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In F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, it’s telling that Jay Gatsby’s credentials are questioned because of the colour of his suit. Pink, in this case and, according to one sceptic, never the shade of an Oxford man. Attitudes have changed a bit, but the sugared almond tones of pink, blush, violet and lilac are largely forbidden territory for men. Too many memories of mother-of-the-bride outfits, frilly nightgowns and prissy dresses make the idea of lilac just a step too far. Hollywood, however, thinks differently.
This week Ryan Gosling declared that his soft jacket and lilac suit, at the premiere of his new film The Gray Man, was inspired by his character Ken, the candy-floss-hued doll he’s playing in the forthcoming Barbie film. It follows on from Brad Pitt wearing a soft pink jacket and trouser co-ords by young American designer Haans Nicholas Mott. Yes, movie stars are unshackled by the need to dress for a normal job, but pastels do work in real life too (honestly). And just as they flatter the older lady, they have a surprisingly pleasant effect on the skin tone of a 50-plus man also. Last week I watched an immaculate gent sipping a martini in the Florentine sunset wearing a crisp white shirt, tailored pale yellow trousers and similarly shaded loafers; not lilac, but still on the pastel spectrum. A film still straight from Fellini, he was the most stylish man I’ve seen in a long time.
For those who fret about pastels being too “girly”; if your sense of masculinity is so fragile that it’s tied to a particular colour, it’s hanging by a pretty thin thread. As we steer into summer holiday time proper, pastels are a great colour to complement the chilled rosé, lilac sunsets and aquamarines of foreign sojourns. Here’s how to don pastels with panache.
Add a dash
You don’t have to wear an all-over salmon suit to experiment with pastels; sometimes just a touch of pink, lilac or lemon in your accessories will do. Grey or navy suits and jackets work well with pastel shades. A lavender tie or pocket square, for example, lends a touch of soft colour without frightening the horses.
Keep it tailored
There’s a reason why Robert Redford’s Gatsby from the 1974 film looks so stylish in softest baby pink; he contrasts the innately childlike shade with some serious tailoring. Yes, this is a costume, but it’s a fine example of how to wear pastels to a summer wedding. Oh, and don’t forget – this look requires a proper shirt with an upright collar and smart shoes.
Save for holiday best
The Talented Mr Ripley couldn’t be more of a masterclass in soft-focus holiday style, with Jude Law’s raffish Dickie Greenleaf and Matt Damon’s psychotic Tom Ripley hightailing around Ischia in lemon, pale blues and soft pinks.
If the prospect of a lilac shirt at a City drinks party brings you out in hives, in the lavender fields of Provence it suddenly becomes a very happy wardrobe partner. On that note, Giorgio Armani – who first championed soft tones for men back in the 1980s – has created a “Mare” range of beachwear focused on soft mint shades.
Pair with care
Be mindful of what you wear pastels with; Ryan Gosling might look debonair in lilac and pink, but layer upon layer of pastels could look babyish. Mix your pastel shirts, jackets or trousers with neutral colours. Avoid pastels with black; it’s too harsh a contrast. Try instead a mint green shirt with caramel toned trousers.
Get the look
Clockwise from top left: