At FashionBeans we are always stressing the importance of a versatile and timeless wardrobe; it is cost effective, helps you adapt to current and future trends, and will never date. However, building a traditional capsule wardrobe is not the be all and end all. There are guys who do like to follow trends – whether that be integrating small parts each season or going all out – and there are guys who already have built a classic wardrobe and want something a bit ‘different’. Something that will make them stand out from the crowd and have eyes focussed on them.
Today I am hopefully going to help you achieve this in the form of bold coloured tailoring. With menswear becoming increasingly smarter and more refined, introducing bold and vibrant colours into traditionally formal pieces is sure to get you noticed. And hopefully with the tips and looks we create today, you will be getting noticed for all the right reasons.
Let me preface this article by stating categorically that these looks would NOT be for the workplace. Not many of you would be able to turn up in a green or yellow blazer, never mind a suit, without it following with a complimentary coloured pink slip. Furthermore, although you can buy full coloured suits these days, they are not necessarily something I could endorse as an investment.
We will be more concerned with separates, and utilising smart trousers or blazers in bold colours on their own to create modern smart looks with a twist. Of course, if you feel you will get suitable use out of a red suit – using both the trousers and blazer separately – then feel free to purchase one; only you know your personal style and I am not here to preach.
The 3 main colours I am going to approach today are those that are readily available on the market, and I think you will get more than one season’s use out of. We still want to stick to our basic principles of not buying throwaway fashion pieces. If you were looking for yellow, bright green, or purple; I am afraid you can turn away now.
So without further ado, let’s dive into our first colour…
As a way of easing yourself into this, I thought I would start with a colour that is already associated with formal wear. The navy suit is a fashion essential and we have repeatedly given you multiple reasons why you should all own a navy blazer. But this is not the tone or hue we are focussing on today. I want to guide you away from the safety of navy and onto the lighter pale blue and bold cobalt variations.
Both of these colours happen to be a favourite of mine, because the majority of us already know the basics of what to pair with blue tones. We have been doing it most of our lives through our jeans and suits. Choosing a more striking colour is just a way of separating yourself from the crowd, without having to go over the top. If male 1 was dressed in exactly the same outfit as male 2, except male 2 had substituted cobalt chinos in instead of navy – who do you think would stand out more? Who do you think would look the most confident? And who would you sub-consciously think knows how to dress best? It would be male 2, just because they had taken a piece you don’t see everyday and pulled it off – even though the tone is not all that different from standard navy chinos.
Anyway, let’s take a look at some look book images I have found to inspire you:
Hopefully the images above will of provided you with some inspiration about the items you could pair with bold blue tailoring. However, I am going to give you some general tips about colours and combinations you can use to your advantage. First we will start off with the colours. If you are utilising a striking colour like cobalt, it is generally best to tone down the rest of your outfit by pairing it with neutrals. White, grey and even black work very well with this tone; black being much more suitable now than when paired with navy, as the contrast is much more pronounced. Take a look at the ASOS images above [top row right and bottom row centre] for reaffirmation.
A colour that works very well with pale blue is navy. As they are in the same colour family it makes it easy to coordinate and contrast layers using different shades of blue. This could mean using a navy blazer with a pair of pale blue tailored shorts, or simply throwing on a pale blue blazer with navy trousers. The perfect example of how to pull it off is shown above, using pale blue trousers/shorts and then opting for your classic navy blazer [middle row right] – something you should all own by now. In this outfit I particularly love the use of a pale blue shirt as well, producing continuity throughout the whole look, but also creating a stark contrast to the anchoring navy blazer.
Other colours that can be integrated with these bold blues are generally yellows and reds. Pale yellow works extremely well with pale blue [middle row centre] as it has roots within Preppy styling and creates a very bright summer look that is bound to catch the eye. With cobalt you would want to adjust the complementary hue darker to match the deeper blue shade, so look towards beige and khaki colours [top row middle] – again these colours provide a beautiful contrast, and as evidenced, you can create some smart looking formal outfits.
Finally, the red family can produce some interesting colour combinations when paired with blues. As you should know from Matt’s introduction to colour article, they are what’s called contrasting colours, meaning they have 3 colours between them on the colour wheel. These are good to mix but you have to be wary of the hue; one should be lighter than the other in order to stop them competing. The outfit above which pairs cobalt trousers with a pink tone shirt and burgundy tie [top row left] is the perfect example. In this look the shirt is a lighter shade than the cobalt trousers, whilst the tie is a deeper shade – all anchored by a great grey blazer.
Red leads perfectly on from blue, because as we have seen above, they can be combined to great effect. Red tailoring is definitely one for the confident amongst you, but if you pull it off you can create some unforgettable statement looks. For the sake of this article we are going to be concentrating on hues of red, varying from deep red to pale pink.
With this in mind we will be looking at everything from red blazers to pink trousers (yes, you did read that right). Before you all skip to the next section, take a look at the look book inspiration below to see just how great this colour can look if you surround it with the correct pieces.
As we are dealing with a very bold and generally uncommon colour for many males, we can take tips from Paul McGregor about neutralising it within our outfits. The easiest way would be to pair red tailoring with your neutral dark colours such as black, brown, navy and grey. You are never going to be able to completely take the focus away from red/pink trousers, but by adding a long navy mac or overcoat over the top [top row middle], you can begin to negate the effect. However, I would like to make it clear that all these looks will definitely draw glances and catch the eye. If you don’t have rock solid confidence then I would not recommend you suddenly start including these pieces within your wardrobe.
With that out of the way, there is one neutral I would particularly like to draw your attention to when combining with red hues. Grey looks particularly great in the look book images above, whether you are pairing a pink blazer with grey check shorts [middle row left], using a grey jacket (could swap in a blazer) to complement red trousers [middle row centre], or simply using grey footwear as the finishing touch to your deep pink trousers [middle row right]. The reason it looks so good is because the colour contrast is not as stark as white or black, meaning it anchors the outfit, but doesn’t take the focus away from the statement pieces.
In terms of colours you are going to have to look towards the complementary colour of turquoise, or the contrasting colours of blue and orange. In this case, with the red/pink tailoring being so bold by itself, I wouldn’t recommend trying to integrate other colours. Stick to your neutrals, and if you go with blue tones then just make sure you are looking more towards the darker navy end of the scale.
My two absolute favourite looks are created using the shorts and blazer combination. Pink and red are colours I would usually associate with summer, so by using shorts with tailoring, you can create some amazing outfits which straddle the line between smart and casual perfectly. Let’s break them down:
Summer neutrals reside within the white family – this includes white, off white, creams and beige. A lot of men are not sure how they could possibly pull off a white blazer, white trousers or even a white suit without coming across all Miami Vice or man from Del Monte. However, these are all colours [whether you consider white a colour is up to you] that can look amazing if you get it right. The look book below should emphatically show you this.
As white is a neutral and can anchor most colours (see blue and red sections above), I am going to be concentrating on 3 particular ways to make it work today. These are:
So let’s start with pairing white with other summer neutrals. This means pairing whites with the off whites, creams, khakis and beiges of the world. By doing this you are creating a true summer formal look, which would not be suitable for winter – surely I don’t need to spell out that rain, snow, mud and white clothes do not mix? However, in the height of summer combining these different hues creates perfectly coordinated outfits that can look as smart or relaxed as you wish. Taking a look at the look book above to see white trousers mixed with a cream polo and double breasted jacket [top left], or white trousers mixed with a beige/khaki blazer and simple grey top [top right]. These are two relaxed formal looks that would look great at summer garden parties, wedding receptions or any other event.
The top middle outfit might be my favourite look in this whole article. Mixing beige trousers with a white shirt and light brown blazer allows each individual piece to contrast just enough with each other to make them all stand out. This is the perfect way to wear a ‘white’ suit, and we could all learn a lot from this particular gentleman. To summarise, building a wardrobe around these classic summer neutral tones will provide versatility and a wealth of formal (or smart formal) outfit combinations each and every year.
The second row shows how we can dress down white trousers by using traditional military inspired pieces and colour tones. First we have white trousers paired with a Breton tee and superb grey military jacket by H&M [middle row left]; the jacket is so good, and such a statement, that I wouldn’t be surprised if it took the attention AWAY from the bold white trousers. A perfect example of Paul McGregor’s neutralising technique.
The other two looks are very similar and use white trousers with very earthy colour tones [middle row centre & right]. The waxed jacket in the centre picture is particularly amazing, and the colour tone is brought out very well by having such a bright neutral colour anchoring it (white trousers). Again my eyes are naturally drawn to either the top half of this outfit or the very bottom khaki green coloured desert/chukka boots, proving that you can wear white tailored pieces without it having to define your whole look.
Finally, throughout this whole article you should of noticed how each colour we have broken down today can be combined with the other. I have done this on purpose, as I wanted you to be able to build a versatile wardrobe which can be mixed and matched together in any combination you prefer. Here we have blue white and red mixed together [bottom left], beige mixed with pink [bottom row middle] and finally white mixed with blue [bottom right]. White is an amazing anchor for every single colour you have in your wardrobe, but when you start to combine it with contrasting colours such as red and blue, it becomes the perfect 3 tone combination which is interchangeable and will never go out of fashion, due to the influence the Nautical trend has each spring/summer.
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