Purple – the colour of Popes, royalty, Suffragettes, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the Aubergine / Eggplant, lilacs… but not one featured in many men’s wardrobes. It is a strong colour that has neither the safety of red or blue, or the sunshine quality of yellow. Let’s face it: the dominant colours in menswear are, on the whole, rather “safe”. That safety is not a negative, though: it is a platform. Put a man in a flattering navy suit, a white shirt and a suitable tie, and the thinking goes that they are “well-dressed”. But what about the underrated or should we call them under-utilised colours? I am thinking Purple, Green, Yellow, Orange, Pink… have I missed any?
Indeed, for the past few years I have pared down my wardrobe from an overwhelming mess, with the rule to prioritise neutral clothes in black, grey, navy, white and brown playing a major part in the achievement of my goal. However, having a look online to see if there are other guides of this nature, I have found that most of the advice pertains to women wearing purple. E.g.
Yet, the leading agency dedicated to colour, Pantone, named “Ultra Violet” their “Pantone color of the year 2018″. Somehow I imagine this will be taken up by more women than men, but in my book there are few more beautiful and confident colours for a man to wear. Sure, Pantone are a commercial organisation but their endorsement generally means something when it comes to the popularity or resonance of a particular colour. I remember when they announced Emerald Green back in 2013 (!), with commercially minded blogs like FashionBeans going into overdrive to try and convince men to try it. As it happened, at that time I was quite into green, and I proceeded to buy several items like an Oxford Shirt (long since gone) and a polyester ASOS or Topman produced pocket square that were probably produced with the Pantone influenced customer in mind. I also bought a dark purple Oxford Shirt at the same time which probably started this whole thing off with me.
For a few years one of my favourite items of clothing has been a Cadbury-esque purple Fred Perry polo with white accents. I wear it every other weekend at least, such is its versatility. It’s been washed many times so it has probably lost some lustre. I have found that it goes great with pretty much anything from the core, neutral heart of my collection: navy, black, grey trousers or jeans. It also looks good with shorts, being a summer-ready colour.
Step One: Incorporate purple
“OK ROB!” You say, “But how the hell am I supposed to do it myself?”
The answer is, pretty easily if you follow some guidelines.
- Wear purple casually.
If you do a cursory search of somewhere like r/MaleFashionAdvice, the few mentions of the colour are in reference to trouble with pairing up purple shirts and suits. As several astutely observe, this can be like Heath Ledger’s Joker, who wears a purple and green ensemble of punk-inspired vintage tailoring. On the whole you just can’t go wrong with a white or light blue shirt in the majority of cases. Adding colour to tailored outfits can be achieved much more easily through ties and pocket-squares. For example, a patterned or textured purple tie with a white shirt and a grey suit would be difficult to get wrong.
But as far as I can tell, there’s almost no issues involved if you want to rock a purple hoodie/sweatshirt/tee/polo with a casual ensemble. I even made an order on the great website END Clothing (*FYI: completely unsponsored) for the two outfits in this article:
2. Wear purple with classic colours, and wear it on top.
There’s no doubt that purple can be worn in a bold way. But unless you are going for that kind of message, then styling purple with foundational items like classic trousers (in neutral colours), jeans , tasteful shorts is the best strategy. There are many shades of purple and violet, yet as you can see here, the neutral ensemble means that the purple top is the only thing that needs to be swapped out. Everything else is sorted!
Our living room has a purple feature wall which goes beautifully with the calm light grey of the rest of the walls. You can even see this contrast in my outfits, if you look at the relationship between the painted walls and the polo and crew-neck t-shirt.
Step Two: Confidence in purple
As I have made clear, I do not think it is fair, but purple is not a colour for “shrinking violets”. If you follow all the principles and thinking behind this article, and indeed this website, then the majority of what you own will allow you to nimbly include colours like purple, because you will have a versatile base to build off every time. Whether you are wearing a darker tone like a mulberry purple, or a delicate lilac, there’s much more room to manoeuvre if you keep things classic, minimalist and easy.
Wear purple casually, and for maximum versatility make your purple item a top like a polo, a tee, a hoodie, a sweatshirt, rather than something else.
Chest: 36 inches. Waist: 30 inches, Leg: 30-31 inches. Champion t-shirt Size Small; Fred Perry Size Small / 38; Trousers size Small; Shoes: True to Size / slightly wide feet (EU43 / UK9).