If you’re interested in clothes, like I am, you’ll always feel the nagging need to make what you’re wearing look interesting. That might include wearing a bit of color, adding a little texture, or using something with an unusual detail. It comes from the idea that, in order to look stylish, you also need to be eye-catching.
Instead of thinking about what you’re wearing as art (things you can combine in an infinite number of ways for positive effect), think about it as language. In the above photo, Niels in Berlin is wearing the simplest of outfits: a dark grey suit with a black tie, combined with a white shirt and white pocket square. No unusual colors or accessories here. Not even the tie clip that some would want to wear for Mad Men effect.
Yet, he looks great. Not because “simple is better” (which is still about judging clothes in terms of their combination), but because of the message that’s being sent. For decades, a dark suit with a dark tie, worn with a white shirt and white pocket square, has meant something very specific. It means, “I’m here for business,” whether that’s the business of actually doing business, or the business of attending an important event. Change the pocket square, shirt, or tie for something more fun, and the message becomes something else.
You can combine things a bit more freely in casualwear, but traditional men’s clothing is often about language. There’s still a lot of room for self-expression, but just as you can express yourself through writing, think about the message you’re creating when you’re putting on a coat-and-tie, rather than just the visual presentation.