Colour is hard to master. Your complexion, the weather, the transport line you ride; all conspire to shift aesthetic harmony in your bedroom mirror to discord in the street. But evict pigments from your looks, and suddenly every piece in your wardrobe matches.
Monochrome (in this instance, we mean black and white) is styling sorcery that also sheds pounds – hence its status as fashion week’s unofficial uniform.
Make the most of this magic by bringing the penguin look into every day with these failsafe monochrome formulas.
7 Ways To Wear Monochrome
Even if you’re lucky enough to earn your paycheque in an office with little in the way of a dress code, that’s not exactly carte blanche to lead meetings in your gym gear.
Joggers and racerback vests might not cut it, but a well-fitting white crew neck T-shirt, polo or Oxford button-down paired with cropped black trousers and minimalist sneakers will do.
While your T-shirts and trainers can sit comfortably at the core of this laid-back look year-round, be sure to switch up your slacks as the seasons shift. In winter, try a wool pair. And in summer, lightweight cotton – although a good pair of chinos will suit most types of weather.
Wearing a black suit may be a potentially bankrupting mistake in business. But that’s not to say your only viable option is navy. Charcoal, particularly darker, almost-black shades, can balance the books between boring and business-appropriate.
You’ll want yours in a slim, not skinny, cut, with a subtle notch lapel – because as much as we’re into wider trouser legs, the boardroom isn’t for birthing style trends.
As important as getting your suit’s hex code right is what you combine it with. For an on-point partnership, wear your charcoal two-piece with a classic white shirt and either a black or black and white micro-patterned tie to make your pared-back base really pop.
If there’s one thing black does well, it’s make you look smart AF for evening engagements. While a dinner suit with a white dress shirt is the pairing most men lean on, moving to something murdered-out puts you well ahead of the rest.
Next time you need to truss up for a formal do, opt for a black-on-black-on-black look. For example, a black suit styled with a black roll neck and worn with black shoes.
Further tweak your look with texture: a velvet or jacquard blazer adds another layer of luxe, while a standard single-breasted two-piece suit steers minimally classic.
A Night Out
Frustratingly, bar and club dress codes are often anything but black and white. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that one man’s ‘smart’ is another man’s “sorry mate, not tonight”.
Swerve the confusion by steering classic: black and white pieces that toe the line between smart and casual. A black leather jacket, slim black denim and a white crew neck tee or button-down shirt shows you’re dressed up to get down.
Still getting grief from the bouncer? Swap the biker for a blazer and your sneakers for Derbies. Although, if your chosen watering hole is still enforcing an anti-kicks policy, it could be time to take your custom somewhere less constipated.
Speaking of dress codes, even the seemingly straightforward smart-casual can become complex when colour’s added into the mix: is coral pink dressy or off-duty? And which shades of blue are more business than pleasure?
Save yourself the migraine with a monochrome ensemble instead. A black wool blazer and pair of chalk white chinos (or vice versa) is a clear favourite for when you’re straddling levels of formality.
Wear a tee or shirt underneath, depending on the frequency you want to dial your look to, and punctuate with a pair of loafers or Chelsea boots.
As style portmanteaus go, ‘athleisure’ is easily one of the most awkward. The look it refers to, however, is anything but. Slick and simple, athleisure’s signature blend of sporty silhouettes and smarter fabrications is a natural fit for the sleek austerity of monochrome.
To roll out of bed and look money, stock up on easy pieces like loopback cotton sweatshirts and hoodies, tapered joggers, lightweight bombers, and trainers.
Mix and match block-colour black and white until you hit your ideal look. Or, step up your game by mixing in asymmetric stripes and graphic patterns.
When The Weather Picks Up
At the core of monochrome’s appeal is that gold dust trait: timelessness. Syphon your look’s colour, and you won’t need to bin it entirely once the bad weather abates.
You will, however, need to make some subtle changes, like switching heavier materials for breathable cottons and linens, longer sleeves for shorter sleeves (or expertly rolled sleeves), trousers for shorts, and stowing your socks in preparation for soaring temperatures.
Less material to work with means you also need to be smart to avoid verging on boring. Try layering pieces, like a white T-shirt under a black short sleeve shirt or deploying a French tuck on a shirt into chinos.
Five Key Monochrome Pieces
Even with the pitfalls of colour removed, a look is still only as good as its weakest link, so it’s important to get the basics right. Arm yourself with all the power players of the casual roster — crew neck T-shirts, polos, sweatshirts and hoodies — to make getting dressed in the dark a cakewalk.
Where would we be without jeans? A lot less stylish and naked from the waist down, most probably. Black denim, despite its associations with every rebellious musician/actor/singer/model in history, is still smart enough to see you through weekends, evenings out and more casual days in the office. Opt for a slim fit for maximum versatility.
Having rarely fallen out of style since the early 1900s, a leather jacket makes for a solid sartorial investment. Whether you opt for a shearling-lined pilot style, bomber or biker, the more you wear one, the more the leather will comfortably contour to your body. Handy they look so damn good with everything, then.
By all accounts, there are few things more stylish than a pair of Chelsea boots. Invented as the less snappily named ‘J. Sparkes-Hall’s Patent Elastic Ankle Boots’, today they serve as a solid foundation for everything from all-black eveningwear to equally dark denim.
There are few casual dressing conundrums that can’t be solved with a pair of white sneakers. Invented as an athletic shoe, but now an essential part of the modern wardrobe, look for a pair with a low profile and minimal stitching for dirt to cling to in order to keep them box-fresh.