In Living Color

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with color. You could say there are two archetypal 19th century dandies dueling in my closet: George “Beau” Brummell, the so-called father of modern costume, advocates in favor of a simple palette and elegant restraint, while on the other side is Count Alfred d’Orsay, the “butterfly dandy,” who was also an arbiter elegantiarum of his era, but who relied upon color as much as cut.

Over the years the Brummell side has been the victor. In my twenties, when I was a Young Fogey in Edwardian mode, my entire wardrobe was black, white and gray, causing an English colleague to say I looked like a butler. But the trapped butterfly in me comes out every five years or so, and, in the spirit of my recent health transformation, it’s come bursting out again. Best of all, as the second half of life is largely about integration and the reconciling of seeming paradoxes, I think I now see how the two sartorial inclinations can be combined, rather than set in opposition. So I’ve begun stocking up on colorful summer items, and as soon as I did a peculiar thing happened: random strangers began saying I looked nice.

Now I think you should wear what you want, and I also think the Stoics were right about being careful of putting too much value on the opinion of others. But from a Level Up point of view (that’s our new section on becoming a better you), the positive effect color tends to have on others might just change your life.

Think about it. Say you’re an extreme ’60s-era IBM-type trad who only wears white shirts to work, and navy polos and sweaters at leisure. At the crisis point in your life you realize you need to inject some fresh energy, so you voluntarily decide to add one measly item of color to your wardrobe. The people around you notice, remark upon it positively, and so you add a few more. Now you’re in a sartorial positive feedback loop, and the compliments build exponentially. Now you’re feeling different, acting different, and starting to think different. Next thing you know a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity comes along, or the romantic partner you thought you’d never find. That’s really how it works. The vibe you give off determines what the world gives back and the course of your life, and bright colors send happy vibes to your fellow humans.

The image above depicts a Mercer & Sons buttondown in the seldom-seen shade of peach. Why not try what I did and inject some fresh color into your daily attire. You never know what might happen, while more of the same will just get you more of the same. — CC

22 Comments on "In Living Color"

  1. Charlottesville | June 19, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Reply

    Nice post, Christian. Glad to see the new more colorful you! While I am always partial to gray, navy and the usual darker trad shades, bright colors are a nice additional element, especially as an accent or a GTH item. I wore a BB#1 stripe bow tie in a fairly bright turquoise to dinner last night, and was complimented by a waiter, as well as by my wife. No peach shirts so far, but I have OCBDs in pink, yellow and even a purple U stripe so why not?

  2. I also recently paired a BB #1 rep with color recently – an old Brooks Brothers peach OCBD. Yellow doesn’t suit me, but the slightly darker Brooks Brothers peach color works very well with navy or red ties, and I’ve found myself wearing it a lot.

  3. Hear, hear for color! Nice piece, and I concur about interjecting color into the wardrobe. Lots of way to do it; I prefer adding in one bright pop of color into an otherwise restrained outfit. As to the peach shirt – I’ve really taken to them in the last year, and have had fun wearing it with everything from a grey herringbone tweed jacket to a seersucker blazer. In fact, I’ve found it to be the most enjoyable oxford shirt color I have outside of the four staples of white, blue, pink, and yellow.

  4. Interesting stuff. I see the same duel going on in my closet but, due in large part to the amount of time I’ve spent in the South, color has won a decisive victory. Indeed, it might enjoy too much of a hegemony. But it is a joyful dominion. I think I wrote to you once that Brummelian ideals influenced me greatly, and they still do, but even when I wrote that I was in conflict. Anyway, it’s just interesting to know that I’m not alone in that. Here’s to colors that make us bloom like wildflowers in a sea of navy and gray!

  5. BTW, you’ve now crammed the theme song to the 90s variety comedy show In Living Color into my brain.

  6. Kudos to you Christian for injecting color into your wardrobe. It takes a lot of courage for a guy to wear white jeans, colorful polos, or GTH pants.

    This time of year I like to wear a yellow, linen bow tie by Benjamin Bixby made in Italy. I get so many compliments from wearing it, especially from women.

    I dress according to the season and time of day so in the summer I like to peacock in bright colors. With the exception of Nantucket red, the only color I hesitate to wear is pink.

  7. Does anyone know who offers a peach OCBD these days other than Mercer?

  8. Richard Meyer | June 19, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Reply

    And there was the late George Frazier’s penchant for pink button downs.

  9. Vern Trotter | June 19, 2018 at 9:51 pm | Reply

    Pink makes the girls wink.

  10. Grey Flannels | June 20, 2018 at 1:26 am | Reply

    My observation is that most men dress so badly that one doesn’t need color to stand out or reiceive positive comments. Black, grey, white, and navy will do quite nicely in tasteful combinations.

  11. Today I’m wearing a pink (gasp!) linen shirt with (gasp!) light blue cotton pants. What’s that French guy’s name again?

  12. At least with respect to my tailored wardrobe, The Beau has won out. I don’t feel right wearing a suit without a white shirt and contrasting dark tie. However, I’ve found that I love burgundy-colored neckwear lately, and sport it almost exclusively when a cravat is called for. In the age of the satin tie, I think it’s a statement of values as much as anything else.

  13. A good shirt maker can have any shade professionally garment dyed from white oxford cloth to suit his client.
    This naturally incurs a cost.
    The so called “lost” Brooks Brothers shades of buttondowns are not remotely lost to the custom client.

  14. What was the problem in Holland? I can’t imagine making an OCBD shirt would be a huge challenge for a competent maker.

  15. @whiskeydent

    You look nice today, miss………………..just kidding.

    Will

  16. Ah, yes that can be a little esoteric but it’s still strange to me that they could’t get it right. I have moved buttons myself and gotten good results. In any case, if you are willing to go the online route spierandmackay.com has replicated several shirts of mine based on measurements with very good results. Their standard button down collar comes with an exceptional, but not over the top, roll.

  17. @sacksuit

    Those of who live south of the MDL endure long, hideous summers that are as bad as a Northeast winter. Such weather demands light clothing. The array of bright blooms influence our color choices as well.

    So today’s outfit is a BB light blue, short-sleeved linen button-down, a pair of off-white linen-cotton pants of unknown provence, and a pair of AE driving venetians with, of course, no socks.

    And by the way, I’ll take Miss Texas anytime.

  18. Looks like a lot of us enjoy the various pastel, especially “peach”. As for those who want to pursue one, I googled and found various ones available…albeit in tangerines and shades of orange. For the budget conscious, Land’s End has one for 39.95

  19. Poison Ivy Leaguer | June 21, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Reply

    40 years ago at Moore, Leonard & Lynch (a long gone regional brokerage firm in Pittsburgh) our head muni bond trader could pull off some unusual combinations. My favorite was a brown stripe traditional suit, a pink OCBD and a brown repp tie with red and gold stripes.

  20. Unrelated but something the community here will find interesting: https://www.abercrombie.com/shop/us/p/a-and-f-archive-collection-chino-pants-11140319?originalStore=wd

    Abercrombie finally released the JFK chinos they announced a while back. I’d love to hear an in person review, if anyone here has had a chance to see them.

  21. Cuff Shooter | March 5, 2019 at 11:42 pm | Reply

    While not strictly Ivy, Lee Marvin wore shirts in orange in peach in a few of his movies near the tail-end of the Heyday. While perhaps he might have looked better in white shirts to complement his gray suits and stark-white hair, I always enjoyed these richly-colored shirts as paired with neutral-colored suits by Marvin’s street toughs.

  22. Michael Powell | June 8, 2021 at 9:21 pm | Reply

    Just a few hours ago, I moved the button on the right cuff of a pink (not “peach”) BB OCBD 1/2 inch, so my diver could fit under the cuff. I did one of the blues as well; It’s a 5 minute job per shirt. Eventually, I’ll do them all (pink, blue, yellow, university stripe); one-by-one as needed.

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