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Ton Sur Ton: A Men’s Guide to Mastering Tonal Dressing

Choose one colour and wear it well, with Port's monochromatic tips

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Successful people are often creatures of habit. Steve Jobs, through years of iPod revisions and MacBook redesigns, stuck to his trademark black rollneck and blue denim. Barack Obama, during his presidency, pared his wardrobe down to a series of navy and grey suits. Tom Wolfe's all-white finery was almost as famous as his writing; while they didn't call Johnny Cash ‘the man in black’ for nothing.

A signature shade can be a whimsical choice, and such dedication is certainly not within everybody's reach. But there is a strong argument for choosing a handful of colours and wearing them ton sur ton, or tone on tone.

Here, we explore the world of tonal dressing, with striking examples of how it can be achieved properly.

Subtle Neutrality

Keeping to pale shades of off-white, grey and beige is often more appealing than committing to a bold primary colour – though it comes with obvious risks when indulging in a glass of barolo and a good pasta puttanesca. Mix different shades with relaxed silhouettes to avoid any trite ‘man from Del Monte’ comparisons, taking care to cover your lap with a napkin during meal times.

Going Green

If colour is indeed your thing, you could do worse than to opt for the hue of the season: sage green. As with any tonal ensemble, it pays to mix in different shades and textures, whereas accoutrements needn't be colour-matched. White sneakers or black dress shoes can add depth, while accessories should always have a slight contrast.