Monochrome is an easy look to put together, making it almost impossible to get wrong. With this simple guide you will be wearing black and white to perfection in no time.
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The monochrome look is basically a case of how to wear black and white. Wearing black is easy – it’s slimming and smart. But a lot of men tend to shy away from wearing white as it can be unflattering if worn wrong. The key to monochrome is getting a perfect balance between the two.
Black and white may not seem like the two most interesting colour choices for an outfit but the stark contrast gives you a clean, well-defined look. The lack of colour also gives way for more interesting patterns and styles.
The monochrome style is one of the most versatile looks as it passes effortlessly between seasons. In the winter you can add more black. As it gets warmer you bring in more white. It’s simple, no matter the season you can be a monochrome man.
The key with monochrome is not only the colours (or lack of); it is about how it is worn. Straight lines and clean edges are important as monochrome is supposed to be sleek but edgy. This means keeping your whites white and blacks black. White shirts should be crisp and bright – white shoes should be clean and not scuffed. Blacks should be dark and bold, not be faded or greying.
The black knitted sweater is an important item that every man should have in his wardrobe, and can be worn as part of any outfit, smart or casual. It is perfect for the chilly spring/autumn days or worn under a blazer in winter.
Chunky monochrome knits were a favourite of rock ‘n’ roll stars like Elvis Presley. Elvis was a fan of the cable-knit sweaters and the striped jumpers, which he wore his under his leather jacket. We will be looking at how to get a similar look once we’ve shown you the basics of monochrome casual and smart looks.
Putting a monochrome outfit together is more than just throwing any black or white clothes together. There has to be a balance, and every individual piece of clothing is important. But the great thing about wearing black and white, especially with straight lines, is that you are always going to look pretty smart. So even a casual t-shirt paired with smart trousers and a blazer can work as a great smart casual outfit.
Black and White Casual Outfit
The casual black and white outfit is the easiest to style. T-shirt, jeans and trainers are all you need to think about. If you want to keep it simple stripes are always a popular choice for a t-shirt as they are slimming and suit most people.
Paired with black jeans, this is the easiest way to create a monochrome look. But it’s the finishing touches that make the outfit. Wearing white trainers, when he easily could’ve chosen black, turns a casual outfit into a top-to-toe monochrome look.
If you look at most casual black and white outfits the top is the stand out piece – think unusual shapes and patterns. The contrast stripe jersey is casual enough for a night down the pub. Alternatively, throw a blazer over the polka dot t-shirt for a smart casual look. If you’re going complete casual you can choose a t-shirt with a motif, logo or picture.
In the colder weather don’t ruin your monochrome look by just pulling on any old jumper. There are plenty of choices out there whether you want knits or a sweater. From simple lines to intricate patterns, choosing the right sweater is important. Then you just need to balance out the rest of your outfit. For example, if there’s more white on your sweater add black elsewhere, then accessorise with white. Then match your shoes by choosing white with black details.
Shop: The Idle Man Overshirt
Black or White on Bottom
Once they’ve got their top sorted most men just add a pair of black jeans to their outfit. While this is a good look, it’s not the only one. If you’ve already chosen a dark t-shirt or sweater adding black will make your monochrome outfit too dark. A white pair of trousers will brighten up your whole look.
If you don’t know how to wear white jeans, or just don’t find them flattering you may just be choosing the wrong style. Instead of skinny jeans choose straight cut jeans or white chinos. As white tends to cling in all the wrong places a looser fit will be a lot more flattering.
In summer, denim shorts as they will keep their shape and flatter most body shapes. Choose shorts with a black stripe if you’re not confident enough to wear all white. If you’d really prefer to wear black choose shorts with a white pattern. These bandana print ones (bottom right) are casual and loose-fitting, perfect for the beach.
Shop: Veja Trainers
Black and White Formal Attire
Monochrome is the perfect look for formal occasions as a man can’t help but look smart when wearing black and white. The key thing to remember with a formal monochrome look is to stick to straight lines and blocks of black and white. Too much pattern will make it look more casual.
Everyone knows that you can never go wrong with a white shirt and black suit. It is a timeless monochrome look that any man can pull off. With a tie, or without, you can go to the office, a conference or any formal event. Black shoes are the classic way to finish off this simple look.
Shop: The Idle Man Overcoat
Mix and Match MonochromeIf you’re looking for a more interesting look you’re going to have to work a little harder. You can invert the colours by choosing a white suit with a black shirt. But you have to be confident to pull this off.
Instead you may want to try mix and matching your monochrome formal look. Black and white or white and black, it’s all about what works for you. So the best thing to do is try everything on. As you can see in the picture below, with a white shirt as a base, you can swap and change your look easily.
If your fashion sense is more quirky try out different patterns. Usually men shy away from these in formal attire, instead opting for pinstripe or checks. But as we’re just using black and white there is a way to wear some pattern and keep it looking smart. Just don’t overdo it. Choose one patterned item and work the rest of your outfit around it.
This paisley blazer (top right) will work with black or white trousers. Choose white if you want to stand out. Then keep the white flowing right through to the shoes. Add black or patterned socks to match the blazer.
Patterns are also great for a summer look. The shorts can be worn with the blazer, but it could be paisley overkill. So try them with a white or black blazer. Remember if you are wearing shorts as formal attire choose tailored and fitted as opposed to baggy.
Black and White Shirts
If you’d rather stick with a plain suit your shirt should stand out. White on black, or black on white is the easiest option – simple and smart. But if you want a bit of pattern there are a lot of options – stripes, checks, or more unusual patterns will add personality to your black and white look.
If you are choosing a shirt for a formal occasion, stripes and checks are the way to go. But if you are looking for a more smart casual style you can go bolder. If you want to wear a tie don’t just stick with black. Darker shirts will benefit from a white tie, which will stand out against the pattern.
If you’re ready to style your monochrome look but still need a bit of inspiration, check out these three black and white outfits from our street style section.
Black and White Beach Look
This monochrome outfit is perfect for those chilly summer nights at the beach. If you’ve been relaxing on the sand all day and decide to stick around to see the sunset, choose a knitted sweater or cardigan to throw over your outfit. Check back to earlier in the article for more black and white t-shirt ideas. As the rest of the outfit is mainly block colours you could choose a nice pattern or stripe.
Monochrome Skater Look
It’s not just the sophisticated man who can pull off the monochrome look. The younger guys can pull off their own version of this black and white style too. This black and white skater outfit works from spring right through to autumn.
Pair skinny jeans with a funky t-shirt, as most of the outfit is black you can go as wild as you want (as long as it’s black and white). Add a black bomber jacket, cap and converse trainers to complete the look. The white details on the jacket and trainers add to the monochrome look. But if you want to add more white to the outfit you can swap the cap and trainers. This will give you a more quirky skater look.
Casual Leather Stripes
- Monochrome is one of the most versatile looks, it works for any season
- Keep the balance between black and white
- Don’t be scared to wear white, worn right it can be as flattering as black
- Choose straight lines for a formal look
- You can get away with more pattern as there is less colour, but don’t overdo it
- It’s important to style monochrome top-to-toe
- Keep your blacks dark and bold
- Keep your whites clean and bright
On That Note…
Now you know the basics of black and white fashion you can create a stylish look without looking like a chessboard. Whether you are dressing smart or casual you can find a look for your occasion, no matter the season. Once you have mastered monochrome you can add a splash of colour or experiment with different shapes and patterns. But make sure you get the basics right first.