Into the Pink

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By Andrew Yamato

As Valentine’s Day draws near, it is perhaps a good time to extol the virtues of that simple hue with the complicated baggage that looks so good on a man and which so few men wear.

If red is the color of lust (and as such can be a bit difficult to wear), pink is the color of love, the blush of a crush, the sweet freshness of strawberries and cream. What’s not to like? Only that it is also the color of femininity, of girlishness, of the roseate aisles in toy stores and pharmacies that boys and men generally seek to avoid. Is it not drilled into us from birth, when our swaddling clothes color-coded us by gender? Pink! The word itself can seem too pert, too pat, too pretty. Not for nothing are there men who gruffly insist that their shirts are “light red.” But let us put away these childish fears, for there is perhaps no color with a greater capacity to enliven the classic male wardrobe.

Photo: Articles of Style

Photo: Articles of Style

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Jay Gatsby famously (if fictionally) wore a suit of pink flannel, and one occasionally spots some daring dandy in pink seersucker in the wilds of the metropolis, but by and large, when we speak of pink in the classic male wardrobe, we speak of shirts. In this domain, pink is a uniquely versatile hue that adds considerable interest to any color it's paired with: greys get warmer, blues get richer, greens get smarter, and brown hits the town. It really is one of the easiest and most effective tricks in the sartorial playbook, and it comes down to the principle of counterpoint. As a soft, warm tone, pink contrasts not only with the cooler, earthier colors in most men’s clothes, but also the masculine cloths they’re made from, adding sex appeal to country tweeds and playfulness to city worsteds. Even formalwear can be made considerably more approachable with a hint of rose, as Alan demonstrated at our recent event at the National Arts Club when he wore a pleated pink silk shirt with his green plaid tuxedo jacket.  

Brooks Brothers understood all this generations ago, when it was the preeminent bastion of traditional American male dress and its cabinets were always quietly stocked with pink oxford cloth shirts next to the white and the blue. Indeed, the company’s real pink sensation was in 1949, when this men’s staple was (finally!) offered in a women’s model and flew off the shelves. (Always quick to react to market trends, Brooks Brothers debuted a full women’s line 27 years later.)     

If you find yourself balking at the broad expanse of a pink shirt, remember that as part of an entire ensemble — i.e. beneath a jacket, framing a tie, perhaps tucked under a sweater — pink will essentially be an accent. So too with pink accessories. A solid pink satin tie is a classically chic sartorial power play with a navy suit, and Fred Astaire frequently wore pink socks that peeked out cheerfully between his signature grey flannels and brown suede shoes. Needless to say, he always got the girl.

Ultimately, aside from any chromatic logic, pink works on a man precisely because it takes a little confidence to pull off, and confidence is always what makes a man look his best.