Getting to grips with which colours suit you, and which categorically do not, is pretty easy. Provided you have access to a mirror and, you know, your eyesight, figuring out which colour combinations complement your skin tone and which make you want to immediately gouge your eyes out with a spoon is relatively straightforward. You just look in the mirror (or take a selfie).
Fabrics are a little different. That’s because there’s a difference between instantly recognising that fire engine red makes pale skin look like it’s on the brink of male menopause and figuring out exactly what it is about those light brown cords that make you want to never (ever) be seen wearing them in public.
To sew this up once and for all, we asked a couple of men’s style experts for their top tips on pulling off the wardrobe’s most difficult materials.
It’s hard to wear tweed without looking like you’re about to take a morning constitutional with a dog called Jasper and a filly called Biggles. However, it can be done by giving this well-worn fabric a welcome update.
“When you hear the word ‘tweed’, you automatically think of the heritage trend, which has been dead for a good few seasons now,” says Gordon Richardson, creative director of Topman. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t wear [tweed], it just means you need to wear it in a new way.”
Do this by swapping dog-tired tweed pieces for their trending counterparts. For a modern take on this classic fabric, Richardson suggests retiring fustier tweed pieces – such as a suit – and introducing more contemporary takes, like a svelte bomber jacket or pair of cropped trousers. Also, try to avoid old-fashioned combinations of browns and greens and opt for more contemporary colourways instead.
Like tweed but want something less heavy, stiff and home county estate? Try its lighter, easier-to-style cousin. “If you like the look of tweed but want something lighter, you can opt for flannel to get the same effect without [enduring] the roughness of tweed,” says Lisa Bubes, a stylist at personal styling service Trunk Club.
Velvet and velour are seesaw statement fabrics: get them right, and you’re a ‘Ye-level mic-dropping style master; get them wrong, and you’re something between a Real Housewife and a walking dress-up box.
“Velvet, especially a velvet dinner jacket, is a staple for black tie events and holiday parties,” says Bubes. “Because velvet makes such a statement, let the jacket do the talking. Stick to a classic white shirt and add simple, subtle accessories such as a pocket square and cufflinks.” Velvet jackets in colours such as burgundy, navy or hunter green are bold but still look classically masculine when paired with classic black tuxedo trousers.
Oh, and stow velvet for summer, says Bubes. As a three-season fabric, velvet shouldn’t make an appearance anytime other than autumn, winter and – at a push – spring evenings.
As for velour, save it for the off-duty wardrobe. “Keep it simple,” says Richardson. “[Team] a velour T-shirt in pink or grey or a velour hoodie in green, grey or black with a simple pair of jeans or relaxed trousers.” He also advises observing a strict limit of one velour piece per outfit, lest you come off more Kim K than Kanye.
As with denim, good fit is essential to carrying off corduroy. Unlike denim, however, this cotton fabric’s distinctive ridged surface only looks good in a select few colours, so choose carefully to avoid inadvertently jacking your former history teacher’s look.
“If you are going to buy corduroy trousers […] go for a contemporary skinny fit in order to make what can be perceived as a dated fabric, feel modern,” says Richardson. Needless to say, corduroy blazers should be similarly trim-fitting. As for colour, know your corduroy-safe (burgundy, chestnut brown, stone, navy) from your corduroy-no-bloody-way-in hell (light dishwater brown, bright red, pretty much anything else).
“Like tweed, corduroy should mainly be worn during autumn and winter,” says Bubes. She suggests trying a pair of cords with sneakers and a Henley T-shirt for a simple smart-casual look or teaming with a blazer for a more sophisticated finish.
Thanks to dad style’s recent meteoric rise to fame (normcore, dad jeans, the dad bod, dad bloggers etc.), the fabrics of our fathers’ wardrobes have also stumbled into the spotlight.
Take linen, for example: once the uniform of every bloke who ever barbequed, now a stylish and practical solution to soaring summer temperatures. But there’s a fine art to wearing it without coming off a dead ringer for the dad from Delmonte.
“Anything loose and baggy is an absolute no-no,” says Richardson. “And don’t even think about wearing a linen suit.” Rather, limit your experiments in linen to slim-cut pieces in neutrals and earth tones, and wear just one item at a time. Why? One piece is Riviera suave; any more than that is weather-beaten, beaded bracelet-wearing yoga instructor.
“Never wear a 100 per cent linen garment,” adds Bubes. “It creases quickly and can often feel crunchy. Look for a cotton- or silk-blend instead, you’ll get the same look with a softer and more comfortable feel.”
To that end, Richardson suggests a chambray-linen mix overshirt for a crease-resistant warm-weather staple that’s free from Algarve dad connotations. “It’s an easy-to-wear, contemporary piece that [will] keep you cool in the summer months.”
When discussing the presence of silk and satin in men’s wardrobes, it’s useful to divide time into two distinct calendar eras: before Ryan Gosling in Drive (BRGD); and after Ryan Gosling in Drive (ARGD).
Thanks to Driver’s (played by Gosling) now iconic scorpion-embroidered silk souvenir jacket, traditionally feminine fabrics such as silk and its man-made equivalent satin have recently become more than just what tuxedo jacket’s lapels are made from. But tread carefully: one false move can be just a sailor cap away from a Hugh Hefner portrait.
“I’d recommend a [satin] bomber jacket or a shirt, but don’t be too jazzy and over the top with it,” says Richardson. “[Stick to] muted colours such as black and navy as there is a very fine line between satin looking contemporary and modern and it looking budget.”
Bubes is similarly cautious about satin, adding “it should only be on a tuxedo’s lapel, buttons and other detailing”, but strongly advises taking advantage of silk’s natural softness and sheen for the summer months. “Silk has a lustre that no other fabric can compete with,” she says.
Try a silk souvenir jacket if the purse strings stretch that far, or opt for more affordably priced silk-cotton blend short- and long-sleeved T-shirts if your bank account has seen better days.