Granted, we haven’t had much sunshine this summer, but that doesn’t mean we should stop hoping for that ‘Indian Heatwave’ we’re always promised. Despite this strange longing for sunstroke and warm tins of beer, we’ve had a few days of glory that command our very best efforts in the style stakes.
This summer, I urge you all to take a sartorial suggestion from the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, DSquared2 and Jean Paul Gaultier (style only for the latter, his racial views aren’t all that stellar as of late) and have a go at donning one stand-out colour: the all-black outfit.
Yes yes, I can hear you cry “it’s summer, we’ll be boiling” but fear not gentlemen, there are ways to curtail issues of comfort when aiming for an effortlessly cool look – employing the most basic colour can ensure the most brilliant of outfits.
Old school Sean Connery paved the way for the likes of Hedi Slimane, River Viiperi and half of Dalston to succumb to the all-black trend, and it’s a style phenomenon that should in no way be sniffed at. There’s a tendency to fall into the realm of 90s grunge/goth, which should be avoided at all costs – Marilyn Manson is an extremely, erm, niche look.
Avoiding this is simple, however; stick to simplicity over embellishment, look out for tailored, clean-cut pieces, and always let understated take the driving seat.
First, some lookbook inspiration in order to get the creative juices flowing:
Luckily for us this summer, baggy is back. Oversized means we’ll look and feel cool whatever the weather and untucked, loose fits are here to stay.
However, big and billowy isn’t for everybody. For those with a stockier frame, choose a more fitted size to avoid looking like a sailboat and if you’re on the skinnier size of the frame spectrum, don’t go too big. Finding the right degree of oversized to suit your structure is always essential when going for the oversized look.
Plain black, crew neck pieces can be found anywhere and will always remain in style no matter what; keeping it simple is the very backbone of the all-black look. If you’re looking to turn it up a notch, there are plenty of graphic tees that endlessly experiment with blends of black, grey and white. Monochrome is always a winner, regardless.
American-inspired motifs are set to make a comeback, and biker grunge is a fantastic approach to the all-black outfit – eagles, guns and plenty of banners are all acceptable, as long as they look semi-authentic.
Team with a pair of shorts that graze the knee to construct a flattering silhouette, but again, length is at your discretion. Tailored three-quarter lengths were everywhere during SS13 shows, but you need to find something that suits your individual tastes and frame. Canvas or denim shorts are best – as long as they’re black.
Finish the look off with a pair of Vans, Converse or equally basic footwear to place a contemporary stamp on a relatively 90s vibe.
The biggest strength of the colour black is its flexibility. Forget those who say it’s boring, or easy, or ‘goth’, because versatility is your best friend in today’s menswear.
Just as an all-black outfit can be great for casual days, it can also be brilliant for more formal occasions. Shorts are replaced with dark jeans that are always far smarter than their blue compatriots; fitted is always good but toy with the skinny fit as you see appropriate. Narrow, canvas straight-leg offerings are a little more respectable when compared to a spray-on style – this is an outfit for a formal event after all, not a gig.
The best way to pull off all-black is to remain unaccessoried, so keep cufflinks, pocket squares and jewellery to a bare minimum. Shirts should be simple yet cool, and whilst sleeves can be rolled up, going untucked is certainly not going to cut the mustard. A belt is always a must – black, of course.
Complete with a laid back yet formulated hairstyle (the swept-back quiff is a firm favourite of mine) and some smarter, black footwear. Leather tasselled loafers are the most formal option, followed closely by brogues and lastly, the good old stalwart desert boot.
Probably my all-time favourite black style option, the leather jacket defines the understated cool ethos of 80s leisurewear. Everybody has tried to nail this look, some with most success than others – think more James Dean than Joey Essex.
Simple black jeans and a black tee complete the leather jacket, which is ultimately your statement piece in this look. The biker style is perfect for a vintage feel, and even better if you’re lucky enough to snag one in a second-hand store. Round-neck collarless variations are also a lot simpler if you’re going for gold in the understated games too, but beware the curse of pleather.
You’ll need to really invest in a quality leather jacket if you want to nail this, and unfortunately, cheap alternatives look just that – tired, half-arsed and a little bit tacky. Leather jackets can literally spiral into the thousands, but unless you’re Kanye West, there are so many options both high street and designer that suit most modest price brackets.
Accessorise with plain black Wayfarers for a classic feel or take a more cutting-edge approach with circular Lennons, but again, don’t go overboard. The secret to a perfect all-black look to accompany your leather jacket is simplicity and a classic feel.
Finally, under no circumstance should a hood be attached to your coat. Looking like Justin Timberlake is wrong on too many levels to discuss.
Without a doubt, the best part of an all-black outfit is the convenience of it all. Most people I know own some form of black footwear, an old black t-shirt and some black jeans – it can create a killer look without too much thought.
The very best style is timeless, and therefore, simple. Don’t over-calculate your look and trust your gut instinct.
No colour will ever be ‘the new black’. It’s simply unbeatable.