The Politics of Monochrome
There are many things in the world that manage to acquire some sort of undeservedly bad reputation somehow, like James Blunt and monochrome outfits. What has James Blunt ever done to anyone that condemns him to spend much of his evenings fighting back abuses on Twitter? Why do a few depressed tweens with all-black wardrobes give other monochromatic wardrobes the ‘goth’ label?
Monochrome menswear is so deeply misunderstood by so many. Many repel the idea because they think it is a lot of effort. Well, you can surely complicate any kind of style, but monochrome chic is minimalist, and it can be – on the contrary – pretty effortless.
Personally, I think that black, white and all the shades in between are already a handful that I don’t even need other colours to bring my wardrobe to life. Certainly, a lot of people hold the same view as I do. In fact, many men out there think the colour black on its own is good enough. That might sound ludicrous, but when so many female celebrities are doing that, why can’t men do the same? Dressing well in the same colour head to toe is not as hard as you might think.
Of course, there are certain techniques in creating a successful monochrome look. First, it is important to understand the idea of layering. You can wear a black T-shirt with black chinos, but that is not going to give you the best results. You will want to look for more pieces in composing your outfit: scarfs, shirts, jackets, coats, hats, watches, belts, socks (and maybe a Moleskine). When shopping, look for garments that complement other pieces in terms of size. For example, when buying a jacket for a monochromatic outfit, one should choose a baseball jacket to wear rather than a a heavy button-up sweater. The relatively slimmer cut of a baseball reveals the interior layer of clothing and emphasise layering whereas a heavy sweater itself has already too many details which makes it hard to pair with other garments.
Secondly, there should be a variety of fabrics. Normally, it is the color spectrum that provides the dynamic of your outfit, but in a monochromatic outfit – especially when dressed in all black – it is the texture that stands out. It could be as simple as wearing a denim jacket with a knitted jumper plus an oversized t-shirt inside; or it could be offered by one single garment: remember how H&M used to do those T-shirts and windbreakers with two contrasting color blocks top and bottom? Imagine a jumper with what we call ‘material block’ – it might well be boiled wool on top and cotton at the bottom. They are hard to find, but they are often worth the money.
So – I might have lied about how simple or effortless it is to do a monochrome / all-black outfit… But don’t sweat, there are just too many good and affordable brands that could help you build such a distinctive style. One of the best is COS: every season, the fashion brand focuses strongly on a few colours and there are often a great variety of pieces available in the same colour.
Even better at this is Uniqlo. First and foremost, the prices offered are often very low. Second and more impressive is the fact that it once collaborated with Jil Sander, who helped produce the line ‘J+’. All you have to know is that Jil Sander is a masterful minimalist designer legend, and that although she is no longer with Uniqlo, the legacy of J+ could still be felt in their collections: plain, practical, stripped of unnecessary details.
The road to great styling is a very gentle learning process, and it is all about experience. So when you classmate next comes in with a red coat over a green jumper with chinos and it is not even Christmas yet, or you stroll into Hollister and wonder who came up with all these colours, you might start to be convinced: maybe sticking with black and white is just the best – and that is what monochrome is all about.
by Justin Chan, Razz Fashion Correpsondent