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How To Wear The Most Difficult Menswear Colours

The designer, suitmaker and shopkeeper Sid Mashburn once said of a man’s wardrobe: “Guys don’t need a lot of options, they just need the right options.” And for the most part, we’re inclined to agree.

Contrary to what most chart-topping rappers would have you believe, it’s the simple, timelessly stylish pieces worn right that make you stand out. Which is why most guys could have a capsule wardrobe stocked with as few as 35 items and still be considered better dressed for pretty much any occasion than 90 per cent of the population.

But Mr Mashburn’s theory doesn’t really stand up when applied to colour. Here, most men tend to be a little too reserved and conservative. We all know how relatively easy it is to pull off neutral looks made up of black, white, navy and grey, but if you really want to stand out from the pack, it’s time to start embracing bolder hues.

So if you’re still wandering around in the dark, here are the six most commonly swerved shades and how to wear them all year round.

How To Wear Pink

Still hung up on pink supposedly being for girls? Then consider this: until the end of the 19th century pink was – in the Western world, at least – considered a masculine hue. Connotations of girlishness gradually came in the early 20th century as marketers repositioned pink as a feminine colour.

Whether dusty and soft or bold and bright, pink has been big news for several seasons now, and it’s not about to fade away anytime soon. Lucky, then, that it pairs well with plenty of colours you probably already have in your wardrobe – including brown, beige, blue, white and darker shades of green, such as olive.

Wearing pink does come with its caveats. If you have fair skin, be wary of pastel shades, which can wash an already milkly pallor. If this is the case, try balancing your complexion with darker colours – for example, a pink dress shirt with a navy blazer and blue tie. Another option is to try a bolder, more vibrant tone of pink instead.

An Oxford shirt is arguably the most versatile piece you can opt for in pink, as it teams well with everything from raw denim jeans to a grey suit. Pink chinos or shorts are another great addition to your summer wardrobe, while pink socks or sneakers can add the perfect pop to an otherwise understated outfit.

Colour Pairing Guidelines

Similar Colours (easiest to pair): Reds and mauve pinks
Contrasting Colours (harder to pair): Blue violets and yellow greens
Complementary Colours (hardest to pair): Blue greens
Recommended: Brown, beige and white, along with darker shades of green and blue

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How To Wear Green

At the time green began its rise to become one of the most popular menswear hues, blokes everywhere assumed it was some cruel joke by the fashion industry. In fact, the colour bods have done us a favour. While most are no strangers to moss or khaki, there are so many other green tones that can be introduced to your wardrobe and help take your outfits to the next level.

No matter what shade you opt for, this masculine colour always looks best paired with blue, white and grey, while darker military variants complement similarly earthy hues such as brown and mustard.

As for what you should look to invest in, green is arguably the easiest on this list to pull off. The only real consideration to be made is skin tone. Those with pale/fair skin should stick to deep shades like bottle green, while anyone with an olive/medium complexion needs to avoid shades that are too close to the skin, such as olive. Guys with darker complexions have the pick of the lot, along with the added benefit of being able to wear bold, bright hues like jade green.

Once you’ve figured out the perfect shade for you, look to pick up a couple of pieces that will serve you well now – chiefly outerwear and chinos or cargo trousers – then follow up with short-sleeved shirts and shorts during the warmer months. Aside from tailoring, a year-round green option can be found in the form of accessories (socks, lightweight scarves, pocket squares, etc.), which will add a point of interest to an otherwise pared-back look.

Colour Pairing Guidelines

Similar Colours (easiest to pair): Yellow greens and blue greens
Contrasting Colours (harder to pair): Reds and violets
Complementary Colours (hardest to pair): Mauve pinks
Recommended: Blue, white and grey

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How To Wear Brown

The seventies have been going strong in menswear for some time now, and as well as the resurgence of fabrics like shearling and corduroy, that’s also meant a healthy dose of brown doing the rounds.

Despite not appearing on the colour wheel, the perfect partner to this classic neutral will always be blue. The pairing gives blue depth, while the brown appears richer. Additional colours that combine well include earthy hues such as burnt orange, green, khaki, mustard and beige.

Although there’s a shade of brown that will work well with pretty much every skin tone, those with olive or dark complexions will want to avoid hues too close to the colour of the skin as it can make it appear dull, or worse, naked.

Brown is likely already present in your wardrobe, so try upping your quotient with some tan corduroy trousers or chinos, a chocolate brown leather jacket, dark camel merino crew neck jumper or even a simple pair of russet brogues or desert boots.

Colour Pairing Guidelines

Recommended: Blues and earth tones

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How To Wear Orange

Wearing orange may conjure up images of Halloween, but it needn’t be a horror story during the remaining 11 months of the year. The traditionally bright, citrusy shade has taken on a more burnt appearance in recent seasons, making it more cool than costume-y.

While summer is prime time to reclaim the hue from Dutch football fans, the autumn/winter months are also an opportune moment to start putting it to work. Ease in by adding a jolt of colour to a standard grey or navy suit with a tie or pocket square, before graduating to knitwear and outerwear.

Of course, the hi-vis look is not for everyone. Fortunately, there’s a complete spectrum of shades on offer: from almost-brown rust tones for pale skin, to bright coral and blood orange for darker complexions. However you wear it, be sure to add balance to any look by off-playing orange against neutral colours such as grey, navy and black.

Colour Pairing Guidelines

Similar Colours (easiest to pair): Reds and yellows
Contrasting Colours (harder to pair): Mauve and blue greens
Complementary Colours (hardest To pair): Blue violets
Recommended: Earth tones, as well as grey, navy and black

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How To Wear Purple

The most regal of all hues according to the Ancient Romans and Greeks, purple is often one of the colours most misused by guys looking to expand their palette.

The easiest way to look good in lavender is to use it sparingly as an accent – wearing it head-to-toe just screams Batman villain. Sitting at the meeting point between red and blue, it teams extremely well with beige, grey and shades of blue, from sky and duck egg to cobalt and teal.

Don’t just go letting the purple rain everywhere, mind. Follow the usual rules of balancing out your complexion with contrasting shades – choosing from soft mauve right up to deep wine – and those that sit either side of the middle ground.

Ties and pocket squares in purple are the ideal pieces to start with; combine them with suits in neutral colours and light-coloured shirts for maximum effect. Purple dress shirts also look great when paired with navy or midnight blue suits, and for the especially ballsy amongst us, why not consider a purple blazer or a pair of chinos for the summer months? Each is guaranteed to make a statement.

Colour Pairing Guidelines

Similar Colours (easiest to pair): Blue violets and mauves
Contrasting Colours (harder to pair): Reds and greens
Complementary Colours (hardest to pair): Yellows
Recommended: Navy, grey, white and beige

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How To Wear Yellow

Yellow is notoriously difficult to wear and often avoided, even by menswear’s most daring. Like orange and purple, yellow is a colour that needs to be used sparingly. With this in mind, always look to control the use of the hue with surrounding pieces in white, blue, grey, beige and charcoal.

Perhaps more importantly, though, is finding a shade that doesn’t wash you out – especially if you’re of a fairer skin tone. While darker skin types will be able to pull off everything from corn flour to canary yellow, pale men need to be slightly more cautious. If this applies to you, try darker hues like mustard and gold, which should help lift your complexion. As with green, those with olive skin should avoid anything too close to their skin colour or risk blending in with their clothing.

Casual separates like cotton polo shirts, T-shirts, jumpers and shorts look great in yellow, particularly when combined with blues. If you feel like upping the ante, embrace your inner hypebeast and opt for a pair of statement shoes or trainers. You’ll be surprised how versatile they can be when teamed with dark denim or grey flannel trousers.

Colour Pairing Guidelines

Similar Colours (easiest to pair): Yellow greens and oranges
Contrasting Colours (harder to pair): Blues and mauve pinks
Complementary Colours (hardest to pair): Violets
Recommended: Neutrals – particularly white, pale grey, charcoal and navy

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