The holidays are a great time for dressing up, but not everyone has the opportunity to wear a tuxedo for New Years Eve parties. If you’re traveling and want to pack light, or want something more casual for holiday gatherings, try combining similar colors in the same outfit. A monochromatic, low-contrast ensemble takes a bit of knowhow and experimentation to get right, but it’s a great way to pull together a more casual look – at least moreso than your typical suit-and-tie combination.
Traditionally, most menswear ensembles do better when they rely on basic, contrasting colors. So, a navy jacket with gray pants. Or a brown jacket with dark blue pants. When you rely on similar colors, you need to get your contrast from other things – texture, sheen, material, etc. A navy leather jacket can look great with dark blue wool trousers because the materials are distinct. The key is to make sure things don’t look too muddy.
This sort of dark, tonal dressing can be a great way to dress down tailored clothing, as well as make a casual ensemble look more sophisticated. And, depending on where you’re going this holiday season, it can allow you to pack a little lighter as you mix-and-match pieces for different effect. Some ideas on how to pull together a monochromatic outfit this winter:
- Rely on Basic Colors, Such as Blues and Grays: You can pull together a monochromatic outfit in almost any color (Stoffa’s Instagram account is chock full of inspiration). The easiest colors to work around, however, are blue and gray – especially during the colder, winter months. Try something like a charcoal herringbone topcoat with mid-gray wool trousers, light-gray sweater, and black derby shoes. The subtle differences in texture, pattern, and material will give you contrast where you need.
- Use Tonal Knitwear for Suits and Sport Coats: You can use a dress shirt in a similar color to your suit or sport coat, but things get a lot trickier once you try to use tonal neckties. If you’re trying to dress down tailored clothing, consider using knitwear instead. Finely knit merino turtlenecks can be perfect for this sort of look since the neckline adds interest and the material itself isn’t too bulky.
- Start with a Leather Jacket: The easiest way to pull together a monochromatic outfit is to start with a leather jacket. That’s because almost everything will contrast against leather (except, um, leather pants). A black leather jacket looks great with black denim; a brown suede bomber can be worn with tan wool trousers. I find blue leather jackets are typically easier to wear when they’re a true navy, rather than a mid-blue. They often just look better against a wider range of blue jeans.
- Stray with Just One Thing: Sometimes things don’t look right and you don’t have time to endlessly flip through your wardrobe to find the right combination. In these cases, vary just one thing. This can be just the top, such as how Christophe Lemaire above uses a cream-colored shirt with a more casual black jacket and black trouser combination. Or it can be how Youngsam from ResQ pairs a navy sweater and blue shoes with an otherwise all-gray outfit. Dark green outerwear also works well in these cases (especially against a charcoal base underneath). When trying to find the right complementary color, think about the mood you’re trying to create. Navy, dark green, and gray/ black all play well together because they have long histories of being used in military uniforms.
- Be Careful with Black Shoes: Many of the examples above use black shoes – a natural choice when everything else in your outfit is either gray or navy. If you’re wearing anything other than a proper suit, however, try to get black shoes that are a bit more casual. Derbies and boots are great for this. Oxfords with anything other than a suit can look too formal.
(photos via No Man Walks Alone, The Sartorialist, EFV, Tom Ford, and The ResQ)