The Knowledge

Seven Ways To Look Good In Neutrals

They’re the shades that go with anything, anywhere. You know it makes sense

We’re well aware that it’s not always the easiest thing to drum up a lot of excitement about the colours we refer to as “neutrals” – that is, navy, beige, light greys, browns, and all their muted cousins. Yet, if you think about it, it’s this particular colour spectrum that ultimately enables you the maximum of creativity when it comes to getting dressed in the morning. Why? Because they go with everything, from print-spattered holiday wear to restrained smart casual summer pieces. If you’re wondering how to get away with, say, a floral-print shirt from Saint Laurent, or a tie-dye T-shirt from Aries, then a pair of beige or khaki trousers is the way to go. Equally, if you want to explore a light, subtle and thoroughly heat-appropriate summer palette, you can’t go wrong with the Fifty Shades of Beige approach this summer. Scroll down to see how it’s done.


Though the weather changes throughout the summer, smart casual will always be smart casual – if you work in the kind of place where this dress code applies, you’re likely to be wearing trousers, lace ups and a shirt. But you can lighten up this combination, while still staying impeccably office-appropriate, by adding a light overcoat in beige. Here, admittedly, we’ve chosen a rather adventurous example from Prada, which features a striped applique of the comic strip graphic that was at the heart of the SS18 collection. But you could achieve much the same affect with a more classic example from the likes of BurberryMackintosh or Salle Privée.


“Washed-out colour” is one of MR PORTER’s key trends for summer 2018. What exactly do we mean by “washed-out colour”? Essentially, more low-contrast, muted versions of colours of the unwashed variety, which in their very fadedness take on the most important property of classic neutrals, that being that they all go together. For example, we wouldn’t normally recommend wearing a deep brown sweater with burgundy coloured trousers, but we can thoroughly endorse the above combination, which brings together two much softer colours on the same spectrum. If you were being especially daring, you might even go so far as to add a third brown or beige colour here – when the differences are this subtle, the colours reinforce rather than compete against each other, which keeps the whole outfit looking harmonious.


White is an undeniably summery and heat-appropriate colour, but it can be a little bit dazzling when applied too heavily to one’s person. The addition of various off-white colours to your outfit can help to soften this impression, making for a relaxed, breezy feel as opposed to the Man from Del Monte/Bond villain look. Off-white, of course, can come in many varieties, from ivory to cream, eggshell and so on (we’re reminded here of a certain business card scene in American Psycho). But we particularly like this jacket from The Lost Explorer, which creates both texture and a greeny tinge to the above outfit via a deconstructed camouflage print.


We like to think of this kind of thing as “holiday tailoring” – yes, you could certainly wear a beige linen suit to a summer wedding, but you might also wear it, as above, with a T-shirt for lunch at some fancy Mediterranean restaurant, or a boat trip around Venice. Now, one issue with a light coloured suit is that it covers most of your body, and so can become a little overwhelming. The trick here, then, is to combine it with pieces that provide concentrated but bold contrasts of colour – for example, this deep khaki tote bag, which is nicely coordinated with the belt and T-shirt.

05. CHANNEL THE 1990s

For some reason, people seemed to be particularly keen on neutrals in the 1990s. Perhaps it was because of the efforts of designers like Helmut Lang, Prada and Jil Sander – who were all pioneering their own particularly rigorous versions of minimalism in menswear at that moment in time. Or perhaps it was because of Boyz II Men. This is perhaps all a bit academic anyway, all you really need to know is that this kind of thing is very much back on-trend, so we can firmly encourage you to invest in a few key items this summer. These being, 1) a white denim jacket, 2) some sort of graphic print white T-shirt and 3) some gleaming white, oversized sneakers (yes, the ones that everyone calls “dad sneakers”). Combine these at will with chinos in tan, white or beige, and throw in a relaxed off-white shirt for good measure and you’ll be more than ready to star in a home-made R&B video (shot in iPhone slo-mo, please) when you next hit the beach.


In former times, MR PORTER’s one piece of advice when it came to the tracksuit top was “don’t match it with the trousers”. Essentially, we think this maxim still stands, yet there’s a tracksuit-like feel to this particular combination of stone coloured Harrington jacket and chinos that feels rather current in this streetwear-obsessed era. As mentioned above, when opting for head-to-toe neutrals, it’s best to have a point of contrast – here it’s the blag cross-body bag from Prada and the pale blue socks.


Our favourite thing about neutral and washed-out shades is the mix-and-match-ability of them, a property demonstrated by the above outfit, combined of four subtly different shades of beige and brown. Such coordination can elevate even rather casual items (such as a pair of chinos) into wedding-worthy attire. But the best thing about the individual pieces is that they can be endlessly combined with sympathetic colours, resulting in a series of slightly different looks, composed of separates, for each of your summer events. The building blocks of this are very simple – one blazer, two shirts, two chinos, two ties. Pick them all in neutral colours and you have eight different outfits that you know will work, a number that will only grow as you add more neutral pieces. The possibilities are endless! (Or rather, directly proportionate to your clothing budget, but that doesn’t sound as good, does it?)