and their shades are neither warm nor cool.

    As soon, as you have yellow or blue tint in the white (and in the grey), the color swings into warm or cool spectrum. And in the clothing or accessories, there are not many whites/greys without any tint. How much and how visible is it would be another question...

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  5. Great Post. However, as well presented as this information is, I just can't see the underlying colors.

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    1. Some people just don't see it - I wouldn't worry too much about it. Between my computer and your computer, it's very possible that things don't come through as intended. It's a good thing that we're just doing this for clothing and accessories - if it were life and death, we'd be in trouble!
      Friday hugs,
      Janice

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  6. Interesting... I was discounting grey as a color I wear because I don't look good in grey. Maybe I was wearing warm and I should wear cool? My daughter thinks I would look good in dark grey and most of what I own is light.
    I noticed something about what you chose - most of the warm greys were light and the cool greys are dark. Is that necessarily true? (Of course I see that you also point out that grey should actually be exactly neutral.)

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    1. I think dark grey is more likely to look "cool" because it plain and simply has more grey dye in the item, and that extra dye covers up the inherent warmth of most natural fabrics (like wool, linen etc.) As much as I looked for pieces that didn't follow this pattern, it pretty much held true everywhere I searched!

      Definitely consider some "different" grey to see if it might suit you - I think that darker charcoal grey is very elegant, and a nice change from black.

      Friday hugs,
      Janice

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    2. So I'm a pale (bottle) redhead with green eyes who has been told she should wear warm, but a bajillion years ago when I had my colors done I was pegged a summer, which is cool and muted. I generally prefer autumn colors but seem to be one of those weirdos who can wear both warm and cool toned items as long as they don't veer either too warm or too cool. (I started giving myself fits about whittling down my wardrobe into only cool or only warm and had to just let that idea go. Too many favorites on both sides!) I have found that a bigger factor for me is the intensity of the color. Light greys don't work for me, but medium to dark greys can.

      Also, I've always ascribed the warmth or coolness in grey/black to the base of the black--some seem more greenish and some more bluish, particularly as they fade. But maybe that was the underlying fabric all along?

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    3. Check out sci/art color analysis. There are now 12 catagories. Many people are more neutral. I was analysed as summer many years ago. Now I am considered light summer which is a cool neutral between spring and summer coloring.

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  7. Do some stores sell warm colours vs cool colours, or is it just what is fashionable for the season? I usually buy my clothing from LLBean and I've noticed that this falls offering is mostly cool colours. I look best in slightly warm colours and have ordered a camel coloured sweater from them. I hoping it is not Taupish (is that a word?) rather than golden camel.

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    1. I think that some stores have a decided "point of view" about colors; it just stands to reason that if you've got buyers making decisions about what will be in a store, the merchandise will to some degree reflect those buyers' preferences. Also, I think that at least some stores (Talbot's, J.Jill etc.) make a conscious effort to build "stories" around related garments. If you can find a store that's on the same wavelength as you - you're IN!
      hugs,
      Janice

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    2. I just went through my grey clothes and the warm, soft medium to light greys passed the test, where
      as the cool darker greys didn't. Great post. I would like to see similar ones for other colours.
      Thank you. I will now check out J.Jill as I'm not familiar with it living in Canada. I used to buy a lot from Talbots when I lived in the city, but now I live in a small village and online ordering from Talbots is not user friendly.

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  8. As a wearer of grey I am very picky about the undertones of the grey I wear closest to my face. As a fair skinned person with blue eyes, I always prefer light grey with a blueish or silvery undertone. If it has a brown or yellow undertone (which many greys do), it makes me look and feel quite ill. I also like to wear the darker greys (e.g. charcoal) on the bottom half, otherwise they would also drain the colour from my face in the same way that black does. Sharon, U.K.

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  9. This is one reason I don't buy much gray. Sometimes when you put two pieces together, there's something just "off" with the shades. Black is boring but easier.

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  10. Thank you! This post is so helpful. The light grey I've found to be very flattering on me- not so the dark. The light greyi love is of a particular hue. The best word for it I can think of is pearlescent. Ah! the failure of words for colors!! . I just know I love it and it blends so well with my accents: blues, blue/greens and occasional pink. And yay! Longchomp has grey with grey handles! Janice Collins, Washington DC

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  11. I am currently on the hunt for a gray dress although after a bit of shopping yesterday I feel like I want to give up. Gray is a challenging color but I'm thinking it would be a good backdrop to many of my scarves. I can see now that a "warmer" gray is better for me. Too bad you didn't find more in pleated skirts; I love pleated skirts!

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  12. Good - and interesting post,, Janice. I moved to gray a couple of years ago, when i realized that my black/white/red wardrobe was draining color from my aging face. Now i'm gray/white/pink instead ... well, sometimes gray/white/aqua! But have found that the warmer grays are not good. (It may be that old "seasons" system, in which i was a "blue-white winter". The fall/spring golden tones just kill me. Thanks for all the hard work.

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  13. Greys can definitely vary in warmth. While your theory is of course correct - by definition, gray is black + white - in practice I suspect that manufacturers add other pigments to make their gray dyes, further muddying the waters, so to speak. I think this adds life and complexity to the finished color. Thinking of paint, a true grey can be a little dead looking, but a true neutral gray is a perfect backdrop to see a particular color in its actual appearance, not influenced by how other surrounding colors would make it look. So, yes, the underlying fabric as well as the amount of dye used account for (some) of the warmth we see in a garment's color, and also the actual composition of the dye has a major affect on whether a gray garment is perfectly neutral or tends to warm or cool. - nancyo

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  14. You're talking my colour, Janice. I even lucky-drawed your grey wash silk scarf beauty, remember?! I was so excited to read your recent Paris observations - grey, all shades and on all jeans. An aunty gave me my first grey turtle neck when I was 14 and I've just realised that I've been a fan for over 50 years. Me and grey have had our golden anniversary! Hugs, x.

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  15. Here is an interesting article about neutrals on the Mason Dixon Knitting web site: https://www.masondixonknitting.com/color-cheerful-guide-knitters-part-v/

    Hann

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    1. Fascinating! Thanks for taking the time to share it with us all!
      hugs,
      Janice

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    2. Thanks for sharing this. It was very interesting and informative!

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  16. Thanks so much for this post! I've long since realized that my two favorite neutrals are denim and natural linen, but I've been needing something that can be dressier and more suitable for the winter months. I've tried both black and navy over the past few years, but my eye perceives them both as colors rather than neutrals, so they're out. Next I considered brown because I love it, but there are so few browns that work well near my face.

    Grey works with both my neutrals, looks good near my face, and should work with all the accent colors I love. I'm going to be trying it out over the next year or so. Thanks for bringing it up again!

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  17. Gray is my black. I don't wear black, but love gray. I have always considered it a cool color, and I have to say it's hard for me to see the difference, other than maybe the general rule that lighter grays may be warmer? Interesting post; I will have to look at my grays and see if I can tell which might be warmer.

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    1. Maybe you just naturally gravitation to cooler greys and don't even own something warmer? Or maybe you've just got a good eye in general and manage to blend the different shades well? Neither of these would surprise me, in your case!
      hugs,
      Janice

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  18. Differentiating grays on my computer screen doesn't work. However, the differences are very obvious every time I try to put together cool, darker grays to work with my white-gray hair.

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