Certain shades of colour have a subtext. Though the enlightened man should no longer think of pink as something that only comes cut with an A-line hem or replete with buttons that fasten the wrong way ’round, it’s still a colour under-represented in our wardrobes. “The main worry for most guys is that they could look effeminate,” says Mr Porter style director Dan May. “But no colour is off limits. It’s just the way you style it and the confidence with which you pull it off.”
The likelihood is that your wardrobe already has a rosy tinge. You’ve probably got a pink shirt, which you call ‘salmon’ and break out for weddings. Tucked in a drawer, there’s a coruscating pair of pink socks that you got for Christmas and only air on laundry day. Perhaps there’s a cerise-and-black striped tie that you wear, despite not being convinced you like it, because someone once said it suited you.
And that’s a shame. Because deployed properly – rather than as an afterthought – pink is personality. “Wearing pink automatically tells people you’re a confident character,” says Tony Cook, menswear editor at Farfetch. Its absence from most outfits means it stands out in yours and, so long as you pick hues that suit your skin tone and that sit pretty with the rest of your outfit, it’s a statement that flatters.
On The Runways
So, while you can keep your muted button-down, it’s worth adding some pink siblings to the family. Literally, perhaps – London-based knitwear brand Sibling’s autumn/winter 2015 show mixed hot pink with monochrome and played on the colour’s perceived femininity by fashioning it into hyper-masculine tailoring and varsity wear, piled onto gym-ripped physiques.
But obnoxious isn’t the only way you can wear pink. At the same London Collections: Men showcase, Danish designer Astrid Andersen’s sportswear came in more muted corals, while father-son duo Casely-Hayford presented a rich Barbie-hued topcoat alongside subtler flashes on longline cardigans and an oversized parka.
The less adventurous were equally well catered for, with Lou Dalton and Burberry showing staple separates and accessories in duskier tones. Take this runway popularity as a sign that the time’s ripe to take your pinks a shade further.
Confidence is key, as is playing to your strengths. “Don’t overthink it,” says Cook. “Wear pink in items and styles you’d otherwise wear.”
If you’re a streetwear guy, a pink double-breasted blazer is going to make you feel doubly self-conscious. If your hat game isn’t already strong, don’t dive in with a rose trilby. And remember: where bold colours are concerned, less is more. “Use the colour on one piece,” warns Cook. “Head-to-toe is overkill.”
Back To Black
First, a history lesson. Though these days Barbie’s outfits come in pink and Action Man’s don’t (admittedly, pink doesn’t exactly make for great camouflage), it’s a modern gender split, says May. “Until the 20th century, toddlers of either sex were normally dressed in white, but when colours were used, boys were dressed in pink.”
The thinking was that since pink was a strong colour, it was inherently more masculine. Which is no less sexist than the modern obsession with making toy ovens mauve and train sets navy. It wasn’t until some spurious mid-century neurology was misunderstood to mean women preferred redder tints that Barbie began to opt for the hot pink paint job on her convertible, while Action Man donned fatigues.
The notion of men in pink has oscillated in and out of acceptance over the last century. In the shape of a pink Oxford shirt, it’s become a prep staple, ideally paired with white or off-white trousers to make it pop. For fans of the blazer and pocket square, it’s a summer look seemingly impervious to trends.
Image: Gant Rugger SS13
Counterintuitively, this aristocratic styling also influenced British football casuals in the late 1980s. Working class men – some of whom had more than a penchant for violence – would reach for pink Fred Perry polos to stand out on the terraces.
As sportswear-clad subcultures’ styles swing back into fashion, this is a look worth tapping. Just don’t accessorise it with a seat ripped from a stadium. Especially if it’s in a colour that clashes.
Image: Highstil AW15
50 Shades Of Pink
The key to making pink work for you is ensuring it’s the right one. “Picking the wrong shade can bleach out your skin tone and work against your complexion,” says Cook. As with so much in fashion, you need to work oppositionally.
“For paler skin, a stronger, deeper tone works best. A pale pink shade, the kind usually associated with Oxford shirts, complements a post-holiday glow and darker skin.”
Pink looks great set against darker complexionsJ.Crew August 2014
But that doesn’t mean men with Ron Weasley’s complexion should reach for fuschia tailoring. “You can’t really wear a lot of pink if you’re very light-skinned,” says May. “It will wash you out. A lot of sartorial rules can be broken, or at least bent if it’s done in the right way, but that one’s for certain.”
That’s not to say pastels are banned if you don’t take your tanning queues from Chippendales (either the furniture or the equally oaky-hued stripping crew). Just keep it subtle and away from your skin, says May: “Perhaps a pocket square or a flash of pink sock.”
Image: Ted Baker AW14
And – contrary to popular opinion – you don’t need to restrict pink to summer, either. In winter, rosy layering pieces offer contrast, peeking out from underneath heavier outerwear, and will inject some colour into wardrobes that have a tendency to steer as sober as the colder seasons’ cloud-bruised skies.
Image: New Look AW14
Despite appearing punchy, pink’s no struggle to slot into what you already wear. It plays especially well with the masculine colours you’re already repping – there’s a reason the salmon shirt and deep blue suit has become the City Boy’s power dressing staple.
“Grey also works well in formal wear,” says Cook. “For a more contemporary approach, black and pink nod to the punk trend appearing in autumn/winter 2015 London menswear collections.”
Image: Charles Tyrwhitt 2015
If you’re not going to risk the Casely-Hayford overcoat, then a dusty pink crew neck sweatshirt, like this from Hentsch Man (£90, hentschman.com), will breathe new life into the dark one hanging in your wardrobe.
“Just keep it simple,” adds May. “[Despite combining well with several colours] pink can be more difficult to match than, say, navy or white, so take some time and consideration in what you’ll be teaming it with. Pick your pink piece out first, then build your look around that.”
Modern Pink Lookbook
- Ymc T-shirt With Pocket In Neon Pink
- Polo Ralph Lauren V Neck Jumper With Polo Player Logo In Pima Cotton
- M&s Collection Luxury Luxury Pure Cashmere Crew Neck Jumper
- River Island Pink Twill Shirt
- Reiss Kingsley Open-collar T-shirt Pink
- Uniqlo Men Chino Shorts
- Burberry Brit Pink Loopback Cotton Sweatshirt
- Turnbull & Asser Pink Double-cuff Cotton Shirt
- Orlebar Brown Bulldog Mid-length Swim Shorts
- Topman Pink Skinny Fit Suit Jacket
- Austin Reed Regular Fit Wrinkle Free Soft Chinos
- Uniqlo Men Colour Socks
- T.m.lewin Pink Burgundy Weave Slim Tie
- Reiss Savoy Printed Silk Pocket Square Soft Pink
- Ask The Missus Bonjourno Tassle Loafer Baby Pink Suede
Real men wear pink. And since they do it with confidence, you can too. Just make sure it’s the right one for you, and that you’re careful with its placement. If peacocking’s bad, then flamingoing is even worse.
Do you already wear pink? If so, how do you get it into your outfits? And are there shades of pink which no man – despite his steely self-esteem – can pull off?