An enlightened man will 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 around, but it’s still a colour underrepresented in most wardrobes.
“The main worry for most guys is that they could look effeminate in pink,” 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 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 Farfetch menswear editor Tony Cook. 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.
A Surprisingly Rosy Past
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 closer to red and therefore 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.
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 polo shirts 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.
The Right Pink For Your Skin Tone
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 in opposites.
“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.”
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.”
How To Wear Pink
Use Accessories For Flash Of Pink
Aside from picking the right shade, wearing pink requires steely self-esteem. If you’re more of a shrinking violet, May recommends experimenting with smaller, subtle pieces that are worn away from the skin first. “Perhaps a pocket square or a flash of pink sock,” he says.
You Can Still Wear Pink In Winter
Contrary to popular opinion – you don’t need to restrict pink to summer. 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.
Go-To Pink Workwear Combinations
Despite appearing punchy, pink won’t struggle to slot into what you already wear. It plays especially well with other traditionally masculine colours – there’s a reason the salmon shirt and navy suit has become a modern 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.”
Keep It Simple
If peacocking’s bad, then flamingoing is even worse. Just because you have a new found love of the hue, always remember the first rule of menswear success is keeping things simple.
“[Despite combining well with several colours] pink can be more difficult to match than, say, navy or white,” says May. “So take some time and consideration in what you’ll be teaming it with.” A good approach is to pick out a single pink piece first, then build a look around that, usually with dark basics.
Every colour has a Morecambe to its metaphorical Wise. For camel, it’s navy; for green, it’s grey; and for pink it’s no different. While a range of hues are up for grabs, rogue tones look best alongside darker blues and browns, but can also pair with white for a striking high summer statement.
Similar Colours (Easiest To Pair): Reds and mauve pinks.
Contrasting Colours (Harder To Pair): Blue violets and yellow greens.
Complementary Colours (Hardest To Pair): Blue greens.
Recommended: Grey, beige and white, along with darker shades of green and blue.
Toughen Up Pink
Suggesting that anyone wearing pink needs to ‘man up’ is a little too retrosexual. (Just look at Drake.) However, putting the colour to work on rugged workwear pieces – such as bombers, denim jackets and sweatshirts – is an easy way to guarantee you get looks down the pub for all the right reasons.
Key Pink Pieces All Men Can Wear
One of the main pieces driving a pink rethink, a sharp-collared shirt in a soft shade is the ideal counterpart to a smart navy suit. Now firmly an officewear staple, alongside its white and sky blue counterparts, finish with a complementary or contrasting tie and rule the boardroom.
Given its ability to pair expertly with darker tones like blue (as in the colour of those jeans you wear almost every day) a casual Oxford shirt is an extremely smart buy. Use the button-down to lighten up an otherwise sober look by opting for a brighter example shade or keep things classic and dusty.
An easy option for injecting some (much welcomed) personality into formal attire, a pink tie is a surefire way to prove why blokes can wear blush. Whether for work or a summer wedding, set the knot against a white or even tonal shirt for a look that won’t make you look like a six-year-old girl.
Streetwear may have only recently gained the acceptance (or, rather, the appropriation) of the fashion crowd, but it’s long been ahead of the pack when it comes to pink. Commonly used on T-shirts as well as hoodies, a plain pink tee is something that sits neatly under a denim shirt or jacket.
If ever there’s a time to make a splash with pink, it’s while on holiday. Of course, while a decidedly dashing beach choice, the high skin-to-short ratio with swimwear makes getting the shade right all the more important. Especially if your complexion has a tendency to look like Strawberry Angel Delight by day five.