The Importance Of Contrast


I never expect anyone to follow my advice. I am one of those people who is confident in dispensing opinion but cynical as to its interpretation and use; I always feel that the majority of people will forget or dismiss what I say as madness or inconsequential. It is not because I do not trust or respect other people, it is simply that sometimes I feel as if I am wandering around in my own little world, firing blobs of advice into Reality that quickly evaporate on entering the atmosphere, thus rendering them utterly useless. I am amazed therefore when friends and acquaintances say to me; “I followed your advice…”, or “You know that thing you said, I decided to try it…” and “You’re not wrong about one thing…” Some of the blobs must have got through.

I was also shocked therefore to see, barely a fortnight after I had advocated such a course on these pages, men filing on and off the Tube and in and out of sandwich shops, cabs and bars wearing contrasting trousers and jackets. As I am a keen observer of other people’s attire, and had seen little of this kind of activity before, I rashly presumed that ‘someone got the memo’. Whatever the reason for such a flurry of experimentation, and I’d wager my words have very little to do with it, the fact that men were trying it – on purpose and with swagger – was greatly satisfying. The only problem was that the crucial point of the exercise had been missed; the contrast was often insufficient, and too far from complementary, to appear intentional.

The problem it seems that men do not possess lighter coloured suits. The silvery classics of yesteryear, like the Prince of Wales check, are just not popular. Darkness reigns in the modern gentleman’s wardrobe. Consequently, the mixtures that I bore witness to were low on contrast – mid-grey with mid-to-light grey, black with very dark grey etc. In a darkened room, they looked like they were wearing a suit; in the bright sunshine, the difference between the fabrics was more obvious – and decidedly unattractive. The lesson from this, for me, is that I should not base my advice on what is contained within my own wardrobe but what hangs in the wardrobes of my fellow men.

If the majority of men are not willing to purchase a lighter coloured suit, they should look into purchasing a couple of pairs of lighter trousers and maybe a couple of lighter coloured odd jackets – seersuckers and linens for summer, maybe a woollen houndstooth for winter – to maximise the utility from their other suit items.

The safest choice for trousers, affecting the classic ‘stroller’ look, is a pair of classic houndstooth trousers, with the timeless black and white houndstooth pattern, which from a distance looks like a very light grey. This option goes perfectly with navy blue, charcoal grey and many other popular colours of suit; the contrast created is striking and tasteful. The thing to always remember is that if you are staying within the same colour spectrum, the contrast must be exaggerated, otherwise you will look like you fished your outfit from a public waste bin.