The Cold-Weather Guide To Colour

According to the French painter, sculptor and filmmaker Fernand Léger, “A man needs colour to live; it’s just as necessary an element as fire and water.”

Many of us are likely of the same opinion – what better way to both lift your mood and give yourself an edge in the sartorial stakes than adding a splash of colour to your outfit?

Still, when it comes to men wearing colour, there seems to be a sizeable rift between opinion and reality. Why is it that many of us acknowledge the benefits of wearing bolder hues, but when it comes down to getting dressed we end up in black, navy or grey? We’re not talking summery brights here (we’re all reasonably capable of incorporating a little colour during the warmer months) but the lack of colour that results in the drabness of many a winter wardrobe.

So why do we give colour the cold shoulder when the temperature starts to drop outside? You could clutch at a few excuses, like colour is difficult to find at high-end stores and on the high street, or that it’s just not seasonally-appropriate, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice.

Here’s our comprehensive guide to cold-weather colour, beginning with four rules that are worth noting down:

  1. Coordinate With Care: Black and some particularly dark greys and navies may contrast too severely with brighter colours, so swap these darker shades for lighter greys, camel and other soft neutrals if your hue of choice is nothing short of bold.
  2. Stay Skin Tone-Appropriate: If you’re particularly pale or have noticed your carefully maintained summer tan start to fade despite your best efforts, make sure to go for slightly deeper, richer shades. Bright hues are best left to those with a year-round tan or a naturally more pigmented complexion.
  3. Make It Personal: Disregard current trends and opt for hues that suit you best. If you feel autumn/winter 2014’s key colours aren’t for you, experiment and find your own perfect tones.
  4. Materials Matter: Did you know that dyes of different strengths are used for different fabrics? Natural materials (such as wools, cottons and leather) usually take softer, less harsh dyes better. The final result is refined, subtler and less likely to jar with the weather than the saturated, ultra-bright hues of synthetic fabrics.
Working Colour Into Your Winter Wardrobe
1. Coloured Corduroy

This pleasing contrast works well because rugged, traditional corduroy serves as a grounding base for a colour statement, whilst the irreverence of the hue brings this heritage fabric bang up to date.

You’ll find corduroys at all price points this season, with a wide variety of fits, designs and colours to choose from. Ralph Lauren has produced a superb pair in fiery red, while Ben Sherman opted for on-trend burnt orange.

Go for corduroy with guts: the thicker the ridges (or, to get technical, the lower the wale count), the better. There really are no excuses not to give it a go, despite your – admittedly understandable – qualms.

Team with other complementary worker wear-inspired pieces such as denim jackets, flannel shirts and heavy duty boots, or go the other way and dress them up with a heritage tweed blazer and thick Oxford button-down.

Men's Coloured Corduroy Trousers Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

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  • Ben Sherman Umber Ec1 Corduroy TrouserBen Sherman Umber Ec1 Corduroy Trouser
  • Ben Sherman Purple Ec1 Corduroy TrouserBen Sherman Purple Ec1 Corduroy Trouser
  • Beams Plus Slim-fit Corduroy TrousersBeams Plus Slim-fit Corduroy Trousers
  • Gant Jason 5 Pocket Corduroy Trousers Bottle GreenGant Jason 5 Pocket Corduroy Trousers Bottle Green
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Classic Fit Newport Corduroy TrousersPolo Ralph Lauren Classic Fit Newport Corduroy Trousers
  • Michael Bastian Regular-fit Corduroy TrousersMichael Bastian Regular-fit Corduroy Trousers
2. Punchy Puffer Jackets

We know your office attire probably can’t be given the full colour treatment, but that doesn’t mean your commute has to be dull. Why not try a punchy coloured puffer jacket as a bold alternative to the traditional overcoat?

An unapologetic piece in its own right, the puffer calls for colour – at least if the autumn/winter 2014 runways are your reference point. Burgeoning London-based talent Astrid Andersen showed an icy blue button-up puffer at London Collections: Men, while in Milan, at Calvin Klein Collection, Italo Zucchelli opted for a cropped puffer in high shine rose gold – a brilliant way of breaking up the sharp minimalism he’s become famous for.

On the high street, ASOS and Uniqlo offer affordable alternatives that will inject any outfit, smart or casual, with a welcome dose of character.

Men's Coloured Puffa/Puffer Jackets Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

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  • Selected Premium Padded JacketSelected Premium Padded Jacket
  • He By Mango Hooded Feather Down CoatHe By Mango Hooded Feather Down Coat
  • Bellfield Padded Jacket With Contrast TrimsBellfield Padded Jacket With Contrast Trims
  • J. Crew Hooded Puffe RjacketJ. Crew Hooded Puffe Rjacket
  • He By Mango Hooded Feather Down CoatHe By Mango Hooded Feather Down Coat
  • Uniqlo Ultra Light Down JacketUniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket
3. Work With Traditional Patterns & Textures

Turning up the saturation of your winter staples is a particularly easy way of introducing colour to your wardrobe. From tweed and wool tailoring to argyle jumpers, stick to your classic go-to looks but take a few calculated risks when it comes to colour.

Here are some core pieces to consider in a slightly bolder hue or pattern this season: tweed/wool blazers, checked tailoring, heavyweight trousers, jeans, Oxford shirts, cable/waffle jumpers and Fair Isle/festive knitwear.

Men's Coloured and Patterned Winter Staples Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

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4. The ‘Peekaboo’ Knit

Think of this as the inverse of the puffer jacket scenario; instead of cranking the colour up a notch in your outer layer, try a bright piece of knitwear underneath. This way, you can wear your traditional sombre overcoat or leather jacket but have something much more gutsy peeking through.

When it comes to hue, feel free to experiment – so long as your top layer is dark and restrained, it will help control and negate the impact of the coloured piece, allowing you to successfully pull off bolder tones.

Looking for a go-to combination? Try teaming on-trend shades of green and orange (from bright to burnt) with camel, beige and khaki, which they complement wonderfully well.

Men's Bold Coloured Knitwear Worn Underneath Neutral Over Layers - Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

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  • Asos Roll Neck Jumper In Cashmere BlendAsos Roll Neck Jumper In Cashmere Blend
  • Shore Leave Nepped Cable Knit Jumper In French BlueShore Leave Nepped Cable Knit Jumper In French Blue
  • He By Mango Contrast Elbow-patch CardiganHe By Mango Contrast Elbow-patch Cardigan
  • J.crew Babylon Melange-knit SweaterJ.crew Babylon Melange-knit Sweater
  • Burton Mustard Wool Textured JumperBurton Mustard Wool Textured Jumper
  • Reiss Henri Side Detail JumperReiss Henri Side Detail Jumper
5. Go Tonal

Got the guts to go the extra mile? Try a head-to-toe look in one colour, but break it up with tonal variations. For example, mix a midnight blue overcoat with a marine navy jumper, cobalt blue shirt and navy textured trousers.

Bear in mind that this styling technique often produces extremely bold outfits, especially when you branch away from the safety of blue tones. It’s also important that any new pieces you plan on buying work independently within your existing wardrobe, too.

After all, you don’t want to be stuck with a purple pea coat that only teams with the full violet-hued getup you blew a month’s pay on, do you?

Men's Autumn/Winter Tonal Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

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6. Amp Up Your Accessories

A touch petrified by the prospect of the above? No sweat – if you want to start slow, coloured footwear or accessories offer sure-fire ways to brighten up your winter looks.

This season, trainers – the footwear du jour – provide a convenient injection of colour. To keep your look sharp, be sure to pair yours with ankle-length tapered trousers or rolled-up denim.

You could also try introducing colour to your outfit via traditional cold-weather accessories such as scarves, gloves or hats, or if you’re after something more contemporary, an on-trend backpack or fluoro bright watch.

Men's Bold Coloured Accessories and Trainers - Winter Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

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  • Herschel Settlement Backpack In Petrol BlueHerschel Settlement Backpack In Petrol Blue
  • Reiss Thorman Leather Gloves RedReiss Thorman Leather Gloves Red
  • Topman Burgundy Puritan HatTopman Burgundy Puritan Hat
  • Ami Suede And Mesh Panelled SneakersAmi Suede And Mesh Panelled Sneakers
  • He By Mango Wool-blend GlovesHe By Mango Wool-blend Gloves
  • Uniform Wares 104 Series Brushed-steel WristwatchUniform Wares 104 Series Brushed-steel Wristwatch
  • Topman Burgundy Puritan HatTopman Burgundy Puritan Hat
  • He By Mango Ethnic Patterned ScarfHe By Mango Ethnic Patterned Scarf
  • Adidas Originals Gazelle Og TrainersAdidas Originals Gazelle Og Trainers
Final Word

On first thought, adding colour to your winter looks might seem odd, but when executed well it can lend a little excitement to an otherwise uninteresting cold-weather outfit.

Have you got any other ideas on going bright this season, rather than banal?

Let us know in the comments section…