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