Alfred Tong finds a place for colour in the modern gentleman's wardrobe.
The pious Henry Ford was happy to offer his cars in any colour so long as it was black. The Protestants stripped their churches of bright colours lest they distract from the serious business of worship. In a 1920 essay entitled ‘Purism’, the architect Le Corbusier, wrote: “In a true and durable plastic work, it is form which comes first, and everything else should be subordinated to it. Let us leave to the clothes-dyers the sensory jubilations of the paint tube.”
You’ll be pleased to know that here at Drake’s we are raging ‘clothes dyers’ who revel in the ‘sensory jubilation of the paint tube’! While basics in conservative colours are the basis of any stylish wardrobe; if you wear too many basics for too much of the time, you’re going to look, well, a little ‘basic’. And that’s where colour comes in.
The classic menswear palette (perhaps influenced partly by Le Corbusier et al) is militaristic and ecclesiastical in its severity, and dominated by black, blue, white (maybe cream too), beige, and grey. Bright colour can be sometimes seen as subversive, peacock-y, and dangerously feminine. And that is why colour is brilliant, both literally and figuratively.
This season our brushed shetland wool sweaters in bold stripes have more than a touch of the David Hockney about them, who was often seen wearing bright stripes in a casually offhand, yet still elegant manner. Johnny Rotten also had a thing for mohair stripes during his phlegm-flecked Sex Pistols heyday.
The classic way to wear these is to subdue their natural lairy-ness with a conservative backdrop. They’ll do some of their best work next to a pair of indigo blue jeans, or underneath a cord suit in a neutral colour such as navy, or perhaps paired with khaki or stone-coloured chinos. A burst of colour in an otherwise sober outfit will add a bit of interest and character, and bright colour seems to lift the spirits on a dreary winter’s day very effectively. Indeed, if there were ever a better sweater for walking the dog or going for a long country walk, then we’ve yet to see it.
Some, like Hockney himself, prefer to double down on colour and pattern: dots with stripes, stripes with checks, and stripes with stripes. This is the point at which some magazines like to get all technical about avoiding dissonance and clashing. But fashion is art, not science. Wearing clothes is a joy, not a problem to be solved. So clash away to your heart’s content. Any colour, so long as it isn't black.