Color Combinations - How much is too much?

Colorful Outfits – How Much Is Too Much?

In the recent past, we have discussed a number of colorful and sometimes extreme outfits on our Facebook page. Due to popular demand, I wanted to dedicate an entire article to these kind of outfits, hoping to provide more food for thought to the discussion surrounding walking the fine line between having personality and outfit overkill. Generally speaking, I enjoy people who are different than me, no matter whether it is politics, hobbies or personal taste. In the past, I have often found that you can learn something from everybody even though they might seem to come from the total opposite side of your world. The same is true for clothing, in my opinion, because a deliberate style is better than an uninspired, sloppy look. Interestingly, many people would never think that punks have a very clear dress code but within their circle, they pay more attention to detail than most men do.

Shows like Pitti Uomo in Florence seem to have evolved into an informal street style cat walk of personal expression. Just like real fashion shows, the results are often over exaggerated, because the goal is to be noticed and those who scream loudest usually win the day. Many men secretly hope to pop up on the front page of the Sartorialist, and so they want to look the part. Ironically, men who are dressed in conservative colors with subtle colors and details stand out in a crowd of peacocks. Apart from that, their outfits are far more wearable on the street or at the office.

No matter how  you dress, and how much you like it, bear in mind that it is just one form of self expression that cannot substitute for other qualities, such as good humor or a pleasing intellect. If all you can talk about is clothes and style, things get rather dull pretty quickly. With our topic being colorful outfits, I want to discuss clothes nevertheless:

Extreme Outfits

First, let’s start with extreme outfits that many consider over the top – me included.

Extreme in Many Ways

Extreme in Many Ways

Here we have a bold hairstyle mixed with overpowering patterns and colors. All I sense here is “look at me”.

Knit Vest, Bold Tie & Flamboyant Pocke Square

Knit Vest, Bold Tie & Flamboyant Pocket Square

The next picture also shows an overload of patterns and textures. The center is so cluttered that you will probably not look to the wearer’s face because your eyes are too busy figuring out what is going on.

Less Extreme Ensembles

Second, there are outfits that are often bold – either in color or in pattern – and hence they should be paired with less pronounced items in order to achieved a harmonious, balanced overall look.

Tartan Plaid Sportscoat

Tartan Plaid Sportscoat

For example, this Tartan plaid sportscoat is worn with a white shirt and dark, subtle tie. While white dress shirts would have not been the traditional choice for a powerful sportscoat, it works because of the tan and the dominance of the coat. Personally, I would have opted for a quieter tartan but each to his own.

Summer Suit with Opera Pumps

Summer Suit with Opera Pumps

This light blue summer suit is rather classic in cut but the suit color in combination with the accessories and body language changes the pedigree. Mr. Sajeel expressed on Facebook that the gentleman’s body language seems to lack confidence. While I agree with him, that might just be the picture – people often look awkward in pictures in a way that is not the case in real life. What clearly stands out in this pictures are the black opera pumps, which are completely out of place. Combined with the narrow trouser leg, they look even stranger. This picture illustrates that formal accessories rarely go well with casual outfits. On the other hand, casual accessories may work well with formal dress but that’s something for another article.

Red Summer Jacket

Red Summer Jacket

The following picture is the exception to the rule.  Obviously, this is a bright red summer outfit though the traditionally more formal cufflinks work well here because their style matches the rest of the outfit. Overall certainly bright but I like the look of it.

Colorful Sleeve Buttons

Colorful Sleeve Buttons

Even a small accents of color can have a huge impact, as shown by this picture. Not my cup of tea but interesting nonetheless. Note the perfect harmony of shirt sleeve and cuff?

Blazer Combinations

Blazer Combinations

Mother of pearl buttons are a fantastic way to add a summer not to your otherwise classic navy blazer. The teal blazer as shown on the left is certainly something you will only find bespoke.

Yellow Double Breasted Vest

Yellow Double Breasted Vest

Here, a conservative business suit is is paired with a canary yellow vest and a bulky steel watch. The vest is certainly a very strong statement and hence it dictates the rest of the accessories. The solid navy tie is a good choice whereas the stainless steel watch is too casual for such an ensemble.

Will Smith with Patterns

Will Smith with Patterns

From afar Will Smith might look better than up-close. This outfit has just too many patterns and the fit – especially of the pants – is tight.

Plaid Suit & Special Blue Blazer

Plaid Suit & Special Blue Blazer

On the left, we have a subtle gray suit with dark tie and shirt. Color is added with the popular wristbands and the nice eyeglasses frame. On the right, we see an almost cornflower blue blazer with flapped patch pockets which was tailored from a fabric that is similar to the Casentino fleece.

Brown Chalk Stripe Suit with Double Breasted Vest

Brown Chalk Stripe Suit with Double Breasted Vest

This outfit is neither extreme in color nor in pattern, but in cut. Note, how narrow the fit is, how high the gorge of the lapel, and how angled the pockets. While I like the colors and the combination of accessories, I think the fit is over the top. What do you think?

Less Is More

Prince Charles Mixing Patterns in an Understated Manner

Prince Charles Mixing Patterns in an Understated Manner

Probably my favorite outfit of this selection is Prince Charles. The outfit is unique but proper, without looking overwhelming although we are confronted with 4 different patterns, a boutonniere and a pin.

Blue Jacket with Donegal Tween Double Breasted Vest

Blue Jacket with Donegal Tween Double Breasted Vest

This is a combination I found most interesting. Without the vest, it is clearly a business outfit with the contrasting white collar and navy coat. However, the green Donegal tweed vest harmonizes with the tie, although its double breasted cut is not typical for the country at all. Although this outfit does not adhere to classic standards, I find it interesting and different without being over the top.

Panama Hat with Rakish Brim

Panama Hat with Rakish Brim

Sometimes it can be as simple as flipping up a brim to create an entirely different, 1910s inspired look.

Picture Credit for the most part Guerre from Guerrisms.

10 replies
  1. Neil Cowan
    Neil Cowan says:

    I was much less adventurous in my 20s, but I wore a 3-piece suit and Bermuda shorts with a matching coat and tie whilst travelling. I tried a vest with suits in my 30s but it is hard to get the jacket to fit without the vest. too baggy. It was made for me by Brooks Brothers in LA but it was the late 70s and they still had the sack look. Today one has such a choice of tailoring and fabrics that it is much easier. I passed up a celery green suit at Fred Segal that I still regret.

  2. Neil Mitchell Cowan
    Neil Mitchell Cowan says:

    I add that one becomes more adventurous as one ages as one has no one to please! PC is the perfect example. He is David’s heir and I hope Harry takes over!
    The slight tilt of the brim of the hat is a weak effort.

  3. Yannick
    Yannick says:

    Dear Sven,

    I really like the look of the man wearing the yellow waistcoat, although I deplore his choice of shirt. I really dislike these shirts with white collars and cuffs. They remind me of badly dressed businessmen with big watches (also a small faux pas) and brown shoes. Generally speaking, i am also not a fan of the cutaway shirt collar.

    I like your observation on the punks. It strikes a very familiar chord with me. I used to be one of them (in a sense, I probably still am) and because of the very intricate dress code and attention to appearance in my punk days I feel quite at home in my present ‘habitus'; the complicated world of sartorial display. In the old days, dressing up in full ‘war gear’ with all the trappings and the hair and everything, it could take me up to an hour to get ready. Now, donning a three piece suit including accesories and grooming can be done in about ten minutes, twenty if I include ironing the shirt.

    As an archaeologist, I also see very intersting parallels with ‘tribal’ dress, with it’s complicated symbolism. In many respects, we are not so different from these ‘tribal’ people.

  4. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    I love the flipped hat brim – it’s a perfectly classic accessory with a subtle note of personality. Once again, I think the confidence of the wearer adds even more positive character to ensembles than does over-the-top accessorizing.

  5. Lendyl Garcia
    Lendyl Garcia says:

    I agree that the suit worn by Prince Charles is the best of the selection, even with the 4 different patterns and the fit is impeccable. Also like the brown chalk stripe suit, great pattern/design, color and fit elements that I always keep in mind. However I think the black and white plaid suit looked the worst. It is bold but this is not fashion its a costume. Some people take it over the top and create costumes instead of couture.

  6. Yannick
    Yannick says:

    Dear Sven,

    It has been a while now since I last styled my hair in a mohawk. There is a distinctive grim side to to punk and it also involves more than dressing up, but I have always been drawn to the exuberance, originality and creativity that goes into compiling outfits. As you very rightly observed, there are perhaps as many unwritten rules in punk dress code as in the more formal sartorial realm and they are sometimes as hard to understand or discern too. I took great pleasure in constantly working on that and refining my appearance.

    In fact, Teresa’s astute observation that one must always be aware that it does not turn into simply a costume is true also in the punk ethic. For those reasons, the shift from punk to my current style of dressing is much less radical than many people seem to think. The rules may be different, but the underlying mechanics are very similar. Admittedly, I do position myself on the dandyesk side of sartorial display, because I find a dull grey suit with an unimaginative tie just as drab as the (very expensive) pre-made ‘punk fashion’ one can now so easily obtain everywhere.

    I still enjoy the sight of increasingly rare imaginative punk outfits, even though I no longer wear them myself. As you said, it may not be your style, but it is a very distinctive choice. I also pride myself in being able to pick out ‘former’ punks from a crowd. Even when they dress quite formally, as do I, there is something distinctive about the way they dress and wear their hair that makes them fairly recognisable to another of ‘the clan’, an observation I’ve had confirmed by one of my old friends, who has similar experiences. Some of the more subtle aspects of punk ethic can apparently be transferred to other styles of dress, whether conciously or unaware. I do it myself, and I do not think one not privy to the punk ethic would notice. I would never have thought I would find myself describing punk as ‘subtle’.

  7. Yannick
    Yannick says:

    Pardon, to my dismay I just noticed that it was not Teresa, but Lendyl Garcia who made the ‘costume’ comment. My apologies.

  8. Jefferson Faudan
    Jefferson Faudan says:

    you also have to consider that some fitting are more haute couture or should we call “the preppy style” than businesswear or classic , so the thinner slacks and leaner jackets are pretty fine. and as for the watch, it has always been a basic rule that when wearing a coat, you should be wearing a dress watch while a thick expensive rolex or panerai should be reserved for the more casual ensemble… as for will smith’s get up, i think it’s pretty fine in a couture perspective since it is for the red carpet, but of course you can’t wear that on business meetings where people expects you to look monochromatic as much as possible

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