When you take a moment to think about the shape of your wardrobe, where does your mind run to? I suspect it’ll jump to thinking about colours and patterns; pulling navy blazers over pastel pink shirts, or else mixing a striped tie with a gingham shirt and a checked suit. This is natural, but there are two other important consideration to keep in mind when wardrobe building, namely texture and tone.
While easy to overlook, texture makes a huge difference to the kind of impression that an outfit gives off, and in turn, the level of formality that you present to the world. Think about tailoring; a worsted sharkskin suit feels altogether more ‘business ready’ than a suit cut in luxurious, evening-appropriate flannel, and a weather-beaten brushed cotton suit is considerably less formal than something in crisp mohair or fresco.
It’s the same with shirts. A brushed cotton button-down gives off an entirely different vibe to a point-collared poplin shirt, and a piqué button-through polo feels different again – sportier and easier than its compatriots. And, at a time when menswear is slowly moving away from busy patterns and bold colours to a dressed-down, tonal aesthetic, texture is the medium through which it’s easiest to express yourself. The signs of this step-change are all there; from the looks strutting down high fashion catwalks in Milan and Paris, to last season’s street style at Pitti Uomo, shouty patterns are out and subtle textures in tonal combinations are in.
So, embracing a bit of texture in your wardrobe is an easy win right now, and I have three tips for you to keep in mind as you change up your shirt collection. First off, during the cooler months try to work in some earthy colours and super-soft shirt fabrics into your regular rotation. Thomas Mason’s brushed cotton and cotton/cashmere blend fabrics are the perfect place to start here.
They are available in variety of soft, seasonal colours from graphite grey, to khaki, olive, chocolate brown and airforce blue. Whether sewn into a simple spread collar shirt, a button-down or even a pocket-strewn overshirt, layering up something in soft flannel with separates or casual outerwear in a tonal colour palette looks seriously chic, and it’s a versatile look too – suited to everything from a creative office environment to dinner out. For classic business dress, you could experiment with some different fabric weaves in your shirt collection. If you tend to stick to poplin shirts, perhaps try a winter-weight twill or even a herringbone, both of which can look elegantly casual in brushed cotton or very polished in clean-cut business shirting.
In spring and summer, leave off earthy tones and go for pastels instead. Of course, opportunities to layer in hot weather are few and far between, but you can nonetheless put some sleek-looking combinations together in terms of shirt and trouser. It’s all about dipping into the same warm colours across your top and bottom half. So, if you’re wearing tobacco trousers, choose a cream or rust coloured shirt as opposed to a shirt in powder blue. If you’re in navy trousers, think about a steel blue linen shirt, and so on.
Again, texture is important to consider too. A poplin or a zephir fabric offers a smooth, versatile look and smartens-up a pair of pleated linen trousers, while a linen melange shirt helps to relax them. Thomas Mason has a near-endless selection of luxurious linen cloths, and linen-cotton blends in a mixture of subtle stripes and mottled plains, which add the requisite touch of texture to a summery ensemble. Cotton piqué and giro inglese shirting cloths are also a smart choice in the warmer months thanks to their cooling, open weave structure and textured weave.
My third tip is to think about how you can work checked and striped shirts into tonal outfits. I’ve written already in this column that I have a pair of butcher’s stripe shirts in chocolate brown and taupe, both cut in cloths from the Thomas Mason Leisure collection. I find these incredibly useful all year round. The poplin is mid-weight and comfortable to wear, and these subtle, neutral colours work brilliantly with cream and tan in summer, and dark charcoal and khaki hues in winter. Do think about adding a couple of pieces like this to your wardrobe – I know we’re all used to thinking about striped shirts in pink and blue, but distinctive colours like these open up a whole new ball game.
Here’s hoping that these musings prove useful. Colourful and richly patterned clothing isn’t going anywhere, but the way that both brands and stylish men are ‘going tonal’ and experimenting with different textures in their clothes is a new phenomenon that’s only going to gather pace. It’s modern, clean-looking and sophisticated. Give a textured look a try if you haven’t yet, and you’ll see what I mean.