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The timeless charm of closet chameleons

With fall-winter around the corner, we asked designers and stylists about the importance of ‘boring’ menswear classics

From Zegna fall-winter collection

By Manish Mishra

LAST PUBLISHED 29.09.2023  |  11:00 AM IST

"You wear too much black and blue", “your clothes are too beige", “you don’t experiment enough". Neutral hues, heritage fabrics, classic brogues, old-school trainers—items that crowd many male wardrobes—are often seen as uninspiring, even termed boring, in fashion circles. These timeless essentials, however, are the ultimate fashion chameleons, effortlessly lending themselves to countless stylistic adventures.

A camel coat, for instance, can offer incredible repeat value in winter. It can be worn on various occasions with different separates and nifty accessories. With a white shirt and blue jeans, it adds a casual vibe. The same coat gives a dressy touch when teamed with a short black kurta and matching leggings.

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Cable-knit jumpers or ribbed turtlenecks too are wardrobe chameleons that can take you from the conference room to the bar during winters.

Also read: 'Quiet luxury has always been part of Mumbai'

With the season set to change, it’s a good time to rethink, re-imagine and re-contextualise your wardrobe classics.

For designer Karrtik D., classic closet essentials, such as camel coats, cable knits and a predominantly black wardrobe aren’t “boring". “They can easily be fashion’s best-kept secrets that stay trendy, no matter which ‘-core’ is trending in the world. And the allure of essentials lies in their adaptability. What some may label as ‘boring’ often possesses a quiet intrigue that can withstand the test of time."

To illustrate his point, he explains how duster coats, brogues, aviators and waffle knits can be dependable choices for autumn. “Let’s not forget other fall must- haves like leather boots, cosy scarves and dark-wash denim."

Celebrity fashion stylist Pranay Jaitly offers some suggestions: a head-to-toe black look with a turtleneck accessorised with a houndstooth scarf, a yellow clutch, a burgundy strap watch or shoes. “Double-breasted jackets are also a good investment. You can also opt for well-tailored velvet and corduroy suits and accessorise them with colourful pocket squares and a bit of prints, in case you want to jazz things up a bit," he adds.

From the collection of Sahil Aneja.

Celebrity stylist Yogesh Sharma emphasises the importance of good footwear: “Invest in a pair of brogues, which can be worn with trousers for a formal look or with jeans for a more casual appearance."

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In other words, classic essentials are the building blocks of an ever- evolving style journey. Plus, they ensure you don’t get stuck in the cycle of fast-fashion trends.

Designer Rajvvir Arora of the Diyarajvvir brand observes that clothing that survives all fads and fashion cycles is definitely a bigger style statement than a garment that just lasts a quarter-season. “Classics have more restyling appeal," says Arora. “For example, an ivory trench, a black overcoat, a cashmere scarf and ankle boots are the ultimate fall/winter essentials. You can pair them with a polo neck and a pair of boots and you are good to go. It’s an outfit that can work for office, a meeting, a date, an evening party, all depends on how you play with colours and silhouettes." According to designer Gaurav Khanijo, an off-white shirt is the ultimate layering essential. “I see heritage double-breasted tailoring, leather biker jackets and carrot-cut pants having a moment right now," says Khanijo, who wears mostly three shades—black, ivory and beige. “These are not boring clothes. Maybe it’s just some people’s perception, as Gen Z wants to stand out with oversized tailoring and statement colours."

That’s the thing about fashion. Someone’s “boring" can be another person’s “avant-garde".

“The perception of ‘boring’ clothes can depend a lot on how they are styled and accessorised," says Sawan Gandhi, a designer known for balancing Indian and Western silhouettes. “What’s important is that your personal style reflects your individuality," he says. “Some people find excitement and joy in experimenting with bold and trendy styles, while others appreciate the simplicity of classic pieces."

SHAKE IT UP A BIT

Ways to style your fall-winter garments

a) A neutral duster coat is often undervalued but it can work effortlessly for both day and evening outings with minor styling tweaks.

For a day look, layer it with a lightweight knit or a sleeveless vest and finish off the look with a sling pouch. For an evening outing, throw it on a beaded tee or a tuxedo shirt; it will infuse a sliver of formality and polish.

b) A sweatshirt hoodie works well in an array of settings, from the gym to a

game of basketball or pickleball. It’s an apt layering essential for a long flight and it can even be worn to a nightclub for a glam- leisure look. Layer a coat on top of it to give it a structure or wear a white collared shirt and fold up the sleeves for a preppy chic vibe.

c) Ribbed and textured knits may have been associated with grandpa-core but they work surprisingly well for the season. A knitted cardigan, a polo tee or a ribbed jumper can be layered under an array of jackets, from a trench to a peacoat. It’s snug and keeps you warm.

Manish Mishra is a Delhi-based fashion writer and content creator.

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