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In praise of purple

26 April 2010

Any man that has spent time experimenting with colour – whether on ties, jacket linings or pocket handkerchiefs – will know that the dark, rich tones offer greater possibilities of marrying sophistication and experimentation. Yellow is a nice pop now and again, but the key is mastering purple, maroon, bottle green and burnt orange.

I’ve always felt this particularly true for socks, whether as the dominant colour or a detail. Green with a brown trouser, say, purple with charcoal and maroon with navy.

But over time I have come to realise the domineering possibilities of one colour in particular: purple.

Michael Drake’s opinion on the subject in his recent post, therefore, were opportune. He put into words something I had been thinking for a while. And then, seeing him again last week, I was reminded of the power of purple once more. Michael was wearing olive cotton trousers and (if I remember correctly) brown suede ankle boots. In between the two were purple hose.

Either orange or green would have worked there for a coloured sock; both are obvious autumnal choices. But purple was that much richer while being unusual and personal. Again, sophisticated seems to be the right word.

The key to purple’s strength is its versatility. Most men would happily place it between a navy trouser and black shoe. Equally, (perhaps if suggested to them) many would put the same socks and shoes with a charcoal suit. But what other colour could jump from that to accompanying brown and green? Only green comes close, really.

Purple’s richness of colour make it a strong statement, but its darkness of tone makes it subtle.

The only way you can go wrong really is to wear it with too pale a colour. Avoid a mid-grey suit with tan shoes, for example.