The History of Colour

For men, wearing colour is much more than just a mood thing. You may be feeling blue or having the luck of a purple patch but the colour of your attire is much more important than mere whim.
We have lost the subtle associations of the value of colours over the years, the fact that to obtain enough purple dye for Marcus Aurelius’ toga, over 100,000 Murex snails had to  be ‘milked’ of their prized mucous secretions puts this into perspective. Equally, cochineal red dye used for the red coats of British soldiers up until the mid 19th century relied on a small army of Mexican farmers. Eighty thousand insects, each about a half a centimetre long had to be prized off spiky cactus plants and ground up just for a kilo of dye. A worthwhile investment for army generals who choose red uniforms primarily to disguise blood stains of the wounded. The shocking sight of a bleeding friend could dampen the fervour of your assault.
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Colours, now without monetary associations are still charged with social implications. I find it hard to look at bright orange with out thinking of Guantanamo Bay prisoners and softer shades of saffron cause an inverse Pavlovian response as my ears prick up for the passing bells of Hare Krishna’s. Yes, colour is fraught with so much social coding that it is understandable why many benighted folk retreat under the cover of black. To wear colour well you need a greater deal of sophistication than our average goth or chromatic objector, but the rewards are manifold and both your own life and those around you will be enriched.
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As with so many art forms learning a few simple rules makes it easier to get started on your polychromic journey. Music  provides a good analogy, jumping into dissonant, twelve tone compositions is unlikely to win over your friends, even Boulez and Stockhausen started with simple scales. Leave a clash or even a riot of colour till your have mastered harmony. Start with a simple tone you like, all skins have different hues, it is easier to wear brighter colours if your skin is darker but perhaps start with your eyes and choose a darker shade of blue, green or brown. I have noticed that brighter blues have been becoming more popular over the last few years. The colour I call Pitti blue (after its popularity at the menswear shows in Florence) looks good on most people, it is more vibrant than navy and anything you with wear with it tends to pop out in a pleasing way. Our Seti cloth is slight brighter than navy and the colours of the Japanese yarn stripes are a great start for colour harmonies if you experiment with combinations of shirts, socks and neck wear.
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Ties are a traditional way to apply colour as well as providing coded signals of your interests, clubs and education to the informed. Whilst I’m not advocating a change to traditional formality in the workplace, quite the opposite, I wish I saw more classic gents wearing three piece pinstripes, bowlers and red carnations when I visit the square mile, I do think that your off duty attire should become a time for you to enjoy playing with tonal compositions.  
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The trend for brighter menswear is a last gathering pace again, not some much as in the love children of hippies but in the more sophisticated intercourse of tech sports wear and tailoring. Some have named this trend ‘Athleisure’ a bastardisation whose rightful heir is of course Dashing Tweeds.

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