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White: Physics and snobbery

3 Sep

primary colours make white lightWhen I was in Theatre school studying design, I got a good rounding of other theatrical tasks and took classes in stage management, performance, and sound and lighting. I learned a lot of things during the lighting class and developed an understanding of light and colour as frequency. I also learned how to make white light out primary colours. White is a combination of all light frequencies, so focusing blue, red, and green lights in one spot gives us white light. This experience was the beginning of my fascination with colour. (For more information on light frequency, see this page from NASA.)

White as a reflecting colour

From a light perspective, if we think about light and how it changes throughout the year, it makes sense to wear either reflective or absorbing colour depending on what season it is. In the spring and summer, there is bright, warm light and it makes sense for us to reflect light away from us which keeps us a bit cooler, while in the fall and winter, we have cool and limited light that we want to absorb to keep the heat in, so we wear darker colours. (A psychological link seems to exist as well, as we mimic the natural world.)

White is sleek, clean, and classic; we can all envision basic white but there are many, many whites, some cool, some warm,  some with coloured undertones. If you’ve ever looked at paint chips to decide on a room colour, you may have been surprised to see just how varied white can be.

types of white

Believe it or not, these are all considered white. Notice the variations between colours. From Benjamin Moore’s 2015 white collection.

White, along with black and grey, are considered neutrals, and will mix well with other colours of the same level of warmth or coolness. Warm-skinned people will do well in warm – red or yellow-tinted – whites (cream, oatmeal, eggshell white), while cool-skinned types look best in cool – blue or green-tinted – whites (ivory, stone, oyster, silvery white). Notice the subtle differences in cool and warm whites below; you may also see that warm whites advance and cool whites recede slightly:

warm whites








cool whites











White after Labour Day

The Labour Day argument can be a source of confusion for those of us in the Western world. We’re not truly in autumn until the fall equinox which falls the third week of September, so theoretically, we shouldn’t fret about wearing white after Labour Day. This tradition, once fiercely defended, is not longer a sticking point – many of us wear white into the fall which is perfectly acceptable.

The “white season” is an American concept devised by rich white women after the American Civil War. This sartorial snobbery was created to differentiate between the wealthy and the common; people who could afford multiple seasonal wardrobes and those who could not; white was for those who were lucky enough to enjoy resorts, cottaging, and summer holidays between Memorial Day and Labour Day. According to TIME, wearing white after Labour Day was impractical in cooler and rainy fall weather and by that time of year, it was time to return to the more formal attire of city living anyway.

Modern society likes to break old rules, including the not-wearing-white-after-the-September-long-weekend rule. Depending on where you live, September can still be very hot (it certainly is in Toronto) and dark colours wouldn’t be appropriate – hot weather still begs for light colours even at the end of summer. White should still prevail into the fall when the temperatures start to drop and we can get snuggily in deeper, richer whites that lend an air of class and elegance.

Maybe that pompous when-to-wear-white rule does have a basis: white is one of the more elegant colour options no matter what time of year it is, so go ahead and don’t be afraid to indulge in the classic brightness of white.

The spawn of Savile Row

23 Jan

It’s the third and final instalment of our Savile Row series, where we’ll get better acquainted with the men that have moved Savile Row style into the 21st century.

In its 200 year history, Savile Row has experienced three major changes: the elegance of proper and formal dress for the first 150 years or so, the reinvention of the Savile Row workmanship woven into the modern style of the Swinging Sixties, and into the new bespoke movement of the 1990s and into the future.

Remember Tommy Nutter, the maverick tailor of 60s London, and his cutter, Edward Sexton who dressed the Beatles and other dandies of the period? These two gents bent the hard rules of Savile Row set during the late 19th century and turned fine tailoring into “the male peacock revolution of the Sixties” (read more from Nutter’s obituary).

Both Nutter and Sexton are the roots of modern bespoke, and their guidance and influence is rampant in modern bespoke and design.

Sexton is Paul McCartney’s tailor and according to the Savile Row Style Magazine, McCartney’s daughter Stella trained under Sexton, “serving an apprenticeship that stood her in good stead when she went on to found her own design business.” Sexton continues to design for men and women like musicians, Annie Lennox and Pete Doherty; models, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell, and designed costumes for Bill Nighy and Reece Ifans in The Boat That Rocked (recommended watching about a pirate radio in 60s England), among many others.

Tommy Nutter died in 1992, but his legacy has been transferred to two of the three “New Generation” designers: Ozwald Boateng, a self-taught tailor “inspired and guided by Tommy Nutter [who has] carried on his mentor’s legacy of introducing Savile Row to a new Generation,” and Timothy Everest, a one-time Nutter apprentice who blends “impeccable craftsmanship with individualism”. (Source.)

Savile Row’s New Generation

Ozwald Boateng is serious about style based on personality and emotions–“soul, spirit, energy, that’s what it’s about,” he says in a 2009 short film, Why Style Matters.  As a teenager, Georgio Armani inspired Boateng to want to become a superstar of international design, and he has certainly reached his goal. Boateng has designed suits for US president, Barack Obama, and the likes of Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker, Spike Lee, John Hurt, and Sir Richard Branson. He has injected into the tradition of Savile Row, bright, exciting colours, and indeed, his shop at 30 Savile Row pops with colour–he says his shirts look more like jewels. 

To Boateng, suits represent respectability, and he uses the time-honoured ways of Savile Row and its traditional fabrics in his unconventional cuts and colours to make modern, stylish, and individual clothes because as he says, “Style is a journey, it is an extension of who you are and your character”.

Unless he’s doing  commissioned bespoke, Welshman and MBE, Timothy Everest, though not as fearless as Boateng when it comes to colour, celebrates the modernization of Savile Row’s tradition of craftsmanship. “The perceptions of tailoring were old-fashioned, long-winded, boring, expensive, and elitist,” Everest explains, “So we had to turn these things around to be relevant.” 

On his website, Everest explains his sartorial evolution: “It was the early 90s and everyone had gone through the whole “designer” and “brand” thing,” he says. “I felt like I could introduce a new generation to the joys of handmade clothing–investment pieces that stood out and were built to last.”

Everest’s career is incredible–he collaborated with Marks & Spencer to create off-field uniforms for England’s football team for the 2008 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup, was the Group Creative Director for Daks, acts as M&S’s Creative Consultant overseeing the Autograph, Sartorial, and Luxury tailoring collections, and designed the uniforms for the Virgin Racing team, among many other varied projects.

Teaming up with British fashion design company, Superdry, Everest did the unthinkable and created a modern clothing collection based in traditional British tailoring. The Superdry line offers a “trans-seasonal” collection of casual coordinating separates in razor-sharp skinny suits in fine fabrics and much attention to detail.

At #29 Savile Row is the shop of Richard James, whose business philosophy is to “produce classic clothing of unsurpassable quality, but to push the boundaries through design, colour and cut.”

According to UK GQ, “James ruffled feathers by maintaining traditional suit-making techniques (using English mills like Fox Brothers & Co, reflecting his commitment to craftsmanship) yet at the same time sweeping aside tradition where necessary (by reflecting the catwalks and having the audacity to open on weekends).”

James designs for the rock and roll elite like Mick Jagger, Mick Ronson, and the Gallagher brothers when Oasis was at its peak but before Liam started his Pretty Green line. James is responsible for Elton John’s stage costumes for his Vegas shows too.

Richard James and I share a love of fabrics and textures and we also agree that black is not the wonderful colour that people think it is: “I don’t like black very much on men,” he says in a Details interview, “It’s not a very flattering colour. A bright navy blue cheers you up. I remember going to see [UK Prime Minister] David Cameron, and he wanted a navy suit. I said, ‘Well, if you have a navy suit on television, it usually looks like a black suit.’ So we made a brighter navy, and he looked fantastic!”

Our feature designers, Boateng, Everest, and James, the spawn of Savile Row, have succeeded in modernizing the deep sartorial traditions of the Row to update younger generations with wearable style, sophistication, and impeccable craftsmanship.


Forty seconds of awesome

6 Jun

It has been a week of intensity: my hard drive died, I lost data, and I’m working on foreign computer system; I’ve had to rebuild a contact list from a box of business cards, I’ve recreated several digital projects for today’s deadline, and planned, arranged, and constructed  a video that I released today.

Here it is. Hope you like it.

Instantly cool with a spring scarf

14 Mar

Scarves are the unsung heroes of any man’s wardrobe. They punch up the colour and flavour of any outfit and make a guy instantly stylish.

Scarves are traditionally worn in the winter to keep our necks warm, but consider a lightweight scarf in the spring for a little added warmth and a lot of style in the early days of the season.

Gentlemen, no matter how much you spend, know that you’re going to make an impact in a spring scarf.

I find that menswear in general can be harsh in colour, casting a dark light on a man’s face, and giving him a hardened look. Spring colours are much more flattering, softening a man’s features and making him look more approachable. While scouting locally owned menswear shops in Toronto for this post, I’m happy to see that this season’s colour choices in scarves are soft and powdery.

Pal Zileri linen scarf

I looked at a gorgeous, tone-on-tone striped sea green linen scarf at high-end men’s store, Via Cavour at 87 Avenue Road. Their amazingly soft, handmade, Pal Zileri 100% linen scarves come in unusual colours, and are priced from $350 to $750.

When the temperatures get warmer, linen scarves are the go-to accessory because linen is one of the lightest and coolest clothing materials – air constantly moves through linen’s weave, keeping the wearer physically and visually cool. (Read more about linen.)

Marc de Rose at Via Cavour says, “Scarves are one of the best pieces to update an outfit.”

He describes his scarves as “funky” that dress up a traditional suit. He likes to loop his scarves loosely around his neck with the ends draping over his chest, giving him a youthful, comfortable look. Draping the scarf over a suit this way “frames” the collar (and tie) beneath.

  • Style tip: Scarves are meant to look “thrown on” but they are nothing but – you’ll want to spend some time arranging the fabric

I visited philip in Hazelton Lanes, a spin-off of Nanni Couture, to look at gentleman’s cotton and silk blend scarves.

Philip no scarf

Philip in a suit

Philip scarf

Philip becomes instantly cool in a spring scarf!

Owner, Philip Zappacosta, says, “A scarf is a great investment for men to coordinate with his wardrobe, and tie everything  together.”

He showed me a large, versatile, slightly crisp, colourful, square-shaped Corneliani scarf (below), made in Italy ($295), and explained how many other colours and pieces could be worn with it.

Scarves at the philip store go well with soft-shouldered sports jackets and other more casual pieces like loose-knit spring sweaters. They can be worn wrapped around the neck to create volume around the face, and longer types can be worn European style, folded in half lengthwise and draped around the neck with the ends pulled through the loop at the front.

Here, we wrapped the fabric around Philip’s neck. Notice how the added bulk seems to bring in his shoulders and torso – a trick of optical illusion, good for larger men who want to appear smaller.

  • Style tip – Look for balance in your clothing and avoid mixing warm winter weights with lighter spring weights

Queen Street West favourite, Grreat Stuff, offers reasonable price points for men on smaller budgets who like to add some pizzazz to their wardrobe. Grreat Stuff is a grreat store for menswear oddities and interesting wardrobe pieces.

They carry long, double-sided silk English scarves in traditional patterns grreat stuff twith a natural silk fringe for $95, striped 100% gauzy cotton GEOX scarves for $60, and cotton Matinique gingham scarves in a dense weave with a dry hand for $45.

Co-owners, Frances and Adam Yalonetsky, recommend wearing cotton or silk scarves loosely with a cotton blazer or lightweight outerwear.

Adam suggests that in the cool of the early spring, fold your scarf in half lengthwise, wrap European style, then tighten the loop to bring the scarf closer in at the neck. This will give more bulk to the scarf and keep the warm air close to the throat.

Adding a scarf will get you noticed and for style-savvy men, there is scarcely a better accessory.

Having the idea to wear a stylish scarf that ties your clothes together makes you awesome. Actually doing it for real triples your awesomeness.


Pink and blue, what’s it to you?

22 Sep

Pink and blue have been fashionable for both genders at different points in history. Shown here: Peter and Paul in this 19th century biblical painting.

Because I work with men who most likely have not had the opportunity to experience colour like women have, I like to introduce my clients to colour in a language they will likely understand, through science. Seeing colour as physics, or solar radiation, gives men an opportunity to appreciate colour for what it is – colour as light in its pure state instead of colour laden with social meaning.

Colour perception

For both social and physical reasons, men are apt to see colour differently than women. As a gender group, boys are not socialized to appreciate and be free with colour as girls are, and they are more prone to colour blindness.

“The fact that color blindness is so much more prevalent among men implies that, like hemophilia, it is carried on the X chromosome, of which men have only one copy,” says the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, “7 percent of [American] males either cannot distinguish red from green, or see red and green differently from most people, but this affects only .4 percent of women.”

The strong colours and geometric shapes of Split Enz' True Colours album appeal to babies.

I read some websites about infant perception and learned that by two months old, babies can pick up high-contrast colours, simple patterns and shapes, and by five months can distinguish between basic hues and softer pastels.

One of my cousins was born in 1980. My aunt and uncle found their son transfixed by the strong colours and geometric shapes of Split Enz’ True Colours album cover, so my aunt put it in his crib, and it worked like a pacifier.

The album cover came out in a series of different colours, even black and white. This video is one of the singles from the record and besides being a really great song, the set and lighting design plays with the colours and shapes on the album cover – quite clever. Enjoy:

Babies, like children and like adults,  react to colour, especially bold and high-contrast colours. Somewhere along the line, we – and when I say we, I mean society at large, directed by designers and retailers who actually decide what we wear, move from brightly-coloured toys, clothes, furniture, bedding, and diapers for all babies, into a more rigid chromatic order when boys and girls move into school age and are socialized into gender roles.

When boys get to school, they are expected to suck up their feelings and conform to the look and behaviour associated with their gender. Colour choices for childhood clothing seem to symbolically reflect unnatural and socially-imposed behaviour (think “boys don’t cry”), and the bright happy colours that babies and young children enjoy are replaced by darker, muted colours by the time a boy is in grade school. Next time you’re in a department store, go by the children’s clothing section where you will see for yourself the differences in colour (also in brightness) between the girls and the boys clothes. You may find that girls have vivid, multi-coloured choices in clothing, while boys are offered drab reds, blues, greys, and earth tones.

I’m a huge proponent of wearing colours that reflect our personalities so muted colours to me are symbolic of muted expression, and assigning gender-specific colours is robbing everyone of chromatic joy.

History of gender-specific colour

Colour associations have always existed in human culture and continuously change over time. It hasn’t always been pink and blue that carried gender associations, as John Gage explains in his excellent colour theory book, Color and meaning: art, science, and symbolism, but many other colours that carry gender significance:

…about 1809 the German Romantic painter and theorist Philipp Otto Runge devised a colour-circle expressive of ideal and real values, on which the warm poles of yellow and orange represented the ‘masculine passion’ and the cool poles of blue and violet the feminine. When this scheme was taken up a century later by the neo-Romantic Expressionists in Munich these values were reversed, so that for Franz Marc blue became the masculine principle and yellow the feminine, ‘soft, cheerful, and sensual’.

Prior to the 20th century, the practice of dressing girls in pink and boys in blue was reversed. As quoted in a piece on this topic, a June 1918 article in Earnshaw’s Infants Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for boys and blue for girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

“Pink and powder blue were used as lighter versions of red (the ‘masculine’ colour of blood and fighting) and blue (the iconographic colour of the Virgin Mary),” explains cognitive linguist, Veronika Kolle, in her excellent article, ‘Not just a colour’: pink as a gender and sexuality marker in visual communication.

Around World War 1, these colour associations began to change. A 1927 Time magazine chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys did not yet show a consensus on colour. A scale reflecting colour preferences in 10 different stores in 8 American cities saw 6 out of 10 stores identify pink for boys and half of the stores suggested blue for girls. It took some time for this change in traditional sex-related colours to occur, but once it did, there was no turning back for at least two generations.

The Virgin Mary in blue robes.

The colour code identifying pink for boys and blue for girls “persisted not only in Catholic countries until the First World War,” Kolle says, “when changing gender roles and increasing secularization led to the decentering of the quintessential maternal figure of the Virgin Mary. The colour blue consequently came to signify male professions, most notably the navy, rather than being an element of religious iconography.”

Academic author, Alison Lurie, has said that blue  as the colour of faith in the Christian Church became associated with trust and hard work (“blue collar”), and was adopted by males to represent their loyalty and perseverance.

Some argue that gender colour segregation was created by retailers to achieve higher profit margins. (If you noticed, the pink for boys and blue for girls idea was suggested above by Earnshaw’s, a children’s clothing retailer.)

“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Jo Paoletti, author of Pink & Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America, says of colour differentiation. Chiming in, Kolle says “Marketing and consumer culture helped disseminate the new colour code across almost all Western cultures.”

“Nowadays,” Paoletti says, “people just have to know the sex of a baby or young child at first glance… What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted.’ ”

Visual artist, JeongMee Yoon does a really interesting job of looking at the relationship between gender, colour, consumerism, and socialization in her Pink and Blue Project.

“Perhaps it is the influence of pervasive commercial advertisements aimed at little girls and their parents, such as the universally popular Barbie and Hello Kitty merchandise that has developed into a modern trend. Girls train subconsciously and unconsciously to wear the color pink in order to look feminine.”

What does this all boil down to? My next statement may shock some of you, but gender-specific colours that you may believe to be real and true are actually manufactured concepts and nothing more than manipulation by the retail industry to get you to spend more money. Gender-specific marketing drives profits, you see.


Gainsborough's 18th century portrait of The Pink Boy.

Salmon, bubble gum,  watermelon, cherry, strawberry, fuchsia, rose, carnation, coral, blush, peach, magenta, and puce are all types of pink, a tint of red, the longest solar wavelength, measuring 630–740 nanometers (billionths of a meter, nm often used to measure atomic particles), if you choose to get scientific about it. Pink results when red is tinted with white.

Pink, like any other colour, is light absorbed by the rods and cones in the retinas of our eyes. Anything outside of this, as in the cultural meaning of colour,  is purely and arbitrarily fabricated by humans.

Kolle says, “What is associated with a colour or shade is indicative not of the colour itself but of the cultural and historical formation in which it is constructed as having particular characteristics and being suitable for particular social groups.” In other words, people attach meaning to things and concepts that actually have no meaning at all.

When segregated gender colour is so heavy-handed, as imposed on Baby Boomers and the Gen-Xers that were spawned by the Boomers, this kind of social expectation and peer pressure can be so deeply ingrained and so rigid, that it moves from childhood into adulthood without missing a beat.

Sometimes I come across men who refuse to see colour as solar vibration as I try to present it, because to them, colour comes with gender identity and meaning attached to it.

I worked with a client a couple of years ago who is a former law enforcement officer (I mention this because an industry such as policing tends to adhere to rigid gender identities). After analyzing his personality and his colouring, he allowed me to choose the fabrics and colours for his new shirts that he would order from an overseas shirt maker. I chose shirts for him in colours true to his palette, including white, blue, yellow, and a light salmony pink. After a few weeks, I emailed him to see if his shirts had arrived and how he liked them. Everything was fine except for one thing.

“The shirts are great, but I will NEVER wear pink,” he wrote.

A die-hard social stance on the adoption or rejection of certain colours starts in childhood and takes away from the wonderful chromatic sensations that light offers our eyes.

Paoletti says, “One thing I can say now is that I’m not real keen on the gender binary – the idea that you have very masculine and very feminine things. The loss of neutral clothing is something that people should think more about. And there is a growing demand for neutral clothing for babies and toddlers now too.”

With any luck, the colour spectrum will be stripped of gender connotations and people will be open to experience the unbiased joy of chroma. As Oscar Wilde said, “Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.”

Purple is the new blue

10 Mar

You’ve all seen it – in store windows, on your friends, under suits. It’s exciting to see purple for a change. Purple is an interesting colour, different yet close enough to blue that many men feel safe wearing it.

I’m delighted to see more and more men embracing this wonderful range of hues; I’ve been seeing men donning purple shirts, ties, and jackets, sometimes of the velvet variety (gorgeous!). Seeing a man in a purple dress shirt is relieving to me instead of the expectant ordinary white or light blue collar. If purple is indeed moving in on blue’s territory, I welcome this glorious transition.

Colour theory

Though purple isn’t too far a cry from blue, it isn’t too far away from the reds either. In fact, it’s right in the middle of the hot red and the cool blue on the colour wheel.  There are varying degrees of purple, some more red, some more blue, some lighter and some darker. As a result, the range of purple is very diverse from very light lavenders to very dark aubergines, to violets, mauves, magentas, hyacinths and plums in between. To get a sense of the range of red to blue purples, click here for a good chromatic visual.

If you observe the colour wheel above, you can see that mid-way between red and blue is purple, and as you divide purple with red, you see red-purple and looking between purple and blue, you see blue-purple. The countless divisions between these colour markers which, when mixed with black, white, and grey, will give all kinds of new colours like fuschia, mulberry, burgundy, grape, indigo, slate blue, amethyst, iris, or royal purple, to name a few. A purple example you may see for spring 2011 is  “barberry”, a deep fuschia, still technically purple, but closer to the red side.

I believe that the human eye loves colour but the human psyche is bothered by artificial social meanings that colour carries. In this case, purple being between red and blue does not carry the meanings that blue and that controversial tint of red carries (did you guess that I’m referring to pink? to be discussed in a future blog post), which makes it safe for men to appreciate and wear.

My clients know that I like to move them into colours they may never have considered before, and often we find shirts in the purple family that the clients fall in love with.

A little history

The first purple dye originated from a marine source in Tyre, Phoenicia (Lebanon). Through a very laborious process, liquid was extracted from a shellfish (Murex brandaris) that started out as white and gradually changed colour as it was carefully exposed to light. Later, more accessible types of purple dyes were discovered on the islands off of the north west coast of Africa in the form of lichen and also from the Dragon Tree which produced a red resin that made for an excellent dye. Because the dye was so expensive, few could afford it, and it was reserved for the very wealthy.

In Colour: Travels through the Paintbox, Victoria Finlay explains that “[t]he Persians and Jews liked purple greatly, but it was in the Roman and then later in the Byzantine approbation of this dye that it gained its real reputation – when emperor after emperor had their new clothes made from it.”

Finlay found that Cleopatra loved purple and introduced Caesar to this new colour (she loved it so much that the sails of her ship were dyed purple). Caesar brought stuffs of purple back to Rome and wore a “totally purple, sea-snail-dyed, full-length toga. An item only Caesar was allowed to wear.” Following this tradition, Roman and Byzantine emperors wore purple robes, and this chromatic exclusivity was carried into many kingdoms over time, turning purple into the colour of royalty.

More on purple

In modern times, purple, like any other dye colour is readily available and no longer exclusive, but there is something special about purple; I love to wear it and have made a point of collecting purple pieces to intersperse into my wardrobe. People often comment on it. Some artists have a thing for purple too and are associated with the colour:

–> Donny Osmond was famous for his purple socks as a teenager in the 70s. Apparently the socks had nothing to do with him liking the colour, but rather his mother found them on sale and bought him several pairs.

–> Prince, the Purple One, released the Purple Rain album and film in 1984:

–> In The Color Purple, African-American feminist writer, Alice Walker, uses purple  symbolism in her story about Celie, a poor, uneducated black woman in the southern US during the 1930s. Celie was badly abused as an adolescent and lives a difficult life. She sees herself through other people’s eyes which keeps her from seeing the beautiful aspects of life.

Purple is associated with pain and suffering in the story.  Her step-daughter-in-law, Sophie is beaten until her face is swollen and described as the colour of eggplant. Celie’s friend and lover, Shug, tells her when they are standing in a field of purple flowers to look at the flowers and embrace their beauty. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” After learning this, Celie has a better respect for life and everything it has to offer.

–> Rock history: Purple Haze is a fantastic Jimi Hendrix song!

If you like purple and you’re into online shopping, I happened upon this great purple website for men’s apparel with all sorts of goodies from shirts to shorts to purple camouflage gear.

Everyone can, and indeed should wear purple; there’s something grand about it, it draws the eye and makes us stand out from the crowd. Try turning to purple when you would normally look for blue, gentlemen, feel good in your gorgeous new hues, and of course, rule your kingdoms well.


30 Sep

All sorts of kooky things happen when we are in that stretch of time that connects the end of summer with the beginning of autumn. People aren’t sure what to wear in this changeable weather, so they’ll step into flip-flops in their coats and scarves, or wear autumn boots with sleeveless t-shirts. There is more confusion than consistency, but one thing I notice remains true is that when the temperature dips, Toronto reaches for drab.

Yellow wardrobe pieces add interest and style.

I’ve been shopping for some new fall pieces lately and everywhere I go,  it’s the same story – collections of greys, blacks, and other dark neutrals to camouflage us into the sidewalks of the urban jungle. It’s curious.

“Does the fashion industry conspire to chromatically induce seasonal depression?” I mused, noting yet another shop window holding grey-clad mannequins,  “And wouldn’t it be interesting if the pharma companies secretly lurked behind the scenes…”

Whatever happened to the human ritual of mimicking nature through clothing? It feels natural to wear gorgeous blazing autumnal colours when the time is right; warm browns, deep greens, bright oranges, golds, rusts, and reds, especially if they’re warm and wooly, and even better if they’re well fit and stylish. (Autumn is a fun time to dress because of the sensible layering options for warmth and expression.)

On a cool but humid day last weekend, I was out for a walk to the city’s east end. I passed a very attractive man in a yellow t-shirt.

The vibrant colour (plus the brand done in rhinestones emblazoned across the chest) drew my eye to this handsome dread-locked fellow. He absolutely stood out but not in a demanding way – he was confident enough to wear something he knew looked fantastic on him, and though the colour was bright and quite obviously YELLOW,  it was flattering and blended harmoniously with his colouring and his person. He totally pulled it off.

Yellow just isn’t that common.

I know that many people are afraid of yellow, but when it’s done right, it can be glorious.  I often see pale yellow dress shirts as a choice for business wear and many men own yellow ties. Yellow is a good choice for men because our culture hasn’t labelled it gender-specific, and it is unusual enough to stand apart, but not to the point of alienation.

Yellow is heavy with meaning: caution, happiness, the sun, and jaundice, and it’s uses are varied:

  • A yellow card in soccer indicates a conduct warning
  • If you are called “yellow-bellied”, you are considered a coward
  • China’s Emperor, Wu-Ti, was known as the Yellow Emperor and wore yellow silk robes
  • It is the colour of the chakra associated with the solar plexus and left-brain reasoning
  • Yellow is the colour of the Beatles’ famous submarine

Yellow is a good colour to pair with the dreary neutrals that are forced upon us when the weather cools, and it comes in many forms: mustard and custard yellows, golden rod, tan, canary, harvest gold, butter yellow, saffron, ochre, lemon, banana, and turmeric yellow, to name but a few.

Now that we’re moving into the darker months, give yourself a hint of cheery yellow in a scarf to brighten your outdoor gear, and if you can find yellow shirts and sweaters to suit you, snap them up – I’ve been clutching my wool daffodil yellow sweater for years and I refuse to let it go!