Fashion

Put Aside Your Prejudices And Wear Brown Clothes

From chocolate to tobacco, not since the Seventies has it been so hip.
IMAGE Moviestore/ REX/ Shutterstock
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At my mother’s second wedding (there were another three to follow), my sister and I were dressed in special outfits made entirely from shades of brown. I still have a photograph of me, looking quite furious, in my dark brown cotton shorts (practically hot pants), a matching short-sleeved shirt with an attractive sheen to it (cruelly highlighted by the day’s sunshine), tan socks, and chestnut leather sandals. I was six years old, it was the Seventies, and brown was considered a smart and fashionable color. Alas, in this picture, with so many shades of the color on me at one time, I looked like the son of Mr Hankey, the Christmas Poo, from South Park.

Brown and its friend beige were so beloved back then, especially when jazzed up with an accent of orange, that they were freely splashed across homes, cars, and, worst of all, shag-pile bath mats. Basically, the Seventies looked like a chocolate cake. 

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But unlike almost every other trend from the Seventies, brown has never really had a triumphant return to fashion, even though there have been a few sporadic attempts. Beige and tan cleverly managed to rebrand themselves—neutral, camel, sand, khaki—but brown remained plain old brown.

Until today. This autumn, the fashion fraternity has opened the doors and welcomed brown clothes back into the fold. In the style world, this is an event not too dissimilar to Trump’s Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un: We think it’s good news but aren’t quite sure what we’ve agreed to, or if the friendship will last.

The shearling jacket, in vogue for a few seasons now, has paved the way for brown to slink back in. Cut slimmer and lighter, in appealing shades of tan, they showed how some Seventies mainstays—including jumbo corduroy—really could look contemporary and flattering again. And like a good self-tan treatment, once you’ve started down that road, it’s hard not to go darker and darker—remember the contestants of this year’s Love Island.

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(From left) Full luxe leather by Berluti; 'chewed tobacco' tones by Raf Simons at Calvin Klein; and bold checked suiting by Dries Van Noten IMAGE: Rex

Hand on heart, I think you should try it. After years of therapy, I was eventually able to embrace brown outfits again a few years ago. It’s actually flattering to wear, looks great with other darker colors if you don’t want to make too much of a feature of it, and striking paired with cream if you do. The trick is not to wear the same shade head-to-toe.

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If you need inspiration, designers brought brown back into their collections in numerous different ways. Dries van Noten used a varied palette of the color across traditional-looking checks and plaids for his suiting, and on a range of lightweight nylon coats featuring marbled patterns of psychedelic orange or turquoise.

Fendi, too, went for brown checked tailoring, as well as the aforementioned tan shearling jackets, while Berluti showed every shade of Fake Bake, mostly on leather and knitwear, making it all look very delectable.

Raf Simons at Calvin Klein was far braver, however, and showed brown in his collection much as it was worn by the grown-ups at my mom’s wedding: suits in a shade of chewed tobacco made of indeterminable fabric teamed with large-collared turquoise shirts and oversized knitted tank-tops.

If you want something a little easier to pull off, check out the collections of brands such as Officine Générale, Dunhill, Lanvin, or Ami, all of which presented brown in its new millennial-friendly format. 

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I’ve invested in a dark brown jumbo cord suit by Brunello Cucinelli this autumn. I admit that, on paper, a dark brown jumbo cord suit doesn’t sound too promising; it’s all-to-redolent of geography teachers, Seventies chat show presenters, or a books and manuscripts expert from Antiques Roadshow. But I’m really happy with it. It’s slim cut, the cord is super-soft (it’s made from cashmere), and the color is flattering even after your August tan has faded. And, if teamed with a pale chambray shirt and a pair of trainers, doesn’t remotely look as if you’ve come dressed as a turd. What more can you ask for?

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Jeremy Langmead
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