E.J. Topper’s “Colorful Thoughts” – Yellow
“They call me mellow yellow”. Whether you remember the song or you’re young enough to need to go look it up, Topper tells us that he is not exactly mad about saffron. In truth, if you mention yellow at all to Topper, his thoughts will likely turn to the twist of lemon peel in a dry martini, the old gold back of a heritage Swiss watch, or the insole of a hand crafted pair of glove soft leather loafers. Restraint. Precision. A carefully thought through statement that is never a raucous shout. These are the great man’s insights when it comes to wearing yellow.
Now don’t misunderstand. Nothing excites Topper more than trying new things – especially when it comes to fashion. Topper considers that leaving our comfort zone from time to time is the key to finding out which styles really work best for us. (As long as we have a good style map and a ready exit strategy if the look is starting to go wrong.) But when it comes to yellow, success is all about balancing bravery with a little informed caution.
Yellow is an uncompromising shade that can also be unforgiving. At base, it is a color for truly adventurous gentlemen who aren’t afraid to stand out. Knowing which shade of yellow to wear – and when to wear it – are the most important (and most difficult) steps to mastering a colorful, complementary outfit with sunshine at its heart.
Topper’s Top Tips: Put some [lemon] zest in your outfit.
Just as Topper is certain we would never add more than one twist of lemon peel to a vodka martini, he is confident that we appreciate “less is more” when it comes to wearing yellow. This is about zest – a hint and a flavor. Anything more risks being a complete lemon. So, with moderation as our guide, Topper invites us to select a single article of clothing to be the focal point of the outfit, such as a coat, pants or sweater. Or he advises we wear a few well-chosen yellow accessories to bring a suggestion of brightness to an otherwise calmer color palette.
Step #1. The Seasoned Pro
Because yellow is such a bright, bold color, it’s typically worn in spring and summer; however, with the right shades and statement pieces at your disposal, Topper believes you can pull off wearing it throughout the year.
Spring: Since the weather may still be a tad chilly in springtime (depending on where you live), try wearing clothes that are both cool- and warm-weather appropriate. Typically, this will mean layers. And as Topper usefully points out, the beauty of layering is that if your yearning for yellow deserts you, then you can always take off your yellow sweater without being completely stuck for something to wear.
Seasonal shade: Pastel
- Statement pieces: Blazer, sweater, pants, vest
- Accessories: Sunglasses, watch strap
Summer: With warm weather come bright colors and breezy clothes, so don’t be afraid to go bold.
Seasonal Shade: Lemon
- Statement pieces: Shorts, short-sleeved shirt
- Accessories: Sunglasses, bow tie, belt
Autumn: Like spring, you can pull off clothes that can be worn in cool or warm weather, but switch from light yellow to a darker, browner shade.
Seasonal Shade: Mustard
- Statement pieces: Sweater, pants, cardigant
- Accessories: Watch, tie, fedora, shoes
Winter: Keep yourself warm (and stylish) during winter with dark yellows and subtle accent pieces.
Seasonal Shade: Gold
- Statement pieces: Coat, vest
- Accessories: Scarf, socks, watch strap, belt
Step #2. The Right Ingredients
Topper often points out, from his favored regular table at one of the most exclusive eating establishments in town, that a great outfit is like a great meal. Greatness starts with the best quality ingredients. But true brilliance calls for balance. That’s why, when it comes to putting together a complete outfit, it’s best to balance a bright color like yellow with toned-down, neutral shades. Black, white and brown are solid choices, but gray works especially well with almost any shade of yellow.
For gentlemen who prefer a bit more color in an outfit, there is always the option to pair yellow with navy blue. This is also a safe combination to try if you’re brave enough to attempt color blocking (wearing statement pieces in different solid colors). Green, pink and purple also complement yellow, but look best when worn with a yellow patterned clothing item or accessory.
Step #3. Beware of...
Knowing which colors to avoid is, in Topper’s informed view, just as important as knowing which ones to wear. Red, for example, is best left out of the picture if yellow is already in it. Ketchup and mustard may be the perfect condiment pairing, but avoid wearing them in the same outfit, or risk being mistaken for Ronald McDonald.
One factor that’s often overlooked – but plays a large part in determining whether your outfit is a hit or miss – is your skin tone. Topper says, “Opposites attract: If you’re fair-skinned, a golden or brownish-yellow color palette is your go-to. If your natural complexion is darker, light and pastel yellows will complement you best.”
Let the Sunshine in
Being comfortable in your own shoes – literally – is an important part of pulling off a new color. Topper recommends starting slow by incorporating yellow one accessory at a time, and working your way up to bigger, bolder outfits. “This way, you’ll gradually get used to wearing a new color, and avoid looking like a fruit salad in the process.”
Get more of Topper's advice on any of the color palettes here: