Warmer weather means two things for your wardrobe: 1) it’s time to switch to clothes that make you feel cooler (easy); and 2) it’s time to start passing on the black and navy in favour of brighter shades (less so).
There’s a reason most men avoid vivid colours. They don’t want to look like a rainbow just threw up on them. If bread-and-butter hues like black, grey and navy are ‘safe’, then bolder ones like yellow and red are, in sartorial terms, asking for trouble.
But, while colours may up the ante in terms of risk, they also provide a way of not looking like Captain Obvious every time you change out of your birthday suit. And, if you get really clever with the old colour wheel and seek out the shades which suit your skin tone, you stand to instantly look more attractive. Nifty, eh?
To help you navigate the pitfalls of an expanding palette, we’ve tapped the expert knowledge of the men who dress well for a living. It’s time to lighten up.
Once considered as masculine as Bear Grylls on steroids, pink only gained its feminine status in the early 20th century. Since then it’s been championed by the likes of Barbie, Paris Hilton and Becky in HR who loves her glittery feather pen. A new more open-minded generation of men has, however, chosen to ignore this and are diving head-first into millennial pink.
First things first, we’re not talking the bubblegum shade that covered your 12-year-old sister’s bedroom walls. Millennial pink is all about the colour’s subtler guises: think peach, rose, blush and salmon.
“For casual attire, look for earthier, more washed-out pinks than vibrant takes,” says menswear creative Nas Abraham, who has worked with the likes of Hackett and Adidas. “Then combine them with olive tones, warm bronzes and browns, and [wear with] pale wash jeans or denim jackets to ground them.”
One of pink’s best assets is its versatility. A fine-gauge jumper or shirt sits easily with black or blue jeans, sand or navy shorts and even green chinos. Though you’ll want to swerve styling it with stark white, unless you’re intentionally taking your style cues from TOWIE.
As with any brighter hue, it’s worth taking stock of your skin tone before taking the plunge. Guys with a darker complexion can wear most shades of pink, but those with fairer skin should opt for deeper variants to sidestep the washout effect.
Green might just be the new black. It’s almost as versatile as any other neutral, pairing well with everything from white and navy to yellow and pink. And because it’s not as loud or as traditionally gendered as some tones, it’s a lot easier to slip into your wardrobe.
New to green? Kick off with a pale sage or military shade. It works well in basics like T-shirts or chinos, but a field jacket or pocketed overshirt in this colour is another no-brainer: the look is trending this season and, truth told, won’t ever really fall out of fashion thanks to its years of service, both armed and civilian. What’s more, they’re well worth the money. Throw over a white tee and pale, distressed jeans in spring and switch for sand chinos in high summer.
“I’m currently obsessed with building a wardrobe around greens and neutral colours as they feel effortless worn together,” says Billy Rainford, stylist at Harvey Nichols. “[But make sure] that you have other tones in your wardrobe to break down your outfit.” Stock up on light neutrals, deep reds and blues to make sage green go the extra mile.
For most men, the idea of wearing yellow prompts a feeling that’s anything but mellow. But while there’s no denying that this colour is tricky to ace, it’s far too powerful a hue to write off entirely. That’s why Gen-Z (depressingly, that’s the generation junior to millennials) is making like it’s the nineties and giving yellow its moment in the sun again.
As with pink, yellow works best toned-down. (Unless it covers just a couple of square inches in total, in which case you can even try canary.) Think less hi-vis vest, more muted mustard. Shout-out here to model Oliver Cheshire, who – in a honey-coloured suede jacket at London Fashion Week – almost single-handedly put yellow back on the agenda. The key is to anchor the attention-grabbing shade with subtler pieces.
Founder of British menswear label Percival, Chris Gove, recommends wearing yellow on outerwear this season. “As an outer layer, yellow tones can work in a variety of ways, as the colour has long been used as outdoor kit,” he says. It’s true that yellow likes all the attention for itself and should be worn sparingly. “Try a mustard fisherman raincoat layered over a navy overshirt, a white T-shirt, some black jeans and white sneakers for simple style with a bit of interest,” says Gove.
Word of warning for lighter skin tones, though: you definitely need some sun before you start wearing yellow. Or at least some St Tropez.
According to colour theory, red is associated with energy, power and strength. Which is reason enough to put it front and centre in your wardrobe. But it’s also a smart choice for punching up your primary colours quotient if yellow is too far out of your comfort zone.
“Red is a sophisticated choice and has been serving men well for generations,” says Alex Field, head of menswear design at Reiss. “Think James Dean’s red Harrington jacket in Rebel Without a Cause for styling cues this season.”
Make like Hollywood’s original teenager and try a red collegiate jacket worn with slim, light wash jeans and a simple white crew neck T-shirt. Or switch things up by pairing a red tee with a pair of classic beige chinos or tailored shorts.
Red also signifies danger, of course. And in menswear terms that means red trousers. Red denim, sweats and shorts can all look fire, but there’s a whole Twitter account dedicated to the Made in Chelsea-tinged ugliness of red trousers. And for good reason.
That purple is one of the most overlooked colours in menswear isn’t entirely surprising, especially given its connotations of Disney villains, fortune tellers and nineties Goths. But then, there’s also Prince. Follow in the late trendsetter’s footsteps, not by donning full glam rock regalia, but by trying your hand at pale purple this summer. If nothing else, you’ll score points for originality.
“My preference is towards a lighter shade of purple, which will go with a wide variety of things,” says Abraham. It’s a given that you’re not going to get away with mixing purple and other jazzy shades, but you needn’t play it too cautious.
Anoraks, jackets and hoodies all work well in pale purple and make a regal partnership teamed with some white jeans, but for peak 1990s normcore vibes try recruiting a pale purple T-shirt alongside some sand chinos and chunky trainers.
The key factor in your wardrobe enjoying a purple patch is essentially stripping everything else right back. The hue is notoriously resistant to playing nice with other shades, so make it your showpiece – a pair of swim shorts, a short sleeve shirt or a blazer, for example – and keep the supporting items pared-back in shades of black, grey, sand, beige or white.
Neutrals may not be your best friend at a summer barbeque, but when you’re clear of condiments, they’re your fast-track to looking like a modern-day Jay Gatsby. New-season neutrals include beige, stone, white and pale grey – basically, if it invites grass stains, it’s in.
“These neutrals are a nice alternative for those not willing to go bright,” says Matthew Braun, design manager at River Island. But they still give your outfit a stark, standout quality.
“It takes a special kind of swagger to go full neutral,” says Braun. “Unless you can carry it off with confidence, stick to the one-piece rule.”
Try adding a cream blazer to your summer set-up: it’ll easily take you from a wedding to a day at the races with a few adjustments here and there. For your casual wardrobe, try Henley tops, lightweight knits or T-shirts in cream, stone and beige, which can be thrown on with pretty much anything. Oh, and there are extra menswear points on offer if you go for mottled weave designs too.
Bright orange is best remembered as a staple of the seventies, when it was most often coupled up with the not so delightful bedfellows of yellow and brown. Subsequent outings for the colour came tentatively pale, but this season punchy orange has resurfaced and it’s all thanks to digitally-savvy youngsters.
“Unexpected colourways such as orange continue to uptrend in menswear as customers want to be seen and stand out in a crowd or on Instagram,” says Michael Taylor, senior menswear buyer at Urban Outfitters. “Orange tones that popped up last in nineties rave culture have been transformed and can now be seen on streetwear. Workwear references (hi-vis orange) were used in various menswear collections [this year] including N.Hoolywood who applied it to dungarees and work jackets.”
Much like that other citrus shade yellow, orange should be your standout piece. An lightweight knit or anorak in the hue will pair well with classic indigo jeans and white high-tops, but when it’s warmer, a simple orange tee is the way to go.
Other than swim shorts, orange should always be kept on your top half too: we haven’t seen orange trousers look appropriate outside of an American prison.
We get it, some men are terminally wed to wearing navy, and although this sartorial workhorse is fine for summer, cobalt blue is less likely to induce narcolepsy. As an added bonus, despite being a high-impact colour, cobalt requires no complex styling equations.
“With so much on offer now the bland navy train can quickly lead to a stale wardrobe,” says Gove. “For the man apprehensive of diving into colour at all, cobalt will lift looks for spring and summer without rocking the boat too much.”
Styling rules are pretty simple. The colour can be approached in much the same way as navy: it’s all about balance. Try a cobalt T-shirt with black chino shorts and black loafers for a punchier take on preppy styling or amp up your favourite white jeans and low-tops with a knitted long sleeve polo shirt taken in summer’s new answer to navy.
Before you get overexcited though, cobalt’s got it’s limits. As is the case with most retina-widening colours, it’s best left occupy the limelight solo: so choose a few backing singer pieces to support your headline act.