Life is about progression. Learning that change is good – and accepting it – is what being a human is all about.

The same can be said of fashion and the journey that all of us take from a complete rookie to a seasoned sartorial pro. Because what you liked a couple of years ago, you may not be such a big fan of now. For example, I was all about Marmite on toast a few years back when I was studying for my MA. These days? Nah, we’re off that. Things have changed, I’m afraid.

When you first start out in the men’s style game, it can all be a bit too much to take in. Men’s fashion has seriously caught up with it’s female counterpart in the last decade, progressing to a level where the choices and options available to the average male are at an overwhelming level.

So, rather like learning to swim, it’s important to start in the shallow end and then work your way deeper. Begin by purchasing simple, classic, versatile pieces that you know will see you through any situation. Essentially, learn the rules of style.

But once you’ve learned the rules – you can then learn how to break them. This is a concept I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

When I first started writing the men’s fashion basics series a couple of years ago, there were a few steadfast rules that I wanted rookies to stick to. This way you could avoid some of the more complicated problems that arise when trying to dress well; things like colour combinations, pattern mixing and obsessing over the details. They were the same rules that I stuck to religiously for many years too.

Breaking The Rules

However, as previously mentioned, I’ve started to change my mind and, now that I understand them inside out, have started to break the rules that I laid down years before.

Here are my top five that I like to experiment with…

1. Navy & Black

You’ve probably heard me say that navy goes with everything, except black. The reason for this is that when put together the two colours can create a black hole effect, sucking in the beholder’s eyes to their location and never letting them go to admire other aspects of your outfit. This is due to them being far too similar in colour and tone.

However, as we well know, not all navies are the same. A navy that has more blue base tones (rather than black base tones) can be paired with black because it will provide enough contrast to separate the two, so try something as simple as a navy blue t-shirt with a black leather jacket.

When integrating black and navy together in a formal outfit (which is where this colour combination can be really frowned upon), try and differentiate the two colours through texture as well. I’ve recently taken to wearing my navy denim dress shirt from Suit Supply with my cotton black suit, with the contrast in textures helping to lift the whole look.

Navy With Black Lookbook

Men's Navy and Black Lookbook

Louis vuitton pre aw13Louis vuitton pre aw13sandro ss13massimo dutti august 2012river island aw12j crew aw11allsaints ss13allsaints aw12burberry black label ss13
Example Outfits
  • Jack & Jones Smart Denim ShirtJack & Jones Smart Denim Shirt
  • He By Mango Cotton BlazerHe By Mango Cotton Blazer
  • He By Mango Cotton Suit TrousersHe By Mango Cotton Suit Trousers
  • Plain TiePlain Tie
  • Allsaints Tanishi ShirtAllsaints Tanishi Shirt
  • Reiss Milton Textured Shawl Cardi NavyReiss Milton Textured Shawl Cardi Navy
  • Topman Black Vintage Slim JeansTopman Black Vintage Slim Jeans
  • Loake Suede Tassel LoafersLoake Suede Tassel Loafers
  • Allsaints Stanley 1/2 Sleeve HenleyAllsaints Stanley 1/2 Sleeve Henley
  • Nudie Jonny Leather JacketNudie Jonny Leather Jacket
  • A.p.c. Petit Standard Slim Selvedge JeansA.p.c. Petit Standard Slim Selvedge Jeans
2. The Rule Of Three

Another rule I used to stick to avidly. When it comes to things such as colour, pattern mixing and accessorising, my advice to style newbies is to never use more than three.

For example, have no more than three colours at work in your outfit at one time – and one should always be neutral. This helps keep your outfits grounded in the real world whilst still allowing you to experiment.

To a certain extent, I don’t break this rule at all. What I like to do is add a subtle detail that bends, rather than breaks it. For example, if I’m wearing a navy suit with a green gingham shirt and a bold burgundy striped tie (the rule of three for patterns – two patterns to one solid) I then finish the look with a patterned pocket square in navy floral to add another pattern to the mix.

I’d recommend doing it this way to avoid your looks getting too messy. And only ever do it with one style – colour, patterns or accessories – NEVER all at the same time.

If you want an example of how it is done, check out FashionBeans reader favourite L.B.M 1911, who release some of the best lookbooks we see on site:

LBM 1911 - SS13, SS12 and AW11

3. Black & Brown

Realistically, black has a really hard time pairing with anything other than grey and white. I think it’s because as soon as it sits next to another colour, the black starts to look less rich and deep whilst the colour just looks cheap.

However, when it comes to wearing brown with black, for example brown boots with black jeans, this is something you can easily incorporate into your own looks. Just follow the same principles as navy and black and choose a brown in contrasting tone (and texture where possible).

Brown With Black Lookbook

Men's Black With Brown Lookbook

de fursac aw12EL BURGUES july 2011berluti aw13coach ss13louis vuitton pre aw13sandro ss13david gandyj crew aw13DAY Birger Et Mikkelsen aw11
Example Outfits
  • Reiss Dayton Short Sleeve Basic V-neck Tshirt WhiteReiss Dayton Short Sleeve Basic V-neck Tshirt White
  • Allsaints Crawley Leather Biker JacketAllsaints Crawley Leather Biker Jacket
  • Levis Vintage Cord Trousers 519 BedfordLevis Vintage Cord Trousers 519 Bedford
  • Allsaints Range BootAllsaints Range Boot
  • John Smedley Belvoir Rollneck Merino Wool SweaterJohn Smedley Belvoir Rollneck Merino Wool Sweater
  • Asos Slim Fit BlazerAsos Slim Fit Blazer
  • Reiss 1971 Yale Grey Chambray Trousers GreyReiss 1971 Yale Grey Chambray Trousers Grey
  • H By Hudson Purvis Tassel LoafersH By Hudson Purvis Tassel Loafers
  • Farah Vintage White Oxford ShirtFarah Vintage White Oxford Shirt
  • Reiss Slimpt Waffle Crew Jumper MochaReiss Slimpt Waffle Crew Jumper Mocha
  • Allsaints Preston TrouserAllsaints Preston Trouser
4. Trainers With A Suit

This one always causes controversy with the purists out there. I’m a firm believer, after many years of trial and error, that as long as the trainers are simple in detail and construction, like a pair of plain white leather Common Projects, and you’ve lost the office based details such as a tie and a belt, it’s perfectly fine to wear trainers with a suit.

Obviously NOT to the office and obviously NOT with a formal suit or tuxedo, but it does work – especially when paired with lighter linen/cotton versions in spring/summer or with more unstructured cuts.

For more on this, check out the article I did on this subject last year.

Suits & Trainers Lookbook

Men's Trainers and a Suit Lookbook

h&m ss13h&m ss13unknownmr start ss12mr start ss12dondup ss13topman luxe 2013topman luxe 2013reiss 1971 ss13
Minimalist Trainers
  • Common Projects Original Achilles Leather Low Top SneakersCommon Projects Original Achilles Leather Low Top Sneakers
  • Converse Jack Purcell Leather OxConverse Jack Purcell Leather Ox
  • Saint Laurent Sl01 Low-top Sneakers 153416Saint Laurent Sl01 Low-top Sneakers 153416
  • Supra Skylow TrainersSupra Skylow Trainers
  • Adidas Originals Stan Smith IiAdidas Originals Stan Smith Ii
  • Adidas Originals Superstar IiAdidas Originals Superstar Ii
  • Allsaints Rule Low-topAllsaints Rule Low-top
  • Common Projects Original Achilles Low Black TrainersCommon Projects Original Achilles Low Black Trainers
  • Marc Jacobs Parka Low-top TrainersMarc Jacobs Parka Low-top Trainers
  • Topman Black Elite Low Trainers Topman Black Elite Low Trainers
  • Lacoste Rene Crafted Dark Blue TrainersLacoste Rene Crafted Dark Blue Trainers
  • Lanvin Suede And Patent-leather SneakersLanvin Suede And Patent-leather Sneakers
5. Tweaking The Details

I used to be of the firm belief that things always had to be a certain way – ties should be a certain length, tie bars should be placed at certain heights and pocket squares should be perfectly creased and folded Mad Men style.

These days? Who cares? Have some fun with it!

I regularly knot my tie so that the tail end is longer than the body to add a little bit of dishevelment to my look. Or why not take inspiration from the Italian style giant Giovanni Agneli and wear you watch over your shirt cuff? I’m not saying follow him exactly but it’s that sort of tinkering and tweaking of the details that can lift your look from something out of GQ to something that is truly your own.

Key Pieces
  • Topman Peacock Print NeckerchiefTopman Peacock Print Neckerchief
  • Topman Blue Paisley NeckerchiefTopman Blue Paisley Neckerchief
  • Hawaiian Print NeckerchiefHawaiian Print Neckerchief
  • Austin Reed Viyella Yellow/blue Floral Pocket SquareAustin Reed Viyella Yellow/blue Floral Pocket Square
  • Austin Reed Blue/cream 4 Section Silk HandkerchiefAustin Reed Blue/cream 4 Section Silk Handkerchief
  • Topman Geo Print Pocket SquareTopman Geo Print Pocket Square
  • Austin Reed Navy Herringbone BracesAustin Reed Navy Herringbone Braces
  • Topman Black Vintage Plain BracesTopman Black Vintage Plain Braces
  • Drakes Striped Elasticated BracesDrakes Striped Elasticated Braces
  • Half Hunter Skeleton Fob WatchHalf Hunter Skeleton Fob Watch
  • Topman Black Pave Ball WalletchainTopman Black Pave Ball Walletchain
  • Topman Brown Leather Wallet ChainTopman Brown Leather Wallet Chain
  • Mulberry Cashmere-lined Leather GlovesMulberry Cashmere-lined Leather Gloves
  • Dents Mens Tan Cashmere Lined Leather Gloves DentsDents Mens Tan Cashmere Lined Leather Gloves Dents
  • Austin Reed Chocolate Leather Knit-lined GlovesAustin Reed Chocolate Leather Knit-lined Gloves
Final Word

There you have it, a few things that I previously considered to be fashion faux pas, which don’t seem all that difficult to pull off now.

So if you’ve been in this menswear game for a while, why not give them a try? And if you’re only just starting out on your journey, just think what you’ve got to look forward to once you’ve nailed the basics.

But I also want to hear what you guys think too, so make sure to leave your comments below…

Matt Allinson