The Style Column - The art of colour

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Our former-editor-turned-columnist Jeremy Langmead delivers some advice on getting colour in your life.

If only we all had a penny for every time one of our mates brings up the subject of colour blocking while mulling over a pint or two on a Friday night… Oh. That was awkward. We obviously don’t go to the same pubs.

Colour blocking is an expression that the fashion world has conjured up to make something quite simple sound very profound: all it actually means is mixing up a few primary colours together in an outfit — a sort of sartorial Lego.

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Every summer, we’re encouraged by menswear designers to brave an unusual hue or two, but this season they’re really going for it. Step into the stores and you’ll be surrounded by Technicolor chinos, Berocca-bright sweaters and rainbow-coloured shoes. And they’re not all on the sale rails: it’s a trend that has taken off despite the sight of Jedward jumping around like amphetamine-spiked friends of Thomas the Tank Engine in their pillar-box red sequinned jackets at the Eurovision Song Contest.

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Even Prince William colour-blocked a few months ago at his wedding: that turquoise blue silk sash worn over his bright red jacket with yellow gold braiding was very on trend. He looked as if he’d just walked off the Jil Sander catwalk.

Being a bit of a navy man myself, I admit to being a tad reluctant at embracing this trend. I’ve never been fond of traffic lights (always getting in the way) and have no wish to resemble one. I was also unconvinced that my deathly pallor was going to bring an emerald green sweater to life. However, I’ve just spent a week in Miami (vacation) and five days in LA (business) and seen how our American cousins — with the help of some sun, admittedly — can make the look work: it’s a mix of attitude, climate and confidence.

Miami was less of a surprise; although it wasn’t just the golden girls who were working the pastels. Aside from the vacationing New Yorkers (metropolitan vampires, those guys hate anything other than black), the beaches, pools and al fresco hotspots were populated by men of all ages in every conceivable colour. And they truly looked great in their sun-faded pea green Converse sneakers, crumpled pale pink J Crew shorts and sky blue Ralph Lauren polos.

If you’re heading to South Beach this summer, though, take heed: don’t pack the stripy Breton tops I wrote about in last month’s column. They are the uniform for the poolside waiters at both the W Hotel and Soho Beach House. I wore mine and spent the whole week politely taking orders for pina coladas and club sandwiches.

LA wore its colours in a whole different way. In fact, Angelenos wear everything in a whole different way. You attend meetings with CEOs and heads of fashion labels and they’re wearing cut-off denim shorts, T-shirts and espadrilles.

On my first day in the city, I turned up for a lunch with Greg Chait, the man behind the cult US knitwear label Elder Statesmen, wearing a button-down Oxford, chinos and brogues to find the restaurant was a breezy beach café up the road in Malibu and he was sitting there in jeans and two cashmere vests. Chait looked like he’d walked off the set of Rumblefish; I looked like Mr Samgrass from Brideshead Revisited.

It was a similar vibe at the HQ of homegrown brand Band of Outsiders. Scott Sternberg, a Hollywood agent before founding the preppie-with-a-twist label, was sat casually on a windowsill with a loose T-shirt, pale jeans and a canary-yellow pair of deck shoes; the splash of colour worked perfectly in lending his otherwise unassuming attire a slight edge. Inspired, I later bought a cotton hoodie in the exact same colour. I put it on that evening half-expecting my fellow Brit diners to call me Big Bird or Tweety Pie but — hoorah! — no such thing. With a light tan, an outside table at Cecconi’s, and that laid-back approach LA has to everything except the movie industry, it worked perfectly.

So the point of this tale is that if you’re unsure of perking up your palette this summer, relax, and try it out first on warm, sandy shores. The only people who can disapprove are your holiday companions and the hotel staff. And the latter probably includes me busy in my Breton top. I promise not to judge. I need the tip.

Jeremy Langmead is Editor-in-chief at Mr Porter

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