How to Chill Out by Dressing in Neutrals Head to Toe

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We’re through June and July, and have finally made it to August. And while you were probably all about the bright colors and patterns in the first months of summer, in the later months, you just want to chill out with some more low-key ensembles. One of the best ways to do that is to turn your attention to an underrated group of colors that’s already in every man’s wardrobe: the neutrals.

Neutrals are a color palette unto themselves, and one of the best ways to look (almost) effortlessly cool is to wear them head to toe. (Looking for a way to look enviably put together and eternally classic even in the hottest of summer weather? This is it.) Neutrals are versatile, easy to pair, and chances are pretty good that you already have an assortment of them in your closet or your dresser — not something that can probably be said of the seasonal “it” colors that cycle in and out as the weather and the climate at the runway shows change.

There are a couple of ways to dress all in neutrals, and since they’re so easy to pair, it’s hard to go wrong. But an easy way to think of these ensembles as you’re just beginning to wrap your head around the idea that you don’t necessarily need that often-cited “pop of color” is to consider whether you want a low-contrast or high-contrast look.

A low-contrast look is exactly what it sounds like; you’ll pair neutrals that are similar to each other, and wear either light neutrals or dark neutrals. A great way to pair light neutrals is to combine white and tan. The combination makes for a timeless look, and it’s just as easy to pull off on a lazy Sunday as it is in the middle of a busy week at the office. For a casual look, pair a classic white tee with a pair of tan chinos. Swap the tee for a white poplin or linen shirt for an outfit that’s more dinner-appropriate. Or if you’re heading in to the office, pair a tan suit with a white shirt.

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Another good low-contrast color pairing lives on the opposite end of the light to dark spectrum. While we won’t recommend it for days spent outside, you can wear light pieces in a dark color like black, gray, or navy blue head to toe. A Manhattanite favorite, an all-black ensemble can look any way you want it to, from classic to minimalist. (Just be sure to go with light fabrics, like cotton and linen, or save this look for a cloudy or rainy day.) Navy blue is a summer classic, and a low-contrast look could pair a navy button-front with a pair of darker gray chinos for an even-keel, easy ensemble.

High-contrast looks, on the other hand, pair a lighter neutral with a darker one. Think a crisp white poplin shirt with a pair of navy chinos, or a dark gray tee with a pair of white jeans. (Bonus points for a pop of color in terms of the red trim on a pair of selvedge denim.) Speaking of denim, another high-contrast option is to pair a light blue chambray shirt with a pair of dark blue jeans for a combination that looks great on basically every guy. The combinations are pretty much endless, but the great thing about pairing neutrals is that you have a pretty great chance of always looking classic — no looking back on photos a few summers from now and wondering what you were thinking with that loud color or wild print.

Now that you’ve got your wheels turning, it’ll be easy for you to pull together combinations of neutrals from the pieces you already have in your wardrobe. Colors including white, ivory, flax, tan, dove gray, cognac, charcoal, navy, and black are game, especially in fabrics and cuts that are light and comfortable for hot days, but tailored to keep your silhouette trim and classic.

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