Decoding tonal dressing

Decoding tonal dressing

The advantages of tonal dressing are many — wearing a single-coloured outfit immediately lends an air of quiet sophistication to your look without letting on that you are trying too hard to impress.

Tonal dressing.

Not so long ago, wearing the same colour from head to toe was something only a fashion rookie would do — it was considered too monotonous, dull, matchy and worst of all, boring. Not anymore. Some of menswear’s biggest hot-steppers, including David Beckham and Ryan Reynolds, have slickly moved on from last season’s colour-blocking trend to wearing a solo colour, top to bottom, with a panache that’s hard to miss. And that, in a nutshell, is this season’s hottest trend in menswear, dubbed by fashion gurus as ‘tonal dressing’.

The advantages of tonal dressing are many — wearing a single-coloured outfit immediately lends an air of quiet sophistication to your look without letting on that you are trying too hard to impress. The continuous visual line of colour also adds length to your torso and can make you look (and feel) taller and much more self-assured. The time you save that would have otherwise been spent agonising over mixing and matching multiple colours is another added bonus! The good news is that, with a little direction, you can easily adopt tonal dressing and incorporate it into your existing wardrobe. The better news is that once you understand the basics, tonal dressing is a lot easier than it looks.

Pick a colour

Almost any colour works with this trend. Of course, look for shades that complement your skin tone. Stick to muted colours that are much easier to pull off.

Black: Although considered universally safe, black can also be surprisingly tricky to pull off from head-to-toe, and can easily look quite harsh.

Blue: The go-to colour for most tonal dressing enthusiasts, blue, is very versatile.

Green: Avoid the lime and parrot greens, and stick to khakis and forest hues that work wonderfully with olive skin tones.

Neutrals: All-white looks can prove quite hard to maintain. A more wearable option is to mix and match neutral tones, such as ivory, eggshell and beige hues.

Grey: Your options are endless when it comes to greys, making this colour quite versatile and very wearable. From charcoal to slate, find shades that work best with your skin tone.

Prints: Choose different prints in the same colour to keep your look from feeling too overwhelming.

You could also pair a printed piece with a solid in the same colour family to add depth and dimension to your look.

Embrace texture

Texture is the linchpin of successful tonal styles. Experiment with an assortment of fabrics, patterns and finishes while sticking to the same colour palette. Unexpected combinations, such as cotton and leather, and knits with silks, work surprisingly well. Texture serves the all-important purpose of adding contrast and depth to your look. However, avoid shiny fabrics when going tonal with your shirt-and-tie combination and pay attention to the season — while linen and corduroy pair poorly, the latter works quite well with wool or cashmere in cooler weather.

Mix tones

Lighter and darker hues of the same shade can ensure that you don’t look like a walking block of solid colour. This is why dabbling in varying shades of the same colour adds some much-needed visual interest to a tonal outfit.

Break it up with neutrals

If committing to a single colour from top to bottom feels too intimidating, consider adding some contrast with neutral elements — for instance, a white tee or an Oxford shirt (made from cotton) can help avoid monotony when paired with summery colours, and add depth to an otherwise all-black look.

(The author is founder &
CEO, Corporate Collars)

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT