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How to Wear White to a Cookout… Five Fashion Rules Worth Breaking

Life is about moving forward. Each step we take, we learn something new. Sometimes those lessons replace older ones, and we learn that change can be good. This is especially true when it comes to fashion and style.

There’s no doubt that someone, at some point, laid out the rules of fashion for you. At the beginning, when you were first figuring out how to put together a stylish suit with the appropriate tie or deciding what to wear to the office holiday party, these rules were comforting. They helped you put things in place and now you've become somewhat of a sartorial pro. The rules let you begin simply, purchasing classic, simple and versatile pieces that would (and still will) get you through any situation at any time.

As you’ve grown in your style, however, stepping outside those rules and even breaking them can become an exciting way to improve your look. While some rules are never meant to be broken, there are some you can bend, or even break completely, if you know how to do it right.

Breaking the Rules

Wearing White to a Cookout- In the United States, a tried and true rule is to never wear white after Labour Day, but it’s one that’s broken all the time. What about the other white rule, though? Should you ever wear white to a cookout?

Cookouts often take place in the warmer months, when wearing white is not only acceptable, but expected. During these sunny days, white clothing helps us stay cooler because it doesn't absorb as much heat as darker fabric and is often made of lighter, more breathable fabrics.

So, what’s the deal with wearing white to a cookout? This isn’t actually a fashion faux pas- it’s more of a fashion saver. Cookouts typically involve greasy meats and red sauces. One false movement can ruin the mood with a stain on that white linen men's suit or white pair of chinos.

To break this rule, you have to be smart about what you wear and how you wear it. Wearing white from head to toe might not be the best idea, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear white, beige or stone colours at all. The best idea is to choose the colour for either your jacket or shirt. Wearing white trousers can be risky, since you’ll be outdoors. If you wear a white jacket or shirt, take the jacket off before dining. If there happens to be a spill on your shirt, the jacket is still there and still spotless, so you can easily use it to cover the stain.

Navy and Black- Navy and black are typically not two colours you would wear together, simply because they create a type of black-hole effect. Those looking at your outfit are attracted to those two colours only, and often fail to see or admire other areas of your ensemble.

When breaking this fashion rule, it’s important to remember that not all navy blues are the same. In fact, some have more blue tones than others. These are the ones you want to select when pairing navy and black together, as the blue will be able to stand out more easily this way.

You can also change up the texture. If the textures of the navy and black are different, it will provide enough contrast to ensure the two appear separate.

Matching Socks to Trousers- It’s a rule as old as time itself, or at least it seems like that. From the very beginning, you’re told to match your socks to your trousers. Socks are meant to be functional, they aren’t meant to be seen, after all, or pull focus away from your men’s suits or men’s tweed jacket.

In recent years, however, men have discovered that socks are just another piece of clothing that can show off individual style. Wearing brightly-printed or coloured socks is not only acceptable now, but very common.

The Rule of Three- One of the most hard-and-fast rules for newbies in the fashion world is the rule of three. With any outfit, you should be using no more than three colours at a time- and one should always be a neutral colour. This helps prevent you from getting too flamboyant with your outfits and keeps them grounded. The rule of three also applies to patterns. No more than three patterns should be present on an outfit- and one should always be solid.

In most cases, you don’t want to break this rule. However, you can bend it a little. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re wearing a navy men’s suit, a burgundy striped tie and a dark green gingham shirt. Here you have three colours and three patterns. To bend the rule, a small accessory can be added, like a burgundy floral pocket square. It’s a small enough detail that it doesn’t distract from the rest of your ensemble and keeps your look from getting messy. It’s big enough, however, that you bend the rule of three and change your appearance slightly.

It’s best to only break (or bend) one rule of three at a time. If you’re bending the pattern rule, don’t bend the colour, and vise versa.

Trainers With Your Suits- Some people believe that trainers should never be worn with men’s suits. In many cases, however, they can- and they can look good.

The secret is in the details. The trainers need to be simple in construction and in detail. Plain is best. You’ll also want to forgo some of the more professional accessories that you would typically wear with a business suit, like a tie or a belt.

The suit is important as well. Don’t wear trainers with formal suits or a tuxedo. Everyday suits, especially those that are made of spring and summer fabrics, like light cotton and linen, can pair well with trainers.

Looking to expand your style and break a few rules as you do it? Use these tips and bend the rules of fashion for the better.

By Brook Taverner 12 April 2017