The industry’s obsession with colour over the past few years has – I think we can all agree – been nothing but good for our wardrobe. Yes, there is a place for monochrome; yes, there is a place for tonal dressing; and yes, timeless neutrals should continue to form the foundation of our ensembles – but restricting yourself to these techniques can lead to your style becoming a bit too safe and one dimensional.
Contrary to popular belief, introducing colour into your look isn’t about diving in head first and wearing a pair of trousers in the most ridiculous shade you can find. When a man starts pushing his boundaries with colour, it must be done in a considered and structured way. It should be given just as much, if not more, thought than anything else he intends to wear, and it is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
In recent weeks we’ve spoken at great length about colour, particularly in the run-up to autumn. Matt struck first with his round-up of key AW13 menswear picks; then we broke down the go-to colours for the season, emerald green and orange; and more recently, we reported the coloured trousers trend.
Yet although we’ve highlighted some of the big colours for this season and shown you how to wear them, we haven’t gone into great depth on how to keep them under control.
Colour is a fickle beast and it won’t hesitate to bite you in the ar*e if you get it wrong. Being able to integrate it seamlessly into your existing wardrobe is crucial. The more intelligently you incorporate it into your style, the easier it is to wear.
Tips For Integrating Autumn/Winter Colours
When you first decide to incorporate colour into your wardrobe, there are a few things you would do well to consider, before you part with any of your hard-earned cash.
Firstly, choose your pieces carefully – some garments will look fantastic in bold colours, others will not. Certain items work well as statement pieces, whilst others work much better as an accent (this will also equate as to how easy they are to wear).
What does and doesn’t work is not clear-cut, but I have found that, in general: accessories, knitwear, trousers, casual shirts and certain types of outerwear such as lightweight parkas, fisherman jackets and unstructured blazers work extremely well in bolder colours. Yet structured shirts, formal blazers and winter coats are far more challenging to pull off.
As for colour matching and integrating bolder tones into your wardrobe, there are a few guidelines to bear in mind:
Dark neutrals like black, navy and charcoal grey can help absorb some of the power of bolder hues. With this in mind, make a single coloured statement piece the focal point of your outfit and frame it with these neutrals. Alternatively, use them to partly cover the statement piece (a navy blazer layered over an orange jumper, for instance) – this will help neutralise its effect, turning it into more of an accent.
Lighter neutrals such as light grey, blue and oatmeal will complement, rather than restrain, your brighter tones. The softer contrast also helps avoid any serious conflict between colours, ensuring the outfit blends together seamlessly. In this instance, the outfit as a whole takes centre stage, instead of you creating a single bold focal point by setting a striking hue against a solid dark backdrop.
Finally, you must have confidence in your choices and you need to be comfortable in your personal style. Trusting in your clothes makes all the difference and any nervousness or lack of conviction WILL show. You should be able to put on your clothes in the morning and then forget about them until you take them off again at night, knowing full well that you look good, whatever happens.
The Key Colours: AW13
Today we will break down how you can integrate statement colours within your existing wardrobe with minimal fuss. Although there are many other hues available to the modern man, including the ever-popular burgundy, the three colours below are currently trending for AW13 and offer perhaps the biggest pay off, in terms of separating your look from the crowd.
Ultimately, however, the advice provided is totally transferable – simply adjust to suit your individual needs.
Whether in bright shades or burnt tones, orange is a colour that works with all of our favourite neutrals and will brighten up any dreary winter day.
This is a colour that works just as well as an accent (in the form of accessories) as it does a statement, because it sits so well against darker base tones.
For example, an orange scarf set against a navy pea coat is an excellent combination; as is an orange fisherman’s jacket paired with dark indigo selvedge denim. In these instances, the darker navy helps to absorb some of the power of the orange, preventing it from taking over the look.
When it comes to trousers, opt for richer shades of burnt orange as these will strike a good balance between statement and subtlety, being much softer on the eye.
Grey is another colour that complements orange beautifully. Dark greys and charcoal will help to keep a piece of orange knitwear (as per the outfit below) under control, whilst lighter tones will ensure the orange makes more of an impact at first glance. Find a happy medium and work with it.
Combine With: Grey and Navy
Here we layer a trusty denim jacket over a striking blood orange knit, in order to compartmentalise the statement hue to a single centre panel. The charcoal trousers anchor the entire look whilst the subtle oxblood boots pick out and complement the reddish tones present within the knitwear.
Of course, as soon as you remove your jacket indoors, the knitwear becomes a bold and vivid statement that there is no hiding from. Should this worry you, simply switch the jumper for a t-shirt in a similar colour and introduce a neutral cardigan. Not only does this add another layer and sense of depth to the ensemble, it means you can still control the statement piece after you remove your outerwear:
- Reiss Orion Woolly Merino Crew Neck Sweater Blood Orange
- Lee Denim Jacket Rider Slim Fit Epic Blue
- Topman Charcoal Flannel Checked Side Seam Skinny Trousers
- Reiss Marx Brogue Boots Ox Blood
- The Essential Long-sleeve Crewneck T
- Jack Wills Jumper With Cable Knit
- Revolution Parka Jacket
- Uniqlo Men Corduroy Long Sleeve Shirt A
- Nn.07 Simon Brushed Cotton-twill Chinos
- Topman Orange Texture Jumper
- Selected Ground Scarf
- Topman Orange Fingerless Gloves
- Falke Airport Merino Wool-blend Socks
Green is a colour that works extremely well for standard outerwear (think pea coats, overcoats, technical jackets etc.). Perhaps it is the military connotations or the fact that it just doesn’t stand out as much as other autumnal shades – either way, it’s definitely worth considering.
Unlike orange or yellow, green works best when it is blended in using lighter neutrals. Light blue and green, in particular, is a great colour pairing, especially when implemented as a green trouser, blue top combination. For lazy days around the house, try some khaki moleskins with a light blue t-shirt, finished off by a chunky shawl neck cardigan.
Earth tones complement each other perfectly, so shades of brown and oatmeal also meld nicely with green, especially when applied to outerwear, knitwear and trousers.
Combine With: Light Blue and Earth Tones.
A khaki overcoat or mac would be a great investment for the coming season whilst a pair of brown chinos/wool trousers makes a nice alternative to standard navy/grey versions.
A light blue Oxford shirt connects the two and a pair of white Jack Purcells stops the aesthetic from becoming a bit too military:
- Allsaints Redondo Shirt
- Reiss Governor Double Breasted Mac Green
- Asos Slim Chino
- Converse Jack Purcell Canvas Sneakers
- Topman Vito Dravens T-shirt
- Topman Green Flannel Long Sleeve Shirt
- Allsaints Wreck Crew Jumper
- He By Mango Slub-cotton Henley T-shirt
- Levis Vintage Clothing 1950s Cotton-jersey Crew Neck Sweatshirt
- Gant Rugger Cable-knit Sweater
- Vito Blazer
- Ted Baker Lolgren – Wool Coat
- Reiss Bellow Moleskin Trouser Khaki
If you want to give yellow a try, the easiest shades to work with are darker mustard tones. Striking lemon or sunshine yellow is difficult to pull off as a statement outside of trousers or fisherman’s jackets, and even accessories will be tough to integrate because they create such a powerful separation from your outfit’s neutral base tones.
On the whole, yellow works far better if framed by dark neutrals. Black and yellow offers a strong contrast, so try pairing a yellow knit with some black jeans and a black biker jacket for a playful take on an old school classic.
Navy is also a strong contender here. Without creating as stark a contrast as black, navy still manages to contain this bold colour without suffocating it.
Combine With: Black and Navy
Here we have controlled the power of the trousers by framing them with a soft structured navy blazer and denim shirt combination, finished with a pair of chunky brown boots.
Take note of our recent coverage of unstructured blazers to work in your jacket, keeping the vibe totally casual, and turn up those trouser hems so that you not only shorten the visible length of the statement piece, but also show off your boots to the fullest:
- Allsaints Didier Shirt
- He By Mango Multi-pocket Wool-blend Blazer
- Reiss Lancaster Denim Chinos Yellow
- Allsaints Marshal Boot
- Reiss Chesterfield Heavyweight Cable Crew Knit Citrus
- Farah Vintage Akin Hooded Jacket In Yellow
- Levis Vintage Clothing 1950s Cotton-jersey T-shirt
- Oliver Spencer Wool-blend Rollneck Sweater
- Asos Twill Shirt In Long Sleeve
- Boglioli Garment-dyed Corduroy Trousers
- Reiss Hampton Micro Polka Dot Pocket Square Lemon
- Designer Mustard Herringbone Wool Blend Blazer
- Oliver Spencer Cable-knit Beanie Hat 164780
To my mind, introducing colour to your wardrobe is much easier during autumn/winter than spring/summer. The tones are richer, warmer and more inviting, they blend seamlessly into our existing wardrobes and I personally think they just suit men better than striking fluoros or pastels.
Hopefully this guide has provided you with some inspiration and helped to allay any fears you might have had about integrating new hues into your outfits. The world of colour can be extremely intimidating for beginners, but with a few tips on how to rein it in effectively, you can harness the power of a statement piece and begin to produce completely unique looks that turn heads for all the right reasons.
Make sure you let me know your thoughts on colour control in the comments section below.