Introduction

These days the world of menswear is all about designing clothes and creating looks that achieve the Holy Grail of ‘classic with a twist’. Whether it’s via the different designers you absorb into your personal style or how you incorporate patterns and trends, the way to really stand out from an already very stylish crowd is to put a subtle spin on what has gone before.

And, generally speaking, I’m a big fan of this whole ‘classic with a twist’ concept. As regular readers will already know, I’m a huge proponent of menswear pieces that are simple, timeless and versatile, as well as stylish men who manage to add a dash of sprezzatura to their looks. So it’s only natural that the idea of taking something classic and making it more unique to your personality would appeal.

However, what I tend to find is that most guys get the wrong end of the stick when it comes to implementing this ideal. Generally, the twist either gets taken way too far and ventures into the fashionable but not very stylish realm of ‘high fashion’, or it’s translated into the message: the greater number of accessories you add, the more stylish you look. I don’t care how many rosary beads you wear or how much you look like a Rick Owens mannequin, more isn’t always better.

Like most things that are sartorially-inclined, the key to success is moderation and subtlety. And the easiest ways to pull off ‘classic with a twist’ that stick to those principles are the two methods that have been pitted against each other since Mark McNairy started wearing printed five-panel hats: A Pop of Colour or The Interesting Detail.

A Pop Of Colour

If you think adding a pop of colour might be your ‘thing’, there are a few simple rules you need to follow…

First of all, pick one colour at a time. Like Nick Wooster told Details recently: “If you’re going to play with colour start with one. If you’re wearing yellow, everything else should be navy and grey. Yes, I’ve been known to wear bright green and pink at the same time but I don’t do that often – the bulk of my closet is grey, navy, white, khaki, olive, and a little black.”

By keeping everything else you wear neutral and restrained, not only do you avoid any clashing but you also allow the colourful piece to shine. You can do this through a small accent piece such as a tie or pocket square, which can really add life and depth to suits and other formal pieces.

Alternatively, you can go with one bold piece such as a pair of trousers, a shirt or a jacket, but remember to make sure these pieces fit you properly – otherwise they will end up looking clown-esque.

And don’t forget to make sure that you stick with colours that complement each other. If you’re ever in doubt, refer to the colour wheel.

Example Lookbook: A Pop Of Colour

Men's Outfit Inspiration - Using a Pop Of Colour As A StatementA pop of colour can be introduced in many forms, from accessories and footwear to striking trousers, tops or jackets.

ovadia & sons ss14zara man october 2013barneys new york 2013boomerang aw13drykorn ss13sean opry for h&m aw13Woolrich John Rich & Bros aw13reiss aw13el burgues aw13massimo september 2013m&s xmas 2013sanahunt ss13
Key Pieces
  • Reiss Chesterfield Heavyweight Cable Crew Knit CitrusReiss Chesterfield Heavyweight Cable Crew Knit Citrus
  • Ami Wool Rollneck SweaterAmi Wool Rollneck Sweater
  • He By Mango Slim-fit 5 Pocket Cotton TrousersHe By Mango Slim-fit 5 Pocket Cotton Trousers
  • River Island JumperRiver Island Jumper
  • Carven Slim Fit Chinos 172714Carven Slim Fit Chinos 172714
  • Hardy Amies Cotton Trench CoatHardy Amies Cotton Trench Coat
  • Topman Green Poly 5cm TieTopman Green Poly 5cm Tie
  • Ted Baker Frankie – Diagonal Stripe Knitted TieTed Baker Frankie - Diagonal Stripe Knitted Tie
  • Lanvin Silk Pocket SquareLanvin Silk Pocket Square
  • Reiss Hampton Micro Polka Dot Pocket Square LemonReiss Hampton Micro Polka Dot Pocket Square Lemon
  • Asos Driving Shoes In SuedeAsos Driving Shoes In Suede
  • Ami Suede Wingtip BroguesAmi Suede Wingtip Brogues
The Interesting Detail

The flipside to a pop of colour involves keeping your clothing neutral but including a piece that features an interesting detail.

This could be something as simple as picking an unconventional material for one of your garments, such as a corduroy jacket or a pair of seersucker trousers. Alternatively, the actual design of the piece could be what separates it from the crowd – think asymmetrical cuts or a more traditional, old-school fit.

Again, the key to pulling this type of item off is to make sure that the rest of your look is as simple and classic as possible. Too many unique items in one outfit can make a guy look like he’s arrived from the future or a comic book.

Personally, I find that when it comes to wearing an item with an interesting detail, your best bet is to dress as straight down the middle as possible, so that the garment becomes the point of difference in your look.

For example, I have a black denim jacket that I picked up in a charity shop a few years ago which has a slightly cropped cut and a large shearing collar. I tend to wear it when the rest of my outfit is very pared-down – a pair of jeans/chinos with a t-shirt/thin knit – which instantly helps transform an otherwise run-of-the-mill look into something that is truly unique to me.

Example Lookbook: The Interesting Detail

Men's Outfit Inspiration - Using Interesting Detailing To Set Yourself Apart From The CrowdInteresting detailing can range from something as simple as a gold buttons or an unusual fastening to asymmetric cuts and contrast sleeves/panels

barneys new york aw12zara man august 2012zara man august 2012river island aw13sisley aw13sean opry for h&m aw13comodo square aw13burton aw13m&s best of british aw13boss hugo boss aw13reiss aw13asos aw13
Key Pieces
  • Asos Slim Fit Double Breasted Blazer With Gold ButtonsAsos Slim Fit Double Breasted Blazer With Gold Buttons
  • Antony Morato Cardigan With FleckAntony Morato Cardigan With Fleck
  • Eleven Paris Pea CoatEleven Paris Pea Coat
  • Allsaints Hakkoda JacketAllsaints Hakkoda Jacket
  • Allsaints Kobushi Bomber JacketAllsaints Kobushi Bomber Jacket
  • Lacoste Live Trucker Denim Jacket In BlackLacoste Live Trucker Denim Jacket In Black
  • Reiss Dreamer Zip & Button Detail Coat BlackReiss Dreamer Zip & Button Detail Coat Black
  • Allsaints Moorland ShirtAllsaints Moorland Shirt
  • River Island Ecru Cable Knit Denim Patch JumperRiver Island Ecru Cable Knit Denim Patch Jumper
  • Reiss Franko Colour-blocked Cable Knit Jumper EcruReiss Franko Colour-blocked Cable Knit Jumper Ecru
  • Oliver Spencer Shearling-collar Leather Bomber JacketOliver Spencer Shearling-collar Leather Bomber Jacket
  • River Island Brown Wool Quilted JacketRiver Island Brown Wool Quilted Jacket
Final Word

Both of the techniques above are suitable for any guy at any stage in his sartorial development, but please remember to never try them at the same time.

This might be the reason they’re usually pitted against each other but, as previously mentioned, moderation and subtlety are the key to pulling off ‘classic with a twist’ without taking it too far and looking like (God forbid) Will.I.Am. Actually, my best advice for people who want to look stylish these days would be to look at what he’s doing, and then do the complete opposite.

So there you have it, my thoughts on the simple ways you can incorporate either a pop of colour or an interesting detail to separate your classic and stylish looks from the crowd.

Why not tell me your thoughts in the comments section below? How do you add a twist to otherwise standard looks? Which ones will you be trying out in the next couple of months? Let me know…

Matt Allinson