To quote Karl Lagerfeld: “Black and white always looks modern, whatever that word means”. Through this simple but powerful sentence, the influential German designer has managed to sum up why the monochrome trend continues to appear on the runways, season after season. The fact that Lagerfeld is rarely seen wearing ‘anything but’ only adds more substance to his claim.
The monochrome trend has a deep-rooted history in men’s fashion. Regency socialite Beau Brummell became one of the first proponents of the muted palette when he shunned the overtly opulent embroidered ensembles of the Georgian era in favour of sharply tailored two-tone separates.
In fact, Brummell’s decision proved to be so iconic that it effectively redefined the way the world viewed how men should dress for a formal occasion. And his influence is still apparent to this day, as black and white remain staples in every man’s tailoring collection.
But whereas these two contrasting shades were only associated with formal occasions in the 17th and 18th century, the modern gent has the option of creating outfits for both smart and casual occasions. Designers sent models down the AW14 runways wearing monochrome in a variety of different ways, with some opting for clean blocks of solid colour, while others utilised striking printed pieces.
Today, FashionBeans aims to demonstrate how monochrome is one of the most wearable trends for the colder months. We’ll show you how to incorporate black and white pieces into your AW14 wardrobe for both formal and casual events, whether you want to stick to more traditional looks or make a strong style statement by pattern mixing…
Each time you’re handed an invite to a formal bash – be it a work Christmas party, winter wedding or fundraising charity ball – it’s likely that the first thought that will cross your mind is whether your tuxedo and dress shirt have been dry-cleaned.
We don’t blame you. Popular culture has been subconsciously leading us to believe that this should be the go-to outfit for these kind of events for as long as we can remember. Look at it this way, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig have all kept the same uniform as James Bond even though they’ve played the dapper spy in different decades.
We’d be lying if we said a simple two-piece isn’t a style winner, but there are a number of ways you can bring a contemporary twist to your favourite suit. Bored of always buying all-black evening wear? Look to mix things up with a white jacket and dark trousers. This vivid contrast will help make an effortless statement in a refined and appropriate way.
- Topman White Skinny Tux Suit Jacket
- Moss Bros Regular Fit Shawl Collar Dinner/tuxedo Jacket White
- Asos Slim Fit Tuxedo Jacket
- River Island White Two-tone Tux Blazer
- Skopes Monaco Tuxedo
- Richard James Notch-lapel Cotton Blazer 188884
Agnes B updated their tux at Paris Fashion Week AW14 by teaming it with on-trend pointed black lace-ups, which are perfect for the classicists in our midst. Elsewhere, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga took a more practical approach by combining their sharp black tailoring with rugged worker boots and sleeker Chelsea styles, respectively.
If you’re looking for something different, the more adventurous individuals among you should take inspiration from Daniele Alessandrini by working shoes featuring a subtle flash of print into your formal ensembles this year.
In what looks set to develop into major trend, Dior Homme, E.Tautz and Givenchy were just some of the other high-end designer advocates of monochrome patterned and block-coloured footwear for AW14:
- Ps By Paul Smith Falconer Chelsea Boots
- He By Mango Lace-up Leather Boots
- Ted Baker Billay Hi-shine Shoes
- Ask The Missus Planet Brogue Black White Leather
- Giuseppe Zanotti Python Print Sharktooth Shoes
- Asos Derby Shoes With Floral Print
- Max Verre Houndstooth Printed Ponyskin Loafers
- Saint Laurent Colour Block Brogues
- G.h. Bass & Co. Burlington Saddle Shoe
It wasn’t all just monochrome separates and suiting for AW14. The likes of Ami, Casely-Hayford, Canali and Alexander McQueen showcased a selection of sharp black outerwear, which incorporated everything from tonal prints to contrast white detailing.
Check out our recent guide to picking the right coat if you’re looking for suggestions on the perfect silhouette to add to your wardrobe this year.
- Asos Wool Duffle Coat In Black
- Zara Knitted Three-quarter Length Coat
- Asos Wool Jacket With Funnel Neck In Black
- Reiss Spencer Concealed Placket Coat Black
- Ps By Paul Smith Zigzag Herringbone Wool Coat 206959
- Mp Di Massimo Piombo Wool-blend Houndstooth Coat
If you don’t fancy splashing out on a new coat and shoes, an easy way to make a black suit or tux stand out is to invest in traditional formal accessories.
For example, a black and white bow-tie in a polka dot, paisley or moody floral print will add a touch of character to any evening ensemble. Other accessories that allow room for an individual flourish include lightweight silk scarves and pocket squares.
If attention to detail is your thing, continue the monochrome theme right down to your cuff links – Paul Smith, Duchamp, T.M.Lewin and Thomas Pink all do an excellent range.
- Reiss Garbo Silk Dot Pocket Square Black
- Topman Mono Marble Oversize Bow Tie
- Reiss Icarus White
- Forzieri Paisley Print Silk Reversible Mens Scarf
- Reclaimed Vintage Chain Tie
- Duchamp Geometric Silk Scarf
- Kilgour Knitted Silk Tie
- Duchamp Reversible Pearl Cufflink
- Asos Bow Tie With Polka Dots
Smart/Formal Monochrome Lookbook Inspiration
A more relaxed approach to the monochrome trend was seen in countless AW14 collections, demonstrating that there are a number of ways black and white can be matched together to create laid-back outfits.
Providing style-conscious men with an example of how a pared-down palette can be rocked at the weekend was Tillmann Lauterbach, who dressed models in round-necked varsity jackets and soft sweatpants in his AW14 showcase.
By doing this, the designer – who crafts pieces at his atelier in the French capital – also resurrected SS14’s love of vintage Americana.
For other days when you can’t face unforgiving fabrics, follow Cedric Jacquemyn’s lead by throwing a slouchy black sweater over a white oversized tee and finish with slim-fit jeans and plain trainers. Minimal effort – and cost – is required for this approach as it’s likely you’ll already have similar garments buried somewhere at the back of your wardrobe.
Ready to really make a statement during your down time? Choose printed fabrics. Whether you work a zip-up jacket decorated with inverted ‘V’ shapes like Kris Van Assche, or don DKNY and Agi & Sam-style geometrics, the monochrome trend offers the perfect chance for individual expression.
If you’re feeling particularly bold, mix in a multitude of patterns like D.Gnak and Haider Ackermann:
- Allsaints Creede Half Sleeved Shirt
- Asos Jumper With Dogtooth Design
- Reclaimed Vintage Checked Bomber Jacket With Borg Collar
- Farah Vintage Myles Smudge Print Shirt In Mono
- Topman Levis 511 Slim Splatter Black White
- Reiss Chief Jacquard Weave Jumper Black
- River Island Black Bandana Sleeve Bomber Jacket
- Alexander Mcqueen Geometric Patterned Cotton-jersey T-shirt
- Neil Barrett Panelled Grained-leather And Bonded-jersey Sweatshirt
Obviously there’ll be times when you’re faced with social arrangements that don’t permit these kind of looks. Ami offered night out and date-appropriate options by teaming a black and white plaid shirt with a knee-length duffle and dark denim jeans.
Elsewhere, Louis Vuitton and Emporio Armani went down a similar route by contrasting heavy white jumpers and roll necks with black trousers/jeans:
Casual/Smart-Casual Monochrome Lookbook Inspiration
Black and white is a subtle yet striking combination that will never go out of fashion. Practical, sharp and versatile, it’s a palette that oozes sophistication, can be dressed up or down for the occasion and looks great on any man.
With monochrome ensembles set to become a key look for the coming autumn/winter season, now’s the time to experiment with the items you already own, as well as consider adding a couple of key pieces to your wardrobe to help give it an instant refresh.
But now we want to hear from you, the readers. Are you a fan of black and white colour palettes? Or do you feel they look too cold and stark? Maybe you feel these type of ensembles would benefit from a shot of colour?
Make sure you let us know your thoughts, opinions and go-to looks in the comments section below…