G. Bruce Boyer gets wrapped up in the preeminent shade of autumn.
You may have noticed how so many fashion mags this season are promoting grey as the most now fashion colour going. Trust fashion editors to take something classic and try to make it edgy. It’s all rather misplaced enthusiasm, but they really can’t help themselves. Forgivable of course and it does seem to play nicely into their general sense of overexcitement. It’s their job, isn’t it?
But really, what could be a more timelessly elegant part of a gentleman’s wardrobe than a grey herringbone tweed sports jacket? A pair of grey flannel trousers, or foggy grey cashmere sweater? This isn’t the stuff of trends and fashion blurbs, these items come from the distant land of Authenticity and understated elegance. Those great sartorial icons of the past such as Gianni Agnelli and Fred Astaire understood this perfectly. Agnelli was mad for grey flannel suits worn with grey cashmere ties, and the dapper Astaire wore nothing but grey flannels with his tweed jackets. They knew a good thing when they saw it.
Historically, men dressed as colorfully as women until the end of the 18th Century, when those two great revolutions, the French and the Industrial, shifted the political structure of the Western world, and the Divine Right of Kings was replaced by the Divine Right of Commerce. Ostentatious court dress for men was replaced by more befitting, sedate business dress. It’s said that Britain’s Edward VII was the first internationally popular monarch to customarily wear a dark business suit for his usual daywear. Dark grey has been the tailored choice for understated, classic dress ever since.
Today grey continues to offer an elegant choice in tailoring, but it’s in the accessories that a more sophisticated, urbane approach really stands out. A grey flannel suit accompanied by a grey cashmere tie (ala Agnelli) is a no-brainer, but a patterned tweed sports jacket and blue oxford button down combined with a grey wool or cashmere tie strikes an elegant note of its own. Or a grey pullover worn with jeans and a blazer seems at home almost anywhere. Not to forget all the accessories that fit so perfectly with any outfit, the hosiery, scarves, knitted caps, and gloves.