Last year, green was quite popular as a color pathway for menswear, and I must admit I think I’ve picked up more green items in the last year than I have ever purchased before. In the past, I had purchased a green accessory here or there, such as a a pocket square or a tie, or a pair of green socks (Vert Academie of course!) but green clothing was fewer and far in between; a waxed Barbour jacket, a pair of cotton trousers, and a sport coat in a linen silk blend were the only green items present in my closet.
Despite the lack of green clothing, seeing all the outfits posted on Styleforum and Instagram, I came to a realization that green is not an enemy; green garments are quite useful in most people’s wardrobes, providing lots of diverse shades and hues for each season. Even if it seems that green is not year-round as an option, I have come to believe that green is one of the perfect colors to use in your wardrobe as a unifying color pathway, but with different ranges for each season, providing ample selections that are appropriate strictly for either Fall/Winter or Spring/Summer.
One problem is that most people–myself included–fail to understand just how diverse green can be: when you think green, oftentimes one or two shades pop up in your mind. However, you have to break that conception and look beyond your a priori imagination of an outfit. For instance, green includes the various tones that form other colors that you might have in your wardrobe already. These include olive, dark khaki, moss, in addition to the more common or true greens like bottle green, hunter, forest, and the like. With plenty of different shades and hues to choose from, the color suits many different occasions.
I find it easiest to think about the overall wardrobe by categories, organized by functionality and type. By dividing your wardrobe into garment types, we can categorize them in the following ways which will allow you to then better understand what colors serve which roles in each category: outerwear, tailoring, trousers (bottoms), tops, shoes and accessories. If your wardrobe is already established-following internet suggestions, most likely you have a lot of a few staple colors–either blues, grays or browns. However, green can go well with most of these colors and has a place in each wardrobe segment. As I noted above, the green shade/hue varies depending on the time of year and the garment type. As a general rule of thumb, the less vibrant a green is–like most colors–the more appropriate it is for winter or fall garments.
As follows is a brief analysis of each category:
Tops obviously include all the garments you wear at base layers above the waist. For green, I believe that in many cases, a sweater or cardigan is more likely a better garment to invest in than a shirt (honestly, how many green classical shirtings can you think of?). That isn’t to say that a shirt in your wardrobe in green would not look nice, it is just to say that it is less likely you are going to find a staple piece you are going to love; plus, a sweater or cardigan can serve as a layering piece, meaning basic blue and white shirts would be appropriate underneath it. The only exception here is that polo shirts may be a cheaper and easier to find options for a forest green top.
Sweaters, especially with forest green or sage green tones, work wonderfully for fall/winter staples, seeing as how they go with all the earthy tones that you would have access to, without adding something too contrasting in an outfit. The goal in selecting a green sweater would be to add visual interest to the top half of the outfit; instead of using go to hell pants and lending visual interest at the bottom, green sweaters work as a color block for the upper body when the sweater is the final layer. If it is under a coat or jacket, it can serve as a mid-contrast layer to bridge the color of a coat and the shirt or pants. On the opposite spectrum, you might choose to wear a warmer sweater to provide contrast, blocking your lower body with green-toned trousers (think moss or dark khaki).
For shirts, you can likely imagine more vibrant colors working best without additional layers (no one wants you to wear a lime green shirt let alone with a sweater over it). In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that saturated colors, being more summery, require fewer layers to achieve that light visual aesthetic. As such, pastel or mid-toned greens work well as a shirt or top when paired with a more neutral cream or light colored pant.
You see plenty of pants that have green tones in them. While go to hell colors work for summer or spring (bright mint or ivy green pants), you are better off investing in forest, olive, moss, and in general earth-toned green shades, seeing as how they are easily used as replacements for pants that you would normally wear (khaki, tan, brown, navy). In addition, because the green adds visual interest to the bottom part of the outfit (color blocking the bottom in place of the top) solid green trousers can make patterns look less busy on the top: for instance, a tweed jacket with a windowpane check will look milder when paired with green trousers than a similar jacket worn with brown or a more similar tonal pant. The darker nature of most green trouser options helps balance out the top half of an outfit. In this case, dark hunter green, pine green, forest green or the like are excellent color choices.
The most expensive additions to your wardrobe should be your outerwear and tailoring. Outerwear is perhaps my favorite category in my wardrobe. And the beautiful thing about outerwear is that there are easy to find green options: old military jackets, field jackets, waxed cotton jackets, parkas and the like are all traditional or relatively easy items to locate which serve plenty of use. Many of these garments have a specific color that is characteristic of them: for instance, Barbour with it’s olive waxed cotton; or military jackets like the M-65 with its army green or the Vietnam-era jungle jackets; parkas with their green or dark khaki fabric. Because outerwear is oftentimes used only for three seasons, the colors for the garments lend themselves to darker, less saturated colors. Naturally, there are exceptions: If you don’t mind an eccentric touch, a coat in panno casentino in its traditional, saturated emerald color, is a great addition to a sartorial wardrobe.
If you are a Styleforum user, chances are tailoring gets you excited. Whether you are buying off the rack, made to measure, or bespoke, it isn’t as if green options do not exist. Regardless of wherever you source your green sport coat or suit, I would suggest erring towards the side of darker and muted green, as you don’t want to run the risk of being mistaken for a leprechaun. The best part of green in tailoring is that it can be found as an accent in a lot of different weeds; plaids or checks provide you the opportunity to feature some green in your outfit without looking over the top. It also works well in that sense for winter, seeing as how such fabrics are oftentimes heavier weight.
With that warning aside, personally, I do have a jacket that borders on Cyan/Green, which is appropriate for summer months, but seeing as how it is almost a mint cream, it works only with lighter colors that have no sort of warmth in them at all (optical whites or light blues or cool grays). That isn’t to say I can’t make a good looking outfit wearing that jacket–it is just that it is less versatile and in that sense, it becomes a more difficult piece to use–and therefore it is harder to justify its existence. Lighter colored greens in tailoring should probably only find their way into your wardrobe if you live in warm or perpetual summer locations, or you wish to exhibit a bit of a Riviera style while on vacation. They do not really look appropriate at anything other than a spring/summer party or a coastal getaway.
My other true-green garment is a mid/dark green hopsack sport coat that works well for winter and fall, mostly because the colors lend themselves to other shades, and it doesn’t look too festive or overwhelming.
The easiest way to up your green game is to use accessories. Most blues or browns will go well with some ties or pocket squares that contain a green element. They are the cheapest path for you to invest in using green as an accent, and you can identify which colors will go well with the green by just holding it up to a jacket or shirt that you are thinking of wearing it with. Silk printed squares help you identify what shades of green complement or contrast other colors, enabling you to better understand how that particular shade will work in your wardrobe with different colored articles. Because pocket squares are oftentimes some of the cheapest accessories (outside of socks, though not everyone attempts to show off their socks), investing in green accessories is the perfect way to change up your wardrobe if it is already firmly established with the essentials and you are not seeking any other major investments in tailoring or the like.
While shoes can be classified as their own category in your wardrobe, green leather is not that common, and I’ve only rarely seen a pair or two of green shoes (in suede!). As such, I would treat the shoes as an accessory here, and will only write that browns without warmth and red tones, meaning browns with greener tones, will pair nicely with greens in your wardrobe.
Obviously, certain shades of green invoke different sentiments or tropes, so paying attention to what you are wearing is still a necessity. It doesn’t make sense to dress completely in green unless you wanted to look foolish (or you’re an “influencer” visiting Pitti Uomo). However, the diversity in the color and the fact that many of us spend time outdoors now instead of just stuck in an office means that green has become an acceptable color pathway to utilize, and therefore should be treated as another major asset in our menswear toolbox, alongside blue, browns and grays.