Neutralising Bold Colours

Finding inspiration to write this article was pretty hard with the current weather conditions here in the UK. Bold colours scream summer and sunshine, and the current English weather screams rain and storms. Well there’s nothing the internet can’t fix; staring at a photo of a beach I found enough inspiration to put this article together. Bold colours have been extremely popular this summer, but using them the right way seems to be a common problem.

Many males with disregard bold colours completely, calling people who wear them “daring” or “brave” when really it’s just about using them correctly. The problem many men face is that they pair bold colours with, well, even bolder colours, creating a trend I like to call “Skittles”. We shouldn’t be afraid of bold colours; they can be worn and can really enhance a look; based on two conditions. Either you have a good eye for colour and can balance bold colours in your outfit, or you take a simpler approach by looking to neutralise bold colours with more common colours.

Current Popular Colours

As we mentioned above, bold colours have been extremely popular this season, with a variety of high street retailers and designers implementing a plethora of vibrant hues and bold tones into their collections. As for the big trends, you will find the popular colours generally stay the same throughout seasons, although they change slightly in tone. Bold yellows in the summer become camels and khakis in the autumn/winter. Bold reds become a plum or burgundy colour in the autumn/winter – you get the idea. So what have been the most popular colours to pick out from the catwalks in spring/summer 2011?


Originating from the rustic colours we saw in autumn/winter 2010, orange has been a popular bold colour choice this season for many of the premium design houses. Here are some of our favourite orange products, officially counting towards 1 of your 5 a day.

  • D.S Dundee Melville Weather Jacket
  • Orange Cord Shorts
  • E Tautz Basil T-Shirt
  • polo ralph lauren Limited edition 5inch logo shirt
  • orange shirt
  • Gant Lightweight V-neck jumper
  • toy watch Time Only Plasteramic Fluo Orange Spirit Watch
  • ASOS Tong Backpack
Bright Blues

Consistently featuring across all seasons, blue ranges from lighter pastels and brighter cobalt to navy. Here’s our selection of favourite bright blue pieces available now.

  • Bright Blue Chino Shorts
  • Bright Blue Skinny Chinos
  • Acne Blue Light Jersey Deep V Neck Tee
  • LYLE & SCOTT JE629-V02 Duke Blue Polo Knit
  • Jil Sander Men's Single Breasted Formal Milly Blazer
  • Veja Men's Indigenos Swedish Blue Low Top Trainers *Exclusive Colourway
  • Jil Sander Men's Crew Neck Knitted Appliqué Jumper
  • ASOS Crew Neck T-Shirt With Contrast Stitching Detail
  • Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Specialty Hi Royal Blue
Best Way To Neutralise Bold Colours

Neutralising bold colours is pretty straight forward, although a lot of men either don’t consider the basics, or just forget to do it. A neutralising colour is something which cancels out the bolder colour, so drawing less attention to it. For example, by layering a black cardigan over a bright blue shirt, the black cardigan works to neutralise (and sometimes even cancel out) the effect of the bolder colour. Another example would be to match a pair of orange chino shorts with a grey distressed t-shirt.

Here’s what I try to consider when experimenting and creating outfits with bolder colours: Pay more attention to what you’re wearing around the bolder colour, rather than aiming to make the bold colour a stand out feature. I’ve been a victim of becoming brave in the spur of the moment and buying a bold coloured piece of clothing, then never actually never wearing it. When I try to integrate it into my look, my whole focus is drawn toward the boldness and brightness of the piece of clothing; so I never feel comfortable wearing it.

If you try to pay more attention to what you’re wearing with the bold colour, in order to anchor or neutralise it, then it will help you implement bolder and brighter colours into your outfits a lot easier.

Personal Challenge

So I took a pair of bright blue pair of chino shorts from Topman and wanted to create two simple looks. A more casual look for those warm summer days, and then a smart/casual look, juggling yet another bold colour. If you know how to combine and wear more than one bold colour, you can still neutralise your outfit with a darker tone.

Look 1:

Paul McGregor Look book 1 - How to neutralise bold coloured shorts

This is really simple, I paired a dark grey t-shirt from amplified with a floral graphic with the bright pair of blue chino shorts. The t-shirt helps to neutralise the cobalt tone shorts, whilst the graphic print also draws attention away from such a bold colour. This should help the less confident or beginners among you feel safe in the knowledge that the shorts do not stick out like a soar thumb. They still show confidence and become a focal point of the outfit, but not as much as if you would have paired these shorts with a plain white tee or a bold coloured polo shirt.

For the more confident, or guys who are slightly more advanced with their personal style (not wanting to neutralise), you could easily go the other way and integrate another bold colour into this outfit instead. Just switch up the colour of the tee here (think pale yellows or pink) or throw another bold piece over the top of the tee – how about a red or white blazer?

I accessorised with a Casio silver watch and a leather necklace; these subtle touches provide individuality and also has a secondary benefit of drawing less attention to the bold colouring.

  • Bright Blue Chino Shorts
  • Mens Leather Necklace with Cross Pendant
  • Casio Vintage Silver Plated Watch
  • Patrick Cox for Kurt Geiger Made It
Look 2:

Paul McGregor Look book 1 - How to neutralise 2 bold coloured pieces

Here I juggled a bold colour combination of blue and red by using a really dark navy (verging on black) blazer to draw less attention to the brightness. The shorts and shirt combination on its own may be too much for the less confident. However, blue and red do go extremely well together (think Nautical) so it was a good base to start our outfit from.

What allows this outfit to become an easy to wear look for most males is the introduction of the blazer. I opted to layer it over the top and fasten it (one button only please) at the front. This actually neutralises the red shirt very well, as it is mostly covered apart from the top and bottom sections; meaning it is now just a shot of colour which injects some life into the outfit, rather than being too full on and in your face.

For a final touch I wanted to add more colour and also tie the top and bottom half together, so I tucked a matching cobalt blue pocket square into the blazer breast pocket.

  • Bright Blue Chino Shorts
  • ASOS Slim Fit Blazer With Tipped Lapel
  • Patrick Cox for Kurt Geiger Made It

Hopefully you will now see how easy it is to integrate new bolder colours into your outfits. It doesn’t have to be scary, and you don’t have to make them THE focal point. Using some creative layering and pairing darker neutral pieces around the louder tones will help create classic looks which have just the right amount of flair and daring. Try experimenting at home with pieces you already own, and let us know how you get on in the comments below.

For more of my personal looks, you can check out my page: