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Black and Brown

November 20th, 2013

The other day we were discussing some classic “Men’s Fashion Faux Pas'”.

Menswear is full of old-school “rules” that don’t really apply to today’s style scene, yet the team and I continue to get concerning emails from readers about them.

Therefore, in a series of upcoming posts we will be trying to overturn some of these old-world limitations on men’s style, with the hopes that men will start thinking far outside the confines of these outdated boxes.

For the first post in the series, I put together three looks combining black & brown, along with some tips on how to make it all work.

    1. Oh So 70s


    Photography shot with the Canon EOS 70D digital SLR camera, with Dual Pixel AF technology and built-in Wi-Fi

    The trick to mixing black and brown is keeping a noticeable contrast. Rather than combining black with dark chocolate, try a lighter shade like this tobacco hopsack.

    On a separate note; something about a mustache and a paisley scarf is so 70s, in a good way.


    Taking cues from The Odd Vest here. I designed this double-breasted waistcoat with rounded corners and shawl lapels (part of a three-piece suit in Ariston fabric) to double as a formal waistcoat under one of my tuxedos or dinner jackets.

    A paisley scarf is a nod to the old school, and a great way to add a punch of pattern to a more subdued look.


    I’ve been working closely with the good people at Johnston & Murphy, test-driving their new styles and providing feedback on the quality and design. I was rather impressed with these two-tone (black & brown) chunky wingtips.

    The Karnes Wingtip model is a great pair to add contrast to a look – whether it’s a rugged edge to a tailored look (like here), or a clean & sharp feel to a more casual weekend outfit.


    2. Turtleneck & Pleats


    You already know I’m a proud supporter of the turtleneck. With the Gentlemo it has me looking very…Canadian, eh?

    I found this awesome Italian-made Harley Davidson leather jacket for the Articles of Style Vintage Shop. Then I wore it one time and immediately removed it from the shop.


    This leather piece is a lifetime keeper for the fit and quality alone, not to mention all the unique design details (removable mouton collar, crested leather-covered buttons, lace-up side adjusters, etc).

    It will become even more handy when I finally pull the trigger on a motorcycle out here in LA :)


    As we recently spoke about (in Throwback Jazz Style feat. Mike Davis) I’m loving fuller-cut pants with multiple pleats.

    Trousers have gotten so boring these days – I love seeing a pair with multiple pleats (these are box-pleated), side adjusters, back pocket flaps, etc. This pair is also extra special to me since I handmade them for my final menswear collection at the Fashion Institute NYC.


    3. V-Neck & Polo


    Here the camel sweater helps meld together the black golf jacket and the chestnut trousers (part of one of my favorite suits).


    Under a thin v-neck sweater I sometimes find a formal button-down too stiff, and a washed button-down too wimpy in the collar. A polo shirt with a solid button-down collar is a great alternative.

    There’s something nice about going knit-on-knit, and not having to deal with bunchy sleeves.


    These Deerfield tassel loafers are also by Johnston & Murphy, only they’re at least 10 years old.

    They’ve held up quite well considering how often I wear them… In fact, they might be the most featured pair of shoes in Articles of Style history. As seen in the following posts, dating back to when we first starting shooting our own photography:


    • Grey tortoise shades by Matsuda
    • Black cotton golf jacket Vintage
    • Camel V-Neck Sweater by Ralph Lauren Purple Label
    • Grey stripe polo shirt by Uniqlo x Michael Bastian
    • Slim brown leather belt Vintage
    • “Deerfield” Oxblood tassel loafers by Johnston & Murphy


    Thanks, as always, for reading.

    Yours in style,

    Articles of Style


    Photography by Alex Crawford 

    • http://undefined Dick Lickerson

      Those trousers give me a bonewha… metaphorically not literally… I need to get in your pants… literally not metaporically. When can I buy a pair?

    • Tim

      I believe a majority of your emails about this have to do with the ‘learn the rules, then break them’ philosophy, which you endorse often on this blog. As rules can surely be broken, the subtleties of classic dress is commonly lost on the #menswear iGent. I’m sure you are aware that many classic menswear fans would consider this ‘peacocking’

    • Miguel G

      That second picture of you makes you look like an extra for Anchorman 2

    • Nick

      Super subtle, but your watch sunglasses combo looks awesome in the first pic. Also, those shoes were absolutely perfect for today in LA. How have you been coping with the extremely consistent weather out here? Do you think it’s making it more difficult to come up with posts, as there really aren’t incredibly distinct seasons? Sometimes I feel like I have my looks on rotation because the elements aren’t giving me any inspiration. Thanks!

    • http://anorexicescapades.com BougieHippie

      Clean yet tough look on outfit #2! That aviator jacket it BEYOND!


    • Henri

      Not too shabby, but just imagine how much better for instance the first look would be with a navy waistcoat and brogues.

    • http://profblack.blogspot.kr/ Professor Black

      That second look with the pleated pants is killer. That is one of the better outfits I’ve seen on here.

    • Austin

      Thank you for doing this, “Rules” and fashion just don’t work together. I hate the idea that because something is different than what people normally see they automatically think it looks bad, In my opinion in today’s world there’s no such thing as out of style

    • Keaton

      Dan, I noticed you went a little into detail about why look 1 works, by using the lighter browns. But what about look 2? You have deep browns mixed with a similar shade of black and it works flawlessly! Is there a general guideline of how to pull off black and dark brown?

      • Keaton

        In particular, I am referencing the dark brown collar on the jacket vs. the black turtleneck. It works well but I’m just not sure why.

    • http://www.callanconvery.com NikonGuy

      Great post as usual guys, been reading for years!

      Alex: What made you switch from FX to crop? and more importantly Nikon to Canon? Always curious about decisions like this.

      • http://tsbmen.com Alex Crawford

        Canon sent us the 70D with a 50mm f/1.4 to play around with and to help them with a big media push for their new line of bodies. At first I was nervous about using a Canon, as I have always been a Nikon guy myself, but I’m finding the 70D (despite being cropped) to be a very comfortable camera. I’m getting all the same quality I have come to expect from my D700, plus some cool new bells and whistles. The touch screen is especially fun, I always get a “wow” out of my subjects when I start scrolling through the photos with my thumb.

        Canon definitely sold me on their products, but after the campaign is finished I’ll start switching between the 70D and the D700 again. On a side note, I really have my eye on the Fuji x100s right now. I used to shoot a friends Leica M3 in college and I really miss the feel of it. I think I might have to pick one up soon.

        Not to get all cheesy with it, but at the end of the day it’s the photographer that makes a great photo, not his/her camera.

        • http://www.callanconvery.com NikonGuy

          Thank for the reply, oh awesome, good to hear! Yess, the Fuji is sick, I love the retro feel and and size of those cams, with the convenience of digital of course. Im looking into something like that as well (or medium format film cam), don’t always feel like lugging the DSLR around. Have a great old nikon film camera which is way more portable but has it limitations as being film and well..old ha.

          And yes I totally agree; the camera is just a tool

          (I shoot a D90 currently so nothing fancy as well as crop sensor so definitely wasn’t demeaning the 70D! haha)

    • josh

      these look very 70’s inspired.

      • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

        Good eye Josh ;)

        • Josh

          I’m diggin’ it. It seems very rare people come back to this era (decade?) for inspiration!

    • Chris Phillips

      TSB is my favorite style site. Thanks for this post and the inspiration around black and brown.

      Would you consider clarifying what posts are and are not sponsored? I started off thinking that J&M were paying for this post. Then at the end I saw the shoes were 10 years old, so they probably would not pay to advertise them.

      I don’t particularly care if the posts are bought are not. You guys do excellent things with your clients. The thing is, it would be more comfortable to read them if the relationship between the site and the products was sharper.

      My own disclaimer: I work in digital advertising so I may be more attuned to this than most.

    • cam

      gq’s glenn o’brien said it best “you will ultimately realize that beyond the valley of rules rises the mountain of aesthetics, the peak of which (if there is one) is always shrouded in beautiful clouds of various hues”

      • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

        Excellent quote. Thx Cam.

    • Herbert Morrison

      Leave it to you to mix black & brown after you’ve said numerous times in the past how you avoid that particular combo. Excellent article and very enlightening; however you do it far better then most ever would. I was never sold on black and brown and you’ve convinced me, but I doubt I could do it this nice. Ur next next level Dan, but u already knew that. Keep em’ comin’.

      • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

        Thx Herbert! The more you study style, the easier it is to get away with breaking the ‘rules’.

        Thanks for your continued support. Can’t wait to share with you what we’ve been cooking for the past few months…

        • http://undefined TimL

          I think it’s all about color contrast combinations that can make anything work.

    • http://undefined Jeanscuffed

      All 3 fits are clean Dan (especially the turtle neck/Harley jacket combo…regal). I noticed in a post a while back (and I mean a WHILE back lol) you stated “Brown and Black: NO, Blue and Black: YES” (it went something like that). I was wondering if that statement at that time was because you truely felt that black and brown didn’t collab as well and over time you saw that it did OR were you just teaching us men the basic “rules” of colors and knew all along brown and black mixed. I’m just wondering because I state to my peers that it goes but they just dont see that it does. Great post…and I’m actually digging the pleats.

      • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

        Haha – that’s WAY back. I’ve never been a big believer in style “rules”. In my opinion, the right guy can pull-off just about anything – when done right, with swagger and grace. When I first starting blogging (style blogging in general was still very new) I thought it was important to start simple and lay out some basic ground rules for “everyday guys”. Now that we’ve evolved (and so have our readers, as well as the blog scene in general) we can start experimenting more and discussing the subtleties and nuances of style with more in depth conversations… We’re still just getting started here my man :)


        • http://undefined TimL

          Ha…. exactly. Style is what you make work. I think that a black suit with a nice blue shirt or blue pinstrips look fabulous.

    • Sergio

      In Look #2, did you guys shoot at Kenneth Hahn (State Recreation Area) Park? I highly suggest looking into that location for a shoot, it’s also a nice reminder of the East Coast. I’ll be hitting you guys (Dan, Alex and Wes) on a couple of locations that may be of use or helpful in L.A. some time today.

    • Olav Kvarme

      Nice post. Personally, I’ve found that the key to combining brown and black is the other colors around them. Think about black jeans with brown shoes: you need a “warm” color on the upper body to connect the brown shoes (dark red or green, or grey).
      If it’s black jeans with black shoes, colder colors such as blue (or grey again) works so much better. Obviously, grey is also a key color here…