Who's afraid of colour?

After GenNext breached the pink shirt barrier, pants now go peach and purple thanks to the millennial man

Who's afraid of colour?
Designer Rohit Bal probably got it right when he claimed, not so long ago, that “Indian men are the real peacocks”. So what if it took them a while to catch up with women’s colourful palettes, but catch up, they have. Just look at those crayon-inspired trousers, bermudas in bright hues, shorts in pretty pastels that have literally popped the men’s section into the limelight these days. There’s no denying: colours have come to rule a man’s wardrobe, too.

The trend has sneaked its way past the staid, both on the international and national stage. If designer Tom Ford loafed jauntily with intense hues, Christopher Kane and Calvin Klein carried vivid patterns to another level. When colours rocked the ramp, Hollywood A-listers took it forward. Zac Efron was spotted in burgundy not so long ago while Shia LaBeouf went bright rust.

Like all trends, it started small — with shirts and accessories. And even though ladies rocked coloured pants in the past year, men took a safer route — they teamed colourful shirts or t-shirts with cobalt blue jeans, tan chinos and trousers in navy and grey. Once they realised they could carry off the pink and peach shirts with ease, they then let the flamboyance go full throttle, right down to the trouser. Now, there’s a push for colour, bottoms up: first they stained jeans, slowly spreading until even men’s everyday chinos got caught in the colour wave. So much so, now pants are getting bolder, brighter and more boisterous, causing any shirt or jacket to take a back seat.

This new emphasis on pants reflects an overall move in menswear toward confident experimentation. Especially in Indian men. No longer do they believe that coloured pants are only meant for golfing, now they’re wearing them just about everywhere. And when Bollywood legends Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Ranbir Kapoor stride across film and fashion glossies in yellow pants and turquoise shorts, you know the rest of India will follow suit.

But then India, has always been partial towards colour. “As fashion trends go, burst of colours are something that our subconscious is already tuned into,” says designer Tarun Tahiliani. “We react to colours very instinctively as Indians,” he says.

But, points out Tahiliani, over the last century or so, as Indian men strode to gain acceptance in British society, they shed their traditional colours and settled into blacks, greys and browns. Before long, complexion-based bias reared its ugly head and society deemed that dark-skinned people cannot carry bright hues, condemning a major percentage of Indian men from flaming reds and gorgeous greens.

That’s no longer the case. For as Suket Dhir, a Delhi-based menswear designer, says:“With the world so open these days, fashion revolutions in, say Milan, affect Mumbai as well. They have radically influenced the Indian market which in any case has an innate understanding of colour. With the increase of corporate culture, people want to see a change. It helps that trendy colours also highlight the aspirations of the wearer.”

In fact, if we go by master of drapes and embroidery, Raakesh Agarvwal, men are sporting intense hues more often these days, while the women have sobered down. Perhaps because India is no stranger to loud colours, the trend is cutting across classes as well. “For instance, recently a young politician wore purple pants with such panache that crumpled white khadi-neta-kurta image dug itself down a couple of inches in the public conscience.”

Feels fashion designer Nachiket Barve: “Men’s fashion in India has grown by leaps and bounds. They are no longer afraid to wear coral bermudas with a lime green polo shirt. Bold mix of colours is bringing an edge into a man’s wardrobe.” And yes, he does also caution about going over the top. “Your colours should be vibrant, yes, however, a balance must be found. Anything that stands out way too much should be avoided. Go easy on overly feminine colours, unless of course, you are making a political statement,” he advises.

Avnish Chhabria, CEO, Stylista.com, says that today’s generation of men take pride in their appearance as well. Unlike their fathers and uncles who were stuck in a sober trap, now, young men are no longer queasy about colour. “In a diverse country like India, inspiration can be taken from all around. It is easy to incorporate colour into your everyday style, be it for work or leisure. One can even dress down with a riot of colours.”

Designer Nikhil Thampi is happy bold colours and prints have been unlocked and men are let loose in this wilderness. “One could explore a lot, given this scenario,” he says.

And yes, there’s a list of dos and don’ts for carrying off colours successfully: first off, you need an abundant supply of confidence — and an exceptional eye for colour to prevent faux pas. For instance, you are better off without heavily printed shirts or tees with hot pink trousers.

If it’s too big a jump for you, begin the colour adventure with bleached-out shades like yellow. If you are going for a vivid red trousers, avoid a red shirt — in case you are wondering, red blocks itself fabulously with blue or white. Tone down your accessories as well.

Also, let’s be realistic. Vinyl red pants, for instance, will only exist in the realm of high fashion. In other words, you should aim for the dapper gentleman with discerning taste not a wannabe hipster suffering from a terrible bout of colour blindness. zz

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