Neutrals are great. They really are. Black will always be the new black, there’s no skin tone that doesn’t look good in grey, and it’s impossible to look under- (or, in fact, over-) dressed in a navy suit.
However, when you consider that dog tags and square-toe shoes were once considered the height of cool, it’s not hard to imagine a day when we all look back and collectively facepalm over living in our lives almost entirely monochrome .
Fortunately, colour is making a long-overdue comeback. “Pastel colours are a big trend at the moment from high end to high street,” says Kenny Ho, a stylist who has dressed the likes of Luke Evans, Aidan Turner and Dominic Cooper.
As with any sartorial switch-up, it’s worth doing your research before plunging in. While pistachio green might be just the tonic for some, every guy has his own spectrum of shades that suit.
To help you get it right, we’ve laid the groundwork with some simple tips and easy ways to wear pastels that won’t leave you looking like a toddler at an Easter egg hunt.
3 Key Tips For Wearing Pastels
Consider Your Skin Tone
Wearing the wrong shade of rouge can leave you quite literally red-faced, so it’s wise to spend some time studying your reflection before hitting the order button.
The colour wheel can be split into warm (red, orange and yellow) and cool (green, blue and purple) colours. The same goes for your complexion. If the veins on your arms are blue, your skin has a cool undertone. If they’re more of a greenish colour, consider yourself warm. Once you’ve figured this out, look to the opposite side of the wheel. This is where you should be in terms of clothing.
There are also ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ pastels to consider. Soft being more washed out and hard more vibrant. Those with fair skin might find themselves washed out by soft pastels, so should stick to more vibrant shades such as coral or pistachio green, keeping in mind the cool/warm split. A medium complexion – which usually has a warm, olive tone – can hold its own against softer pastels like mint green or lilac, but also looks good next to some harder shades. Darker skin fares well with pretty much any colour – so feel free to play around with the entire spectrum of pastels.
Loosen Up Your Fits
Colour and skinny-fits are fine in isolation. But combined, these two seemingly innocent factors conspire to make you resemble a six-year-old girl on her way to a birthday party. When it comes to wearing pastels, loosen up with slim fits.
“Tailored blazers, slim-fit chinos and shorts in bright pastels are all good items to experiment with,” says Ho. “Don’t go too oversized, though. Try to maintain a slimmer silhouette, as pastel colours can make you look bigger than you are.”
Check Your Surroundings
If yours is the type of office where grey or navy is still obligatory, you might want to limit Neapolitan to your choice of tailoring brand rather than your colour scheme. As with most things, there’s a time and place, so always read the dress code (or the employee handbook) closely.
“Pastel colours can work in some smart settings, especially summer weddings which are usually a little less strict,” says Ho. “For a summer party that requires a little dressing up, try a pastel suit with a white T-shirt and sneakers.”
5 Ways To Wear Pastels
Pulling off sorbet-coloured suiting requires a little bravado and a lot of careful consideration. The cut of your suit should be slim and neat, with summer-weight wools and cotton blends preferable to linen (thirty years on, we still can’t shake the Miami Vice comparisons).
A single-breasted jacket will be the easiest to pull off, but double-breasted styles can also work well if it’s of the modern four-button variety. Keep the trousers cropped at the ankle and wear with loafers or – if the dress code allows – sneakers. If in doubt, reserve any colour for your accessories instead, which are less likely to raise eyebrows.
For the most part, modern streetwear revolves around rough textures and sober colours such as black, khaki and navy. But things weren’t always so earnest. The skaters of the ‘80s were much more at home in shades of lilac and tangerine, and had likely never even heard the word greige.
Rather than throwing out your Stussy and starting from scratch, introduce a little colour into your existing haul: a minty fresh sweatshirt with ripped black denim, or soft lemon sneakers with, well, anything.
Ton sur ton (French for pick one colour and bloody-well stick to it) has been around for a while, though usually in Yeezy-approved earth tones. Going head-to-toe gelato is a little riskier, but when done well looks effortless.
Starting with your top half, choose a colour that suits your skin tone and work down to darker shades of the same hue on your bottom half. You needn’t colour-match every piece of clothing you’re wearing, unless you’re intentionally dressing like a paint chart. A contrast shirt or tee layered underneath a jacket can help to break things up, as can neutral sneakers or a strategic belt.
We’re not here to get into the ball of frustration that is a smart-casual dress code, but rather to let you in on a pretty useful style hack. If you’re struggling to achieve the laid-back-but-formal look, start out smart and change a single item for something with a little more pigment.
Colour instantly reads as more casual, so while little else may have changed – your usual navy blazer for one in powder blue, or your black merino wool jumper for one in summer-appropriate yellow – your look will set a completely different tone.
Mastering preppy is no small feat, but to do so gives the wearer some serious clout. Swapping the traditional collegiate colours for something a little more subdued is a quick way to update Ivy League dressing in a way that looks modern, and not out of place off campus.
Some useful advice for preppy dressing (whether in pastels or not) is to stick to one or two key pieces at a time, mixing them with contemporary staples. Wear varsity jackets with denim and sneakers, and pair chinos with a hoodie and an Oxford shirt.
5 Easy To Wear Pastel Pieces
Sneakers are generally worn as part of a more casual outfit, making them an easy way to introduce a pop of colour. Opt for minimalist tennis shoes or retro classics, which are a more refined choice than bulky running or basketball sneakers, which can look a little childish in pastels.
At the opposite end of the colour spectrum to neutrals, pastel shades are inherently casual. However, when it comes to shirts, this changes based on the overall cut. Stick to soft shades like sky blue and pink for anything being combined with a tie, reserving more vibrant tones for casual Oxford or Cuban collar shirts.
If your starting point is all-black everything, then head-to-toe-pastels might be a tall hill to climb. A pair of socks or a baseball cap can be an easy entry point, or – if you’re dressing for a formal occasion – a silk tie or pocket square.
There was a time when chinos were synonymous with shades of khaki and stone, but today they span the entire rainbow. While anything is, in theory, possible, these generally look best cut slim in slightly washed out shades of pink, blue and green.
Sweatshirts: the Swiss-army knife of menswear, and possibly the only garment that can be worn to the gym, the office and the pub (though preferably, not in succession). Choose hard pastels with bold logos for the former, and softer plain versions for the latter two.