Men and colour have always had a tricky relationship. The same pink, which now stands for the female breast- and cervical-cancer movement, and which has coloured the sickly-sweet dreams of girly girls around the world forever, was once a very manly colour. In fact, in the early 20th century, pink was the colour assigned to little boys, since it was a ‘more decided and stronger colour’ and blue was for little girls, being ‘more delicate and dainty’. The fact is noted in various texts including Michael Kimmel’s Manhood in America: A Cultural History and America’s legendary women’s magazine, The Ladies Home Journal.
But the tables have since turned and today most men wouldn’t want to be caught dead in something pink (expect for the fashionable ones, more power to you). But we urge you to do just that. Why? you ask, especially if most men around the world are slipping into steel-grey suits and solid brown jackets, thanks to The Great Gatsby, Mad Men revival of the sharply dressed man?
Well, (a) because we are Indian and (b) it’s the season for celebration and parties. So here’s our extensive, colour-coded guide on how to tackle the trendy brights this season.
Our long-standing love affair with this particularly bright shade of pink is well documented. It’s been called the ‘navy blue of India’ (former Harper’s Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland said so because we love it almost as much as the West loves their navy blue). Indian royalty has always incorporated fuchsia in their outfits as accents – turbans, shawls and cummerbunds. The same colour rules can apply to modern-day dressing too. But since strong colours can dominate a look and your personality if worn in excess, it’s best to restrict them to small doses.
“This colour looks great as stripes on shirts or as the inner lining for Nehru jackets and blazers, where only a part of it is visible,” says Gaurav Jagtiani, one half of the designer duo Gaurav & Ritika. “The lining can work for casual suits of neutral colours too.”
Weddings and festivals are the best occasions to begin your experiments with this colour. Like freelance stylist Rin Jajo points out, “Velvet pink bandhgalas look regal. The texture of velvet absorbs the shock of the colour, it also makes you stand out among a sea of blacks and browns.”
Gaurav also suggests wearing kurtas in the same colour – without matching pyjamas of course!
If you’re feeling rather bold (be our guest, but remember to bring along a devil-may-care attitude), then may we suggest the street-style staple and fashion blogger favourite – bright yellow pants? Though remember to always, always, always tone them down. Pair them only with breezy pastels, like light blue or neutrals like steel grey. But never with black. “Unless you want to look like a taxi, try beige shirts with yellow trousers,” says Dev of the Kolkata-based designer duo Dev r Nil.
“You can even try tan or khaki with this shade.” In fact, designer Narendra Kumar goes to the extent of banning black with any of the brights we have mentioned. “It’s a very dated look, pairing red/fuchsia, neon green or even white with black. That’s what old-school waiters used to look like. Your shoes should be in brown or tan (not black) to complement the brights.”
However, if you want to be a tad safe, then Rin Jajo suggests a polo-neck T-shirt in canary yellow, while designer Varun Bahl advises pairing canary yellow with white. “Wear a white shirt that has a yellow collar and yellow cuffs with pants in lighter shades of brown. Even plain blue jeans would do.”
This is one bright with a very bad name, mainly thanks to the neon see-through ganjis that ruled the streets, worn by men who clearly didn’t know better. But this tricky shade can be tackled, if one proceeds with caution. “It’s best to keep neon for plastic accessories,” says designer Gaurav Jagtiani. “Toy watches in this colour make a great accompaniment when you are attending a music festival or for an evening with friends. It works wonders as piping on blazers too, similar to the ones from Zara.”
But neon can be deployed wonderfully to a neglected aspect of dressing as well: active wear and gym wear. “Running shoes and laces already have accents of neon in them, but even T-shirts and shorts in this colour can look trendy,” says stylist Rin Jajo.
This shade, also a favourite of royalty, works with almost any Indian ensemble. Many designers, such as Manish Malhotra, have made it trendy with kurtas and Nehru jackets in jewel tones of purple. You can do that or, as Rin Jajo recommends, you can wear a purple T-shirt underneath a dark blazer and grey trousers.
“Purple is one of the few colours which looks very chic in polka dots, especially when complemented against grey,” says Gaurav Jagtiani. “This combination can work as a tie or a whole shirt too.” Purple looks very good with most Indian skin tones, so a bright purple shirt could be paired very well with charcoal grey pants even in a regular setting,” says Jagtiani
It’s essential to remember the rules of ratio and proportion while dabbling with all brights. Blue is already a popular colour in most men’s wardrobes, but electric blue requires careful handling. If you’re looking at a solid block of colour, like a shirt or trousers, steer clear of this shade. Instead, stick with something like cobalt blue, says designer Rahul Khanna. “You can also try the combination of a darker navy shirt worn with rust orange trousers,” he says.
Electric blue is a colour that looks particularly charged in accessories, especially leather. “Marc Jacobs has a wallet in this colour that looks great,” says designer Gaurav Jagtiani. “Belts or a blue watch strap are very trendy, currently. As are pocket squares or cravats with a dark jacket.” Menswear designer Narendra Kumar offers the brilliant solution of wearing a monochromatic look of blue shades that complement each other. “Wear blue and teal or sky blue instead of pairing it with an equally strong colour like red.”
Now you’ll never go wrong with colour
Never wear a colour just because it’s trendy. Try it on and see how it makes you feel and whether it matches your personality or not. Go ahead only if you are confident.
Restrict the colour to just one area, either the top half or the bottom half.
When wearing bright accessories, always wear neutral shades.
If you are just starting out, take baby steps. Don’t wear a chunk of colour, but introduce tiny but noticeable accents first.
Don’t pair two strong colours together. Focus on one bright colour at a time.
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From HT Brunch, November 10
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