is back Jeremy Lang­mead on why brown

From choco­late to > to­bacco, not since the Sev­en­ties has the colour been so hip.

Esquire (UK) - - Contents - By Jeremy Lang­mead

At my mother’s sec­ond wed­ding (there were an­other three to fol­low), my sis­ter and I were dressed in spe­cial out­fits made en­tirely from shades of brown. I still have a pho­to­graph of me, look­ing quite fu­ri­ous, in my dark brown cot­ton shorts (prac­ti­cally hot pants), a match­ing short-sleeved shirt with an at­trac­tive sheen to it (cru­elly high­lighted by the day’s sun­shine), tan socks and chest­nut leather san­dals. I was six years old, it was the Sev­en­ties, and brown was con­sid­ered a smart and fashionable colour. Alas, in this pic­ture, with so many shades of the colour on me at one time, I looked like the son of Mr Hankey, the Christ­mas Poo, from South Park.

Brown and its friend beige were so beloved back then, es­pe­cially when jazzed up with an ac­cent of or­ange, that they were freely splashed across homes, cars and, worst of all, shag­pile bath mats. Ba­si­cally, the Sev­en­ties looked like a Jaffa Cake.

But un­like al­most ev­ery other trend from the Sev­en­ties, brown has never re­ally had a tri­umphant re­turn to fash­ion, even though there have been a few spo­radic at­tempts. Beige and tan clev­erly man­aged to re­brand them­selves — neu­tral, camel, sand, khaki — but brown re­mained plain old brown. A name­sake prime min­is­ter ob­vi­ously did noth­ing to bol­ster its stuck-in-the-mud image.

Un­til today. This au­tumn, the fash­ion fra­ter­nity has opened the doors and wel­comed brown clothes back into the fold. In the style world, this is an event not too dis­sim­i­lar to Trump’s Sin­ga­pore sum­mit with Kim Jong-un: we think it’s good news but aren’t quite sure what we’ve agreed to, or if the friend­ship will last.

The shear­ling jacket, in vogue for a few sea­sons now, has paved the way for brown to slink back in. Cut slim­mer and lighter, in ap­peal­ing shades of tan, they showed how some Sev­en­ties main­stays — in­clud­ing jumbo cor­duroy — re­ally could look con­tem­po­rary and flat­ter­ing again. And like a good self-tan treat­ment, once you’ve started down that road, it’s hard not to go darker and darker — re­mem­ber the con­tes­tants of this year’s Love Is­land.

Hand on heart, I think you should try it. Af­ter years of ther­apy, I was even­tu­ally able to em­brace brown out­fits again a few years ago. It’s ac­tu­ally flat­ter­ing to wear, looks great with other darker colours if you don’t want to make too much of a fea­ture of it, and strik­ing paired with cream if you do. The trick is not to wear the same shade head-to-toe.

If you need in­spi­ra­tion, de­sign­ers brought brown back into their col­lec­tions in nu­mer­ous dif­fer­ent ways. Dries van Noten used a var­ied pal­ette of the colour across tra­di­tional-look­ing checks and plaids for his suit­ing, and on a range of light­weight ny­lon coats fea­tur­ing mar­bled pat­terns of psy­che­delic or­ange or turquoise. Fendi, too, went for brown checked tai­lor­ing, as well as the afore­men­tioned tan shear­ling jack­ets, while Ber­luti showed ev­ery shade of Fake Bake, mostly on leather and knitwear, mak­ing it all look very de­lec­ta­ble. Raf Si­mons at Calvin Klein was far braver, how­ever, and showed brown in his col­lec­tion much as it was worn by the grown-ups at my mum’s wed­ding: suits in a shade of chewed to­bacco made of in­de­ter­minable fab­ric teamed with largecol­lared turquoise shirts and over­sized knit­ted tank-tops. If you want some­thing a lit­tle eas­ier to pull off, check out the col­lec­tions of brands such as Of­ficine Générale, Dun­hill, Lan­vin or Ami, all of which pre­sented brown in its new mil­len­nial-friendly for­mat.

I’ve in­vested in a dark brown jumbo cord suit by Brunello Cucinelli this au­tumn. I ad­mit that, on pa­per, a dark brown jumbo cord suit doesn’t sound too promis­ing; it’s all-to-redo­lent of ge­og­ra­phy teach­ers, Sev­en­ties chat show pre­sen­ters, or a books and manuscripts ex­pert from An­tiques Road­show. But

I’m re­ally happy with it. It’s slim cut, the cord is su­per-soft (it’s made from cash­mere) and the colour is flat­ter­ing even af­ter your August tan has faded. And, if teamed with a pale cham­bray shirt and a pair of trainers, doesn’t re­motely look as if you’ve come dressed as a turd. What more can you ask for?

From top: Bill Mur­ray pre-empts the brown re­vival in The Royal Te­nen­baums, 2001; full luxe leather by Ber­luti; ‘chewed to­bacco’ tones by Raf Si­mons at Calvin Klein; bold checked suit­ing by Dries Van Noten

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