Grey and Tan

Some colors will always look good together - a rich navy with mid-grey; a chocolate brown with racing green; or a mid-grey with tan, as show above. On the left is an illustration from a 1937 edition of Esquire. One of the men here is shown combining a grey single breasted suit, most likely constructed from flannel or a tropical worsted, with an ivory shirt, a brown and tan checked foulard tie, and brown shoes. A cream Panama hat up top could finish the look. On the right, Mark Cho of The Armoury is wearing a lightly checked grey double breasted suit with a tan shantung silk tie. The white pocket square underscores his white shirt nicely. 

Whether it’s in the 1930s or today, grey suitings and tan fittings will always look right together. 

(Above photo by Mark Cho. Which, as my friend would put it, makes this Mark by Mark Cho)

The Color Purple

Most men rely on standard colors for their wardrobe - blues, greys, and browns, in various shades and textures. These are good foundational colors since they’re easy to wear and complement each other well. However, only relying on these colors get a bit boring, and eventually cease to excite the eye. As such, it’s good to have a few secondary colors in your wardrobe just to break things up a bit. Salmon pink, hunter green, and bordeaux are all very nice, but today I’ll talk about purple. 

Purple can make a statement since it’s a unique color. However, it’s so closely related to blue that it can also feel familiar and sophisticated. Purple is also much more versatile than men give it credit for. It complements many of the standard colors men wear and serves a good substitute for blue. For example, a dark, deep purple tie goes well with a tan jacket and light blue shirt, and can be used any time you would otherwise wear a navy tie (though the conservativeness of navy can make it more useful). 

I also recommend purple socks. Michael Drake, co-founder of Drake’s of London, wears them as a personal signature of eccentricity. This past summer, I often wore purple socks with light blue shirts and pants in either a grey tropical wool or tan linen (first picture above). I’ve found that this ensemble goes especially well with brown suede shoes. 

Hardy Amies once said of purple, “I can see no use for this handsome, not unmasculine colour except for ties, socks and handkerchiefs.” I, however, think it can be used for more than accessories. For example, lavender shirts go quite well underneath navy or tan suits. You can pair it with a conservative, charcoal tie, and then have a secondary color in the tie pick up the lavender in your shirt or the color of your suit. This practice seems to be common in Moscow. From my observation, one in six men here on the street will be wearing a lavender shirt, and it always looks good (assuming the shirt fits well). 

The standard palette of grey, brown, and blue is a nice foundation, but don’t neglect to have some secondary colors here or there. Purple works with a number of colors and wearing it well can add variety into your wardrobe. Just don’t overdo it. Wearing too much of it will make you look like Barney, and doing things such as matching purple socks to purple ties will make you look too studied. Purple, in my opinion, should be worn with a healthy dose of nonchalance. 

(pictures above taken from Ethan Desu, A Bit of Color, Men of Habit, and me)

Q and Answer: What Color Shoes Should I Wear With a Navy Suit?
Peter writes: I was recently given a fantastic vintage navy blue suit from the ’70s by my father. The  only thing stopping me from wearing it every opportunity I have is the  fact that I do not know what shoes to wear with it. I have seen images  of men wearing brown and black oxfords and derbys and I really have no  idea what is correct. Also, how does the choice of shoe alter which sock  is appropriate?
What color shoes to wear with a navy suit is a matter of perpetual debate. The general answer is that it depends on the circumstances and personal preference. The specific answer? Well, let’s run it down.
Brown: Once, wearing brown shoes with navy was heresy unless you were a Boston Brahmin or a particularly wild Italian. However, brown is the default choice for daytime wear today. The color makes a comfortable partner for navy blue, particularly in darker hues like chocolate. Whether brown shoes are appropriate in the workplace is up to you; there are traditional gentlemen in London who still think brown shoes are inappropriate at a business no matter what color your suit is.
Black: This is the traditional choice, particularly in the English tradition. Black shoes are more suitable for business and the evening, and while I don’t go to a lot of suit-wearing business meetings, when I wear a navy suit at night, I reach for the sharper, more formal black footwear. 
Burgundy: Burgundy or cordovan shoes are the wild card here. (Note that “cordovan” is a color, “shell cordovan” a material.) They pair well with navy and are suitable for day or night wear. They’re certainly a somewhat bolder choice than chocolate brown or black, but I think they acquit themselves well. When I wear a navy suit during the day, I find myself pulling out my burgundy shell cordovan Florsheim longwings.
As far as socks are concerned, your default should be to match your trousers - that means navy socks. This applies no matter what color shoes you’re wearing. In fact, you can pretty much wear navy socks with anything other than shorts. If you don’t choose navy, you’ll want something with some contrast, and that contrast should compliment the rest of your outfit. It can pull a color from your accessories, for example. It can also be a wildcard - once in a while, with a white square, blue shirt, blue tie and blue suit, I’ll wear red socks.
(By the way: while this guy looks good, I don’t recommended fitting a suit like this.)

Q and Answer: What Color Shoes Should I Wear With a Navy Suit?

Peter writes: I was recently given a fantastic vintage navy blue suit from the ’70s by my father. The only thing stopping me from wearing it every opportunity I have is the fact that I do not know what shoes to wear with it. I have seen images of men wearing brown and black oxfords and derbys and I really have no idea what is correct. Also, how does the choice of shoe alter which sock is appropriate?

What color shoes to wear with a navy suit is a matter of perpetual debate. The general answer is that it depends on the circumstances and personal preference. The specific answer? Well, let’s run it down.

  • Brown: Once, wearing brown shoes with navy was heresy unless you were a Boston Brahmin or a particularly wild Italian. However, brown is the default choice for daytime wear today. The color makes a comfortable partner for navy blue, particularly in darker hues like chocolate. Whether brown shoes are appropriate in the workplace is up to you; there are traditional gentlemen in London who still think brown shoes are inappropriate at a business no matter what color your suit is.
  • Black: This is the traditional choice, particularly in the English tradition. Black shoes are more suitable for business and the evening, and while I don’t go to a lot of suit-wearing business meetings, when I wear a navy suit at night, I reach for the sharper, more formal black footwear. 
  • Burgundy: Burgundy or cordovan shoes are the wild card here. (Note that “cordovan” is a color, “shell cordovan” a material.) They pair well with navy and are suitable for day or night wear. They’re certainly a somewhat bolder choice than chocolate brown or black, but I think they acquit themselves well. When I wear a navy suit during the day, I find myself pulling out my burgundy shell cordovan Florsheim longwings.

As far as socks are concerned, your default should be to match your trousers - that means navy socks. This applies no matter what color shoes you’re wearing. In fact, you can pretty much wear navy socks with anything other than shorts. If you don’t choose navy, you’ll want something with some contrast, and that contrast should compliment the rest of your outfit. It can pull a color from your accessories, for example. It can also be a wildcard - once in a while, with a white square, blue shirt, blue tie and blue suit, I’ll wear red socks.

(By the way: while this guy looks good, I don’t recommended fitting a suit like this.)

On Cardigans and Old PTO Wisdom

Thanks to Jesse for the introduction, and the incredible opportunity to blog at Put This On! 

I took some time to think about what my first post would be, and I decided that I would write something that’s a good reflection of what I aim to do in the future - bring a little of own perspective and build on the existing PTO wisdom. Thus, for the first post, I’d like to begin by talking about how to choose a cardigan, something that I don’t believe has been covered here before. 

Cardigans are great for when we transition out of Winter and into Spring. They give you an additional layer of warmth for when the sun’s out, but it’s still slightly chilly. As basic as a cardigan is, however, it seems many men still don’t buy the right ones. The most common mistake is buying cardigans that sit too close to your shoulders. Instead, you should aim for ones that fit a bit closer to your collar, so that it doesn’t look like your sweater is about to fall off or become a tube top. This isn’t just a matter of where the shoulder seams sit on you; it’s a matter of how the the opening on the cardigan is cut. I’ve Photoshopped the following photograph to show you the difference. 

Isn’t that much better? Here’s another example. The man on the left has a fairly low hanging cardigan, so I’ve pushed it higher up on his shoulders and made them sit closer to his collar. In addition, I’ve taken the opportunity to illustrate a few other stylistic points. First, I’ve given his pieces a bit more contrast by turning his shirt light blue and his tie navy. This makes each of his pieces distinguish themselves a bit more while still maintaining some simple color harmony. I’ve written about the importance of contrast before here, for those interested in reading more about the subject. Second, I took out the skulls and bones motif on his tie, as simple and basic ties are always much better than gimmicky ones. Third, I’ve made his tie a bit wider, because I think they make him look a bit more mature. Lastly, I’ve straightened up the top of his shirt, so that white from under his placket doesn’t peek out. The problem with shirts with all these contrasting details is that they can sometimes highlight a poor fit, so I think they’re best avoided. 

There’s a lot packed into the last Photoshop, but much of it is actually old Put This On wisdom. Jesse has talked before about the value of basic neckties, as well as blue button-up shirts. Given his appreciation for classic menswear, I have a hunch that he’d also favor slightly wider ties over skinny ones. In the end, this picture is really just illustrating how much better one can look with some of the tips Put This On has been giving all along; I’m just adding the bit regarding properly fitting cardigans. If you didn’t believe that PTO could make you a better-dressed man, hopefully this is proof. 

In the future, I’ll try to do a few more of these Photoshops to illustrate different stylistic tips (including ones you’ve been reading about at this site). I’ll also round up various items you may want to consider for your wardrobe, and talk about things such as tailoring, how clothes are made, and a little menswear history. Hopefully you’ll enjoy my posts, and thanks for having me on board!