Introduction

While most of us were not alive at the time, we probably all know about the first television and film broadcasts in the 1930s. I am talking about the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy – in a nutshell they were grainy black and white motion pictures that used exaggerated bodily expressions to better communicate with the viewers.

Apart from the comical standpoint that a lot of these broadcasts aimed for, there was another reason why such expressions were emphasised. The monotone colours, black and white, were not enough to project feelings and emotion to the viewer. It was not the actual colours that were the problem, black and white are perfectly fine, but the fact that it was all the same gradient without any variation. Without the use of over exaggerated gestures these shows would have been boring and dull.

The same can be said about fashion and the clothes we wear. While there is a definite sense of timeless class and style that can be projected with a one colour outfit, we must keep in mind that the more we vary our choice of colours and tones, the more we can continue to create fresh looks that showcase some true personality and give you that feeling of excitement each time you get dressed. Life is full of different shades and it might just be the thing that our wardrobe needs to portray our inner image to the outside world.

The Faux Pas

The trap that we may fall into is very simple and generally routed in our subconscious minds. The idea of wearing just one colour for a whole outfit can be a good thing in terms of comfort and the effort (or lack of) that we put in choosing an outfit. Opting for different styles and coordinating a variety of colours and/or pattens can be a difficult initially; it means that we have to think about the big picture and put in that much more effort. If we just stuck to what we know will work – or our personal favourites – it would be a much easier task.

It is not uncommon for us to pick our favourite colour off the shelf if a sweater is available in six flavours. It makes sense for us to do so – why should I pick red if my favourite colour is blue?

I realised this problem may be more common than I thought when browsing the FashionBeans forums. PaulAnderson sums it up perfectly:

I’m quite aware that my favourite colour (Purple) is a large influence on my life, not just my wardrobe. When it comes to clothes though, I do find I’m far more attracted to things, and often buy things irrationally when they contain purple.

I’ve recently jumped at the chance to get some purple chinos risking the fact they may not actually look good on me.

I noticed that I have often made purchases of items almost identical to items I already have. I found two purple t-shirts that although bought from different stores, are practically identical in colour and style. I appear to have a lot of purple ties, and very subtly different shades, and I even have a purple tie that doesn’t currently go with any of my workwear.

I think it is a trap we can all fall into, and the only way to tackle it is by honestly evaluating your wardrobe regularly, to make sure you are creating variety. Spicing up your wardrobe colour code will give you a broader selection and better choice of outfits for a number of occasions and mood.

The Fix
Try Something New

A major factor which affects the colours we choose is current fashion. If you are someone who follows the latest fashion trends and aims to have his wardrobe based on what is currently ‘in’, then you may notice that new colours trend almost every season. This obviously helps provide you with variation naturally, although it can be quite costly to have the latest trends always stocked in your wardrobe.

However, for those of you who have your basics down and have already built a capsule wardrobe, it is a good initiative to keep in mind what’s in fashion when buying clothes. These flashes of trend colours and patterns can be just the shot of life your existing outfits need in order to create a fresh new take on timeless looks.

Let’s consider other factors which may help in choosing a more diverse shade:

Colours By Season

Fashion seasons bring about new colours which are adequate for a certain periods within the year. Though most trend colours change from one season cycle to another, some colours have cemented themselves as essentials and managed to dodge the vicious fashion axe which comes naturally every quarter. Stocking on clothes that are always in fashion will not only boost your wardrobe but also ensure that the items can be reused from one season to another – benefiting your wallet.

Spring/Summer

There are some vibrant colours that have been fashionable for at least two years now within menswear, and these are set to build on their increasing popularity going forward; think bold or pastel tones in shades of blue, red, yellow and green. This bright colour palette has been particularly well received, with Preppy and Nautical becoming solid mainstay trends that reinforce their relevance each and every spring/summer.

The key item that epitomises this ethos are coloured chinos, which have been in fashion for the past two summers and are now crossing over into autumn/winter as well. They have become so highly thought of that they are replacing conventional casual wear such as jeans on a country-wide basis.

  • Penfield Bayfield Blue Shawl Neck Sweater
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Custom Fit Pique Polo Shirt
  • ASOS Fleck Cable Jumper
  • Bright Blue Long Sleeve Cord Shirt
  • Rust Cotton Skinny Chinos
  • Green Skinny Chino
Autumn/Winter

It used to be the case that as the months got darker and colder, our colour palette followed suit. We would stick to the dark neutral colours such as navy, black, grey and brown, as it reflected the mood of the season perfectly. However, with an increased focus on colour within menswear as a whole, we have now seen an injection of suitable autumn/winter hues that have become must-haves for any self-respecting fashionisto. These include shades of olive, camel, burgundy and khaki.

You may notice that many of these colours are just darker shades of our new spring/summer staples; this is true, and a reflection of their versatility as a whole. These particular 4 colours have been given timeless status, as they are the key building blocks for all the popular autumn/winter trends each and every year; including military, heritage and outdoorsy type looks.

  • Off White Raglan Polo Jumper
  • Burgundy cable crew jumper
  • Levi's Vintage Clothing Military Green Tab Twill Army Shirt
  • J.Crew Holborn Trench Coat
  • DOCKERS Alpha 1 Year Olive Moss Trousers
  • ASOS Slim Fit Chinos
Coordinate & Compliment Your Existing Wardrobe

Below is the infamous colour wheel. A good colour evaluation will help guide you in your next wardrobe purchase – allowing you pick colours that compliment and coordinate perfectly against the current dominant colour you have in your wardrobe:

The Colour Wheel

An article by our own Matt Allinson will give you a very good introduction to colour basics. As a brief example, if your wardrobe is dominated by blue, why not try purchasing:

  • Similar Colours: Such as greens and violets.
  • Complimentary Colours: Such as yellows and oranges. Just remember not to mix these at full strength. If you are wearing navy blue, choose a lighter pastel shade of yellow to compliment it.
  • Contrasting Colours: Such as red. Again make sure you vary the tone in order to not have them competing for the eye.
Patterns

Clothing patterns are another important addition. They are there to break away from a plain look and produce a different flavour to a garment. Choosing items with vibrant patterns will give your outfits a colourful tone and help diverge from the one colour monotony you might of unwilling given in to.

If it is longevity and a timeless wardrobe you want to build, then why not choose patterns that have cemented themselves over the past couple of years? Probably the greatest example of a pattern trend that has become a mainstay is Fair Isle, which is prominent each and every autumn/winter, and shows some real personality with your choice. Another key set of patterns that seem to be taking over spring/summer are tribal inspired motifs, such as Aztec and Navajo. These are especially popular in the festival scene and those wanting to achieve a Nomad or Boho type look.

Other traditional examples include simple two-coloured patterns, which give enough to create some variation. Stripes and check in particular come to mind – both of which have a long shelf-life in men’s fashion.

  • YMC Fairilse Shawl Collar Cardigan
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Navy Fairisle V Neck Knit
  • Spitsberg Scarf
  • Shades of Grey Striped T-shirt
  • Gant Rugger Striped Button Down Oxford Shirt
  • Saint James Binic II Marine & Ecru
  • Lincoln L/s Shirt
  • A.P.C. Red Straight Fit Check Shirt
  • Nick Bronson Black and Grey Check Scarf, Nick Bronson
  • Pink Aztec Print Denim Shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Knitted Linen-Blend Sweater
  • ASOS Satchel with Aztec Print
Vary The Shade

The next couple of sections refer to ways you can still make use of your one colour dominated wardrobe, and even make future purchases in you favourite colour. All it takes is some consideration as to what you should be adding to your existing collection.

When we refer to our favourite colour we probably have a particular shade in mind, like navy blue or sky blue. However, colours come in various shades which complement each other very well. Colours can vary in contrast, brightness, vibrance and hue, and mixing different shades of your favourite colour together in one outfit is a great way to create a coordinated look that also contrasts.

If we take yellow as an example, there is mustard, gold and amber which are all different shades of the same colour. Picking a different shade will give you more wardrobe variety and increased options in your favourite trim.

See the look book below for outfits that have taken a base colour and created an almost full outfit utilising a variety of shades:

Men's Outfit Look Book - Varying Shades of The Same Colour

Example Outfit 1 (Greys):

  • Salzburg L/s Shirt
  • J.Crew Ludlow Herringbone Tweed Blazer
  • Tumble Cigarette Jeans

Example Outfit 2 (Beige Neutrals):

  • Gitman Vintage Button Down Collar Shirt
  • Incotex Montedoro Corduroy Blazer
  • PAUL SMITH - PS 332L-765 Aran Trousers
Texture

We have already emphasised the importance of texture this autumn/winter on FashionBeans – if you missed it, make sure you check out Ben Jones’ breakdown of the 8 key textures you need this year (part 1 and part 2). Bearing this in mind, if you start to think beyond the mere colour of a garment, you can use textures to pull off an outfit which is largely based on one simple colour.

When choosing different textures for various parts of your outfit you should be able to differentiate the sections without moving out of the boundaries of your favourite colours. A variety of texture can be the key variable that allows you to wear a one colour outfit and still pull it off.

Experiment with textures such as tweed, wool, denim, chambray, cotton and other such fabrics. Also keep in mind fabric production techniques – such as knitting, weaving and crocheting – as they all provide a different finish to the product. For example, cable and waffle knits have become increasingly popular this year, and offer further variation to a traditional piece of wool knitwear.

Experiment

Below I have picked out a varied selection of nine blue items with differences in style, textures, product and colour shades – but with the base colour blue always present. Mixing a few of these together in the same outfit would not only look great, but give your outfit depth:

  • Nudie Jeans Blue Organic Chambray Work Pocket Shirt
  • Murph Shirt
  • Addict Alpine Knit
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Cashmere Cable Knit Sweater
  • LANVIN Wool Shearling Coat
  • Burberry Brit Bright Blue Nylon Epcot Down Padded Jacket
  • Boxfresh Bristols Quilted Jacket
  • FOLK Finlay Blue Suede Shoes
  • gucci Solid tie
Conclusion

My aim here is not to ensure that you have a multicoloured wardrobe with all the colours in the world available. The single colour look can indeed work but in most cases this is due to expensive fabric choices or a slight differentiation in shade. We live in a modern world in which creativity is looked at as a positive, so experimenting a little can surely do no harm.

Give your current wardrobe an honest evaluation and see where you are lacking, or where you are dominant in a particular shade. Next time you shop, try bearing in mind some of the principles outlined above and look to add some variety – patterns, seasonal colours or simply some contrasting/complimenting colours can be all you need in order to shake up your outfits and help take your wardrobe to the next level.

Share your insights in the comments below, and let us know what your favourite colour is or what your wardrobe is currently dominated by.