Here is the guide of how to arm yourself with pastel style armors.
For a lot of men, pastel clothing conjures up the ‘Preppy Handbook’ or worse. But these springy strategies put the cool back in sherbet.
LAST MONTH, as stylist Brian Coats was prepping Jimmy Fallon to host “Saturday Night Live,” the two pondered sprucing up Mr. Fallon’s look with pastels. With spring and Easter in the air, Mr. Coats later told us, “people get in the mood for that kind of palette.” The stylist, who’s worked with Mr. Fallon for nearly five years, came up with a pale-green-and-ice-blue bow tie from Alexander Olch, worn with a navy suit.
That instinct to exploit the seasonal appeal of pastels coincides with the greater prominence of these softer shades in menswear. “Those sunwashed colors of the Amalfi Coast and Capri, they get men excited about something different,” said Tom Kalenderian, vice president in charge of menswear at Barneys New York. The department store dedicated part of a recent mailer to peachy-pink shoes for men. As unsupportable as blush-hued brogues might sound, Mr. Kalenderian points out that pastels are not some come-from-nowhere trend: Most men already have a pale blue, or even pink, dress shirt in their weekly rotation. “Let’s be honest, [soft colors] are very flattering,” he said. Mr. Coats agrees: “Pastel is always easier to mix and it’s easier on the eyes.”
But it may be time to push beyond that blue or pink shirt. New York designer Alex Drexler advocates a faded lavender shade as a painless upgrade. For his label Alex Mill, Mr. Drexler makes a crewneck T-shirt in a pale purple-gray that the most traditional of dressers could endorse without a snort. He limits the pastels in his collections to T-shirts and short-sleeve polos, which go swimmingly, he said, with jeans and white sneakers.
Even a sliver of peach, mint or aqua can have an impact. Greg Chait, founder of the Elder Statesman, a Los Angeles cashmere label, sometimes wears his own pastel sweaters with worn-in Levi’s but he also likes to layer a colorful T-shirt under a blue or heather-gray pullover. “It will pop out of the collar of whatever sweater I’m wearing,” said Mr. Chait, “it’s really subtle, but it’s there.”
Here, three more ways to strategically incorporate pastels into your spring style.
Rely on Gray to Play a Supporting Role
Perhaps the most accessible way to wear pastels is to offset their Easter-egg quality with neutral colors. Navy or khaki are the obvious choices but, in combination with pastels, they can read as too traditionally preppy or conservative. In short, uninspired and not particularly 2017. Our preferred move: Swap those options out for shades of gray—anywhere on the spectrum from dove to charcoal. As demonstrated here, pairing a lemon-yellow sweater with a medium-gray jacket and dark-gray trousers looks more of-the-moment, instead of stuck in 1982. Banana phone optional.
Concern Yourself With Materials
While shell-pink trousers might sound like something only a John Cheever character would wear, you can pull them off in a manner that doesn’t even come close to the unapologetically garish “go-to-hell” pants of preps. How? Opt for the textured weave of linen instead of cotton. “Natural fabrics like linen work really well in pastel,” said Sean Dixon, the co-founder of Richard James, a Savile Row label that is never shy when it comes to color. A color “almost becomes faded the moment you put it into a linen.” The mellowing effects of the summery textile are evident in these softly sophisticated salmon-hued pants. Downside: Dry cleaning.
Hit the Mute ButtonWearing pastel-on-pastel isn’t always a crime. Or even a misdemeanor. The trick to getting away with it is to choose shades that aren’t quite so purely bright. (The term “pastels” encompasses a complex range of pale colors.) Look for two pastel hues that both have a dusty, desert-y quality—like the slightly muted aqua and grayed-out lavender here—and combine them at will. Alex Mill’s Mr. Drexler is a fan of toned-down pastels. His versions, he said, “don’t scream pastel.” Of course, if you are going to double up on pastels, leave the bright sneakers, windbreaker and ball cap at home. Capping the number of non-neutral colors at two ensures that your outfit won’t look as if it were inspired by a box of macarons.