Dressing head-to-toe in one colour has its advantages. It’s simple, eye-catching, saves time in the morning and you can walk out of the house absolutely certain that everything you’re wearing matches. All-black outfits have been a menswear staple for decades and minimalist dressers swear by the understated power of navy blue. Tonal dressing with greens or even pastels has been popular recently.
But white? All white?
Usually, that’s left to nineties boybands, Simon Cowell loafing about a Mediterranean villa or P Diddy at peak bling. It’s a big look, and one that’s easy to get wrong. Even the High Priest of Menswear himself, David Beckham, looked sub-awesome (sorry, Dave) when he got married in an all-white suit.
So why the hell is it trending? The SS19 catwalks were dusted with all-white outfits, from sportswear to tailoring and amazingly, it looked good. Futuristic but comfortable, stark but in a good way. So how do you do white-out menswear without looking like you’ve seen a ghost?
6 Style Tips For An All-White Outfit
There Is A Grey (and Cream, and Beige) Area
First up, when we say all white, that includes off-white. Otherwise, you’ll look white as a sheet. To give your all-white outfit some depth, think chalk, ivory, stone, ecru and neutral tones which can be especially flattering for those with an alabaster complexion.
Chris Hobbs, MatchesFashion.com senior style editor, suggests you play by the same rules as when wearing double denim. “Keep the lighter colours at the top and go darker on the bottom. A white T-shirt, cream shirt and tan trousers is always a winner.”
All-White Doesn’t Have To Mean All-White
To avoid looking like a crime scene investigator, you can break things up with contrasting shoes, belts and accessories.
“Steer clear of black as it’s too much of a clash,” says Hobbs. “Instead, opt for tan or darker browns.”
Choose Your Fabrics Wisely
As ASOS head of menswear Nick Eley says, “There are no set rules when it comes to all-white, but playing with different textures and fabrics is an easy way to soften the edges.”
Contrasting tough, matte fabrics such as denim with smooth cottons and linens is a good way to differentiate your pieces and avoid the onesie look.
Fit Is Everything
There’s a careful balance to be struck when wearing all-white. Skinny fits are best left on Johnny Borrell circa 2006, while anything too oversized can end up feeling a bit ‘mum on a family holiday.’
“Stick to regular fits or experiment with slightly exaggerated shapes and layering for a more interesting silhouette,” says Eley.
You Are Allowed To Cheat
If the thought of all-white fills you with dread, you can con your way to a similar effect while incorporating a well-placed stripe or some subtle colour.
“If I’m allowed to cheat slightly I might wear a Breton top, depending on the weather,” says Hobbs. “I would also consider khaki to be an almost-neutral.”
Pick Your Timings
The American rule of no white after Labor Day is a little strict for our liking. Instead we stick to the (made-up) guide of not wearing white if there’s snow on the ground.
Equally, going all-white means there’s absolutely no hiding spills and stains, so steer clear if you’re eating spaghetti or indulging in red wine.
3 Failsafe All-White Outfits
“Unless it’s a Vegas wedding, I’d avoid a true all-white suit,” recommends Eley.
For formal summer occasions, stone or ecru coloured suits are much more wearable and flattering, or try tonal separates instead. Pair a white jacket with light grey on your bottom half, or a stone-coloured top half with crisp white trousers – just make sure that both pieces are in a similar weight and texture of fabric with a decent contrast between shades.
Leave the tie at home and wear with an open-collar shirt or tee, which you can swap for a slim roll-neck in the autumn. Smarten things up with a neutral pocket square and a proper pair of shoes.
As is always the case with a smart-casual invite, it pays to analyse the dress code a little before stepping out.
All-white isn’t really suited to business casual settings, but it can prove an excellent choice for weekend outings where a little more effort than usual is required (think: the birthday drinks where you’re bound to bump into your ex).
A white Cuban shirt with ivory chinos and minimalist tennis shoes is an easy way to impress, though you could go high-low by tucking a pristine white tee into an ecru pair of tailored trousers, too.
While white-on-white can feel a bit plain, this is something you can easily remedy by crossing it with the uber-utility trend. This is an aesthetic that’s all about pockets, straps, technical fabrics (and did we mention pockets?) – all of which help to add interest to an otherwise monochrome outfit.
Or for something softer, become a man of athleisure with a white hoodie or sweatshirt worn with straight-fit trousers or jersey shorts in an off-white neutral. If you need some contrast, some dark sandals will do the trick, but if not, commit to the look with a chunky pair of white sneakers.
Key Pieces For An All-White Outfit
The staple to end all staples is, unsurprisingly, a key part of most all-white looks. Go for a brilliant white crew-neck in a classic fit that hugs your upper torso without strangling it, complete with sleeves that end half-way down your upper arm. Or channel SW12 with an ace polo shirt.
Remember in 2005 when we all thought that white skinnies were cool? Well just as a reminder, they’re not. In the era of Scandi chic your white jeans (or better, stone jeans) should be on the regular end of slim, cropped or worn with a thick roll-up. If you dare to double up, wear with an (off-)white denim jacket.
Forgive us for labouring this point, but when we say white tailoring, we really mean ivory or stone or ecru or chalk. You’re not selling fried chicken.
In terms of fit and construction, avoid the louche cut that’s currently doing the rounds and go for a classic shape with rounded shoulders, a nipped-in waist and slim, cropped trousers that gently kiss the top of your shoes, preferably in a lightweight wool or cotton-linen blend.
Texture becomes even more important when wearing any colour head-to-toe, and knitwear is quickest way of breaking up the uniformity. All-white being largely a look for the warmer months, choose a jumper or cardigan with a light, open weave in a slubby linen or cotton knit. On cooler days, try some ever-flattering cable-knit jumper.
The brilliance of wearing white sneakers as part of an all-white look is that it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit scuffed or dirtied – if anything, it helps break things up visually. A pair of tennis shoes or some Converse high tops go with any casual outfit, from rough and sportswear-ready to smart and preppy.