You Asked: What Colours Suit Pale Skin?
Photograph by Mr Jonathan Daniel Pryce
MR PORTER answers your most pressing style questions.
We all know those people who like to flaunt their holiday tan when they come back to the office by wearing pastels and bright whites. (There might be a few such shameless show-offs in the MR PORTER office.) But what are the most flattering colours to wear if you prefer to avoid the sun or, despite all efforts, simply don’t tan so easily? It’s a question one of our readers asked this week, and we have done our best to answer it, below.
Keep your sartorial questions coming and check in each Friday for the answers.
You’re quite right in thinking it important to consider one’s colouring – both in terms of skin tone and hair colour – when picking an outfit.
If you have dark skin or tan easily, more options are open to you – bold colours, pastels, whites. But if your skin is pale, perhaps freckly, and doesn’t tan so readily, then pastels can wash you out. The same is true of stark tones such as black and bright white.
A useful tip is to study images of people with similar colouring who consistently dress well – and there is no shortage of extremely well-dressed men with pale skin and auburn hair: Messrs Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender for starters.
Mr Redmayne tends not to wear pale colours but instead opts for earthy shades such as camel, olive, khaki and warm greys. He also wears a lot of jewel tones – blues, dark greens and deep burgundies. That’s not to say he never wears lighter shades, he just tends to minimise their draining effects by wearing them along with warmer colours. You can do the same.
Monk straps sit between Oxfords and Derbies in terms of formality. They are generally considered a more rakish alternative to lace-up shoes – perfect with a suit or tailored separates for a summer wedding, perhaps with some bold socks. Double monk straps – aka dub-steps – have two buckles and are sometimes worn sprezzatura-style with the top buckle undone, just as some men wear their button-down shirt collar unbuttoned. The important factor is not so much the number of buckles but the leather. Black polishable leather works best with city suits but less well in casual situations. Brown leathers are more versatile and will go with suits and tweed as well as jeans and chinos. Suedes are the most casual of all, best suited to jeans and chinos but can even be worn with no-show socks and tailored shorts.
South of France, eh? Very nice. Or perhaps… Nice. Anyway, let’s broaden the scope of this question to take in the Riviera as a whole. There is an assumed elegance about the swankier coastal hotspots of France and Italy – and increasingly Greece and Spain – which demands an upgrade on the stock-standard male “abroadrobe” of shorts and tees.
Dial up the smartness of each basic item by a notch. Instead of flip-flops, wear brown leather sandals; rather than espadrilles, go for driving shoes or boat shoes. And if you wear sneakers, make sure they are minimal in design, premium and boxfresh (worn with no-show socks).
When you wear shorts (ideally tailored and with a belt), consider wearing a shirt with a collar – perhaps a linen button-down, or a lightweight knitted polo instead of a cotton one. Take an unlined hopsack travel blazer or lightweight cotton jacket in navy or tan, to be worn with chinos (cuffed at the bare ankle) and perhaps a Breton-striped tee.
In terms of overall colour palette, keep things pretty nautical – blues of various hues, white, greys. Then add in earthier colours such as tan, khaki and olive on the bottom half and some pastels on the top half.
As for sunglasses, channel the heyday of St Tropez and keep it classic with a pair of tortoiseshell or black Wayfarers or Clubmasters.