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Colour and Menswear

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

Simple question: how do you use colour? Put even simpler, do you like colour?

 

I find colour one of the most interesting ways in which we express ourselves. It has such powerful sociocultural associations that you can even stereotype entire decades by colour: when I think 1970s, tan/brown/yellow/orange spring to mind; the 80s are black/red/neon/navy; the 90s khaki/beige/olive/sky blue; and 00s silver/grey/white/purple. Combine that power with the fact that colour is generally the first thing you notice about someone's outfit and it's a potent potential message.

 

Obviously some items naturally take more conservative colours (e.g. suits in dark navy & grey) but with the decreasing necessity of wearing traditional suits for work and a wider societal acceptance of more varied colours within menswear, there's a greater scope to use colour in a more deliberate/dynamic way. Some people find comfort in a uniform, or perhaps a narrow colour theme; others have more variegated wardrobes. Some consider skin tone, others pay it short shrift. Some even delight in the effect of deliberately clashing colours. In various historical eras, menswear has been a riot of colour, while in others its been very uniform. There's still huge variation in that between different parts of the world.

 

So I ask again, how do you use colour? And for those of you who still operate in a conservative business environment, do you carry that over in terms of conservative/traditional colours out of work, or do you opt for a broader palette in your own time? Do you see yourself as still in that conservative identity when "off duty" or as something else?

post #2 of 34
I like color. I've gone through several phases but am now at the point where I expect to continue to incorporate color in various ways. I currently work in a business casual environment in a conservative industry (law firm). I suspect it may be due to a more casual dress code, but people are not ultra-conservative in their dress and wearing pink and lilac shirts is not exactly out of place. Since my office is not particularly conservative with dress despite the industry, I don't notice much of a difference in how I dress for work vs. how I dress in other contexts that call for classic menswear. If my office were more conservative in terms of dress, this would probably be a different story.

My non-casual wardrobe consists of a lot of grey trousers, conservative colored solid suits (my most aggressive suit purchase will probably be a tan linen for summer) and relatively boring odd jackets. I probably wear a jacket and tie once during the work week and once on the weekend. If I want interesting color, it's going to come from my shirts and ties and I feel like I need a variety of shirts to avoid the grey trouser and light blue shirt uniform look (I prefer not to wear white shirts without a tie and don't own OCBDs). So light blue, pink and lilac shirts are my staples (in that order).

With respect to ties, outside of the basic black, blue and grey ties that get paired with white shirts, I have ties in various shades of green, purple, pink, burgundy and orange that I get a lot of mileage out of. They're generally worn with a non-white shirt.

I'm a big fan of trying out different shirt and tie combinations and try to avoid having a uniform look. I have the occasional misfire (though these get rarer as I age) but definitely do not like clashing. I ignore potential skin tone issues with certain colors (in theory I should not wear pink but I love the color). I generally experiment more with color with odd jacket and trouser outfits and less so with suits, which I am starting to mostly wear with white shirts and conservative ties.
post #3 of 34

I have hit a color road-block of sorts, hopefully this thread can serve as some inspiration. Having only taken up clothing as a hobby ~1.5 years ago, I have been diligent on focusing my efforts on the typical "staple/versatile" foundational peices. The proposed benefit has absolutely been realized, as it is extremely easy for me to mix and match everything with the other pieces in my wardrobe. The downside is I have hit a rut with regards to the color ranges in my outfits - the majority of what I wear consists of some combination of light blue, navy, white, and brown, with pants usually some equally soporific color such as light khaki, stone/light gray, etc.

 

While I doubt those around me recognize that I have a semblance of a "uniform", the light blue patterned shirt with a navy blazer and whie linen square is getting a little old for me. Not having the budget to greatly expand my wardrobe immediately, finding a small number of items to introduce new colors to my fits while still being versatile has proven to be a head scratcher. Certain colors, like red, just don't work with my complexion at all. Other colors I do like, such as purple, I find difficult to mesh with all of the "boring" colors that currently make up my wardrobe. I am hopelessly lost on my next Pocket Square purchase - everytime I think of pulling the trigger, I imagine my outfits with my white linen instead of the one I am considering buying and decide ultimately the white linen is a better look.

 

So for those with guidance, now that I have effectively filled out the standard navy/charcoal/light blue/white/brown spectrum my wardrobe, what is a good "next step" to introduce additional colors to the party while still being harmonious? What types of clothing would be the best place to start to branch out, and what should I be looking for in those peices so I maintain an understated look?


Edited by PiCcolocV - 7/31/13 at 11:59am
post #4 of 34
I think shirts and ties are a great way to add additional color. They have the advantage of being relatively cheap compared to things like suits / jackets / trousers. Pink and lilac are both useful shirt colors; pink in particular looks great with grey. As for ties, you can wear pretty much everything other than light blue on a light blue background. For the pink shirt, burgundy ties are best but there are other options. For a lilac shirt, green ties are an excellent pairing. There are other combinations that work with these as well. Maybe buy one pink shirt, one lilac shirt and a couple of more colorful ties. Both the green and burgundy ties will go fine with a pale blue shirt if you end up not being a fan of pink or lilac. Two shirts and two ties is a pretty cheap experiment as much as experiments with clothing can be cheap.

Refrain from the pocket square purchase for awhile. There's nothing wrong with white linen and it's much easier to experiment with pocket squares once you have more experience pairing shirts and ties.
post #5 of 34
I like this post, HF. Small complaint: you keep spelling "color" wrong. stirpot.gif

At risk of riding this tiring hobby horse straight into the ground, I find it naff when someone puts a brightly colored tie in the middle an otherwise sedate outfit of dark suit, black shoes, and white shirt. It's a forced addition of color because they think they have to have some color. It sticks out to the point that all you can see is the tie. Same thing with bandaid colored shoes worn with a navy suit. They just work as foot highlighters. Colors need to be combined with other colors, else they look lonely.

The basic colors of menswear are brown (and all its lighter variants like tan), black, white, blue, and grey. That's it. Items in those colors and those colors only should be at least 3/4 of your suit/trouser/SC/shirt/shoe wardrobe, and probably at least half of your tie/pocket square wardrobe as well, at least until you get to a really big wardrobe where your marginal items are worn so rarely that it hardly matters how versatile they are. You could easily have an entire wardrobe of nothing but those colors, be very well dressed, and never be bored with your clothes. These colors describe probably 90% of the surface area of my wardrobe.

For me, the next most interesting shades are (mostly deep) greens and pinks. Then teal (surprisingly versatile color), burnt orange and the occasional lilac. Now I've described 99.9% of the surface area of all my clothing.

Shades of red other than pink I almost never wear. I think its aggressive/businessman/Republican/power tie connotations have turned me off. Yellow I almost never wear. I just don't think it complements my complexion very much.
post #6 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

The basic colors of menswear are brown (and all its lighter variants like tan), black, white, blue, and grey. That's it. Items in those colors and those colors only should be at least 3/4 of your suit/trouser/SC/shirt/shoe wardrobe, and probably at least half of your tie/pocket square wardrobe as well, at least until you get to a really big wardrobe where your marginal items are worn so rarely that it hardly matters how versatile they are. You could easily have an entire wardrobe of nothing but those colors, be very well dressed, and never be bored with your clothes. These colors describe probably 90% of the surface area of my wardrobe.

 

I'm not going to disagree with this as advice for people looking to start dressing better and I also agree that you could indeed have nothing but these colours (or in fact a far more limited palette) and be well dressed. However, I think it's rather sad as a statement on the timidity of our aesthetics if it is to be taken as setting the limits of what can work in menswear (and I know you aren't saying this). There are longstanding traditions in tailoring (not to mention streetwear, but that's another discussion) that engage far more with colour from foppery to zoot suits and the black / african-american peacocking styles to Nutter and Boateng etc. Not everything conforms to the legacy of Beau Brummel. I remember the 'discussion' we had here a while back when someone posted a beautiful suit from Paul Stuart's Phineas Cole range, which committed the apparently terrible crime of being a rich red rust colour.  This was something that ticked every other SF box: materials, quality of manufacture, fit - it was simply the colour that turned it from a lovely piece of clothing into an object of mockery for some. I found this both interesting and disappointing.

 

(and thank-you to HF for starting this thread)


Edited by FlyingMonkey - 7/31/13 at 9:05pm
post #7 of 34
Brunmell's successor as the dandy king of London, d'Orsay, wore colorful velvet waistcoats - usually two at a time.
post #8 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

Brunmell's successor as the dandy king of London, d'Orsay, wore colorful velvet waistcoats - usually two at a time.

 

We don't have to do that far... smile.gif

post #9 of 34
I like color, and try to incorporate it harmoniously into my clothing, but I'm sure I could do better.


I actually just bought and have started to read a book called "Color for Men" about harmonizing color with your complexion, eyes, etc. Some interesting concepts there. I'm hoping to get some color consulting by an expert before year's end.
post #10 of 34
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by PiCcolocV View Post

I have hit a color road-block of sorts, hopefully this thread can serve as some inspiration...

 

... now that I have effectively filled out the standard navy/charcoal/light blue/white/brown spectrum my wardrobe, what is a good "next step" to introduce additional colors to the party while still being harmonious?

 

I think the best option is to think in terms of sets of colours to introduce rather than single new colours. The obvious starting point is what you already have, and thinking about what naturally goes with that. Orange in a variety of shades is surprisingly easy addition, because it goes well with the various shades of blue you already have, and to some extent the browns. Same with dark green. While many start adding colour with pink (for shirts), I actually think pink is a very hard colour to integrate. It takes a lot more skill to work it (or lilac, purple, etc) into a look IMO.

 

I like looking to the natural world to come up with colour combinations: think about what colours make for pretty landscapes, or plants, or animals, and try introducing those colour groups. The natural world also frequently gets the proportions right: eg a green plant may have a small splash of vibrant pink for its flowers; vice versa would be overwhelmingly pink. So when you're just starting introducing new colours, using them sparingly as tie accents or pocket square details, makes sense. On the flip side, violently clashing colours such as that used for warnings (eg. black & yellow wasp markings) has a similarly violently attention-grabbing effect when used in an outfit. Also on this nature segue, try to consider the environment around you when dressing: things like varying light levels mean that rich/saturated colours work better in the winter while lighter/paler colours look nicer in the summer. You can also try to echo some of the seasonal colours around you, though do this sparingly unless you don't mind the occasional caricature effect this can create.

 

(the above is all a way of easing yourself into actual colour theory, but is a more gentle, practical & intuitive introduction than starting off with sterile colour wheels or aesthetic theory).

 

Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

For me, the next most interesting shades are (mostly deep) greens and pinks. Then teal (surprisingly versatile color), burnt orange and the occasional lilac...Yellow I almost never wear.

 

I like teal, but find it exceptionally hard to incorporate. Do you have any examples? I recently got a teal-ish DB jacket and am struggling to pair it beyond cream or dark navy trousers.

 

As mentioned above, I also find pink difficult.

 

Yellow is much easier IMO than those two, if in a dark gold, bronze or ochre shade. Then it works well with blues, browns and creams. The brighter sunshine/canary yellows are really difficult.

post #11 of 34
Dark gold/bronze/mustard is good. I like this tie in that kind of color:

post #12 of 34


Teal...
post #13 of 34
Teal jacket might be pretty tough though.
post #14 of 34
Most of the time I use the high contrast white shirt with navy/charcoal gray for evening events, the fancier the better. During the day I've been wearing combos of blue with brown +/- yellow and mid gray with green. Sometimes I wear blues of different shades. I mix materials, patterns, color shades and etc. I favor the combos recommended by color theory.

Some examples courtesy of PG

http://mostexerent.tumblr.com/post/1041784884/felt-like-tweed-after-being-inspired-by-tweed-sc


http://mostexerent.tumblr.com/post/1036414594/whats-missing-2-notes-to-stop-my-brog-box-from


http://mostexerent.tumblr.com/post/981913883/always-check-mirror-before-leaving-yesterday


From GDL
http://www.styleforum.net/t/230619/cbd-waywrn-an-experiment/5610_30#post_5120777
[IMG]
post #15 of 34


Holdfast, I think your point about stealing nature's color palettes is vital to how I dress. I steal from art, too, and from the world around me. I think that color is most of my attraction to menswear -- color and texture are what got me interested. I agree with unbelragazzo that shades of black, brown, and navy are staples, but I can't help but think I probably wouldn't want to wear just those every day (that said, I'm sure I've worn a number of rigs that are just those colors). I like the subtle colors of classic menswear. I'm not really interested in really bright colors.

 

It almost seems like a lot of people apply color bizarrely -- buying too many statement pieces that don't work together, but I think following unbel's advice and only buying staple colors is a little too far in the other direction. Look at something like Flusser's Clothes And The Man -- the palette is much wider than just the staples, but it's very subtle. Also, unbel, you've got to be kidding about red. Crimson? If you want that to be right out, that's fine. But burgundy? Probably my most commonly used accent color. It's a good color on me, though.

 

The biggest thing I try to avoid is sort of an uneven color distribution -- either too little color, or a palette that makes no sense -- ie, an overly-bright square or tie in an otherwise subtle rig. This is part of the appeal of more countryish tailored gear for me. There are also more opportunities for color. A tattersall shirt can have a little bit of purple in it without being overwhelming, say, and it's much easier to find a harmonious shade of an unusual color in casual wear. I have a purple madder tie that will be great with a tweed jacket, but I'd never have bought a plan twill printed in the same colors.

 

For what it's worth, I own one teal tie, and I don't think I've ever worn it successfully. A teal square could be cool, but in general, I'd rather save that color for Baja Blast.

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