QUESTION | As a man, I want to wear colour – but it rarely seems to be offered. I have a wardrobe full of navy, tan and black, with the occasional T-shirt in maroon or red. How can I incorporate more colour? And why do designers think men don’t want colour, anyway? – Lack in black
You’re right – mainstream menswear has traditionally been a fairly staid affair, without too much colour. This dates back to the end of the 18th century, to a period the British psychoanalyst John Carl Flügel (1884-1955) called “the great male renunciation”, wherein men began to dress in a more uniform way (sometimes literally) compared with times past, when flamboyant clothing was a symbol of wealth. Much of men’s clothing has its roots in military style, too, not exactly a scene awash with pigment.
But it is no longer the 18th century and life is very much lived in colour these days. Men should be able to partake in a world of pinks and greens, not just maroons and khakis.
I called Melbourne menswear designer Christian Kimber, whose preppy styles are injected with pops of deep sapphire, golden rust and brilliant jade. He suggests a gently gently approach.
“Black is such a fallback for men,” he says. “It’s failsafe. So I’d suggest starting with alternatives, like navy or chocolate brown.”
Another way to add colour is almost by subtraction – by sticking to just one colour, even if it is a neutral. “Some of my clients will style their look around one bold colour that they’re drawn to,” says Kimber.
“For example, a caramel-coloured knit can be enveloped in a camel coat, paired with neutral trousers, shoes and accessories. This serves up a statement piece in a way that can be built upon or pared back. Colour doesn’t have to mean a rainbow.”
Hearteningly, colour does increasingly seem to be on the menu for designers of menswear, as the spring shows, er, showed. Hermès was resplendent with egg-yolk yellow, while Louis Vuitton showed lovely lilac suiting and Prada explored Liquorice Allsorts patterns in lime, cerulean and spearmint, as well as gingham in pink, red and baby blue. And here, says Kimber, is another option for the colour-seeker: prints.
“Prints are an easy way to zhoosh things up and add character,” he says. He suggests a kerchief, tie, socks or pocket square in a pattern.
And for those who want to dive right in but can’t find the colour they crave – may I suggest going for broke and going bespoke? Australia has wonderful tailors poised to create shirts, suits and more from scratch, in whatever colour pleases you. Oscar Hunt and P Johnson get my tick of approval. Dior Homme, on Sydney’s Castlereagh Street, will also create custom suits for you, should your budget be so generous.
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