From candyfloss pink to sherbet lemon, sugar shades are back on the menu. Pastels have become the go-to colour palette on both the runway and the high street this season, and these flattering, candy-coloured hues are good enough to eat. Even a small helping of soft peach or pistachio green can be enough to lift your outfit from ordinary to interesting, so leave the black behind and get ready to embrace this summer’s hottest shades.
Pastel clothing is the menswear trend of the year. Here at boohooMAN, we updated classic pastels and reworked them for this season. Colour blocking, applique badges and matching accessories make our pastel collection unique.Penelope Armstrong (boohooMAN Senior Menswear Designer)
- A mini-history of pastels: from art to fashion
- Pastels in popular culture
- When should I wear pastels?
- How to wear pastels for guys?
- Men’s pastel key pieces
- Take-home message
A Mini-History of Pastels: from Art to Fashion
As the name suggests, pastels originated in the art world as a chalk-like medium for drawing and painting. These pretty, powdered pigments soon became a popular alternative to the primary coloured paints typically found on the artist’s palette. In Renaissance Italy, pastels became the medium of choice for artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
They became even more popular throughout the 18th century, so much so that it became something of a fad to have your portrait crafted in these sunny shades. And later, during the period of Enlightenment, creamy pastels became a hallmark of the Baroque and Rococo styles too.
From Marie Antoinette to Art Deco
It was Marie Antoinette, Queen of Versailles, who first popularised pastels in fashion during the late 18th century, and the serene shades have been associated with youth, warmth, and joy ever since.
Pastels regained popularity on the fashion scene during the 1920s as a response to the seriousness of WW1. At the same time, the Art Deco architectural trend gave rise to a wash of soft pastel buildings. Sunshine yellow, pale pink, and powder blue became the signature colours of Miami in particular, sweeping through the city and turning the South Beach district into a pastel paradise. Then, after the stark greyscale of WW2, pastels came back with force in 1950s America, where delicate shades of pink, green, and blue could be seen in everything from T-shirts to toilet paper.
Pastels in Popular Culture
Pastels were indelibly ingrained in the public imagination during the 1980s with the sherbet-soaked suits of detective TV series ‘Miami Vice.’ The brightly hued outfits of Sonny Crockett in particular remained wildly popular until the end of the decade.
Now, these fantastical, flowery colours are back — albeit with a little more attitude. Pastels have been popping up everywhere on the music scene — colourising videos from Jay-Z and Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Meghan Trainor to name just a few — and they’ve been making a comeback on the catwalk too. On the streets, Harry Styles, LeBron James, Jared Leto, Zayn Malik, and Kanye West are just a few of the male celebs who have been stepping out in these sugary shades.
This season’s pastels, however, have matured way beyond the traditional baby shower pinks and blues. Sophisticated hues of faded lavender, dusty peach, butter yellow, fog blue, and pistachio green are proving that pastels are for adults too. Here’s how to step stylishly into summer and introduce these soft, sunset shades into your seasonal sartorial lineup.
When Should I Wear Pastels?
Baby pink may not be the first colour that comes to mind when you think of power dressing, but you’ll be surprised by just how much a pop of pastel can elevate your work wardrobe. Use it as an accent rather than a showpiece, however, by incorporating just one pastel piece into your normal office attire.
A colourful pair of trousers looks great with a simple dress shirt, while a mint green or blush-hued tie pairs perfectly with a tan linen summer suit. Or why not break up the monotony of your favourite classic charcoal grey suit with a finely striped button-down in light pastel tones?
Eye-catching, cotton candy colours such as peachy pink and banana yellow really lend themselves to preppy springtime or laid-back leisurewear looks. Soft fabrics team perfectly with soft shades too, so opt for an on-trend powder blue tracksuit, or channel serious weekend vibes with a colour block pastel hoodie.
Casual tees in cheerful Easter egg shades are an easy way of dipping your toes into the pastel trend and will work well with your favourite pair of jeans too. Bright shades of yellow, pink, or green look great against any shade of denim, while cooler blue and purple pastels complement darker washes.
How to Wear Pastels for Guys?
- Team your pastels with streetwear pieces
- Stick to a maximum of two pastel tones per outfit
- Keep the rest of your outfit white or neutral
- Wear it as an accessory
- Try pastel tracksuit sets
1. Team your pastels with streetwear pieces
The traditional streetwear uniform has always favoured dark, serious shades such as army green, inky blue, and (of course) black. But modern urban fashion is definitely having a colourful phase, typically favouring strong primary colours such as red or blue. And this season, softer pastel shades are helping to bring colour back to the streets too.
For on-trend street style, stick to greyed-out, frostier pastels that will refresh your look while still retaining that cool, clean edge. Opt for graphic tees in icy blues, swap your khaki sweatshirt for guava green, and take a break from your black skinny jeans and pull on a pair of relaxed lavender or dusty teal chinos instead.
2. Stick to a maximum of two pastel tones per outfit
There’s no need to wear all the colours of the rainbow at once. To avoid looking Neapolitan, opt for one pop of colour at a time — two at most. Sticking to just one or two sunny shades will ensure your pastel outfit looks sophisticated rather than saccharine.
Accessorise by picking varying shades of your chosen pastel that will add definition to your outfit — a pair of pastel blue kicks, for example, or an aqua green scarf. And if you do choose to go pastel-on-pastel, pick two shades that err on the side of dusty. Think greyed-out lavender, dusky rose, or thistle purple.
3. Keep the rest of your outfit white or neutral
Let your pastel piece take centre stage by keeping the rest of your attire neutral and accessorising with black or white. Offsetting strong sunset shades with softer shades of cream, dove grey, khaki, or tan will put just the right amount of emphasis on your pastel showpiece.
Pair your sunshine yellow tee with charcoal grey trousers, make a peachy pink top pop against an all-black ensemble, or balance a pair of dusky lavender chinos with a cream shirt. If in doubt, team your pastel with crisp white for an instantly fresh, summer-ready look. And when it comes to texture and design, opt for clean cuts and minimalist silhouettes that will keep the focus solely on colour.
4. Wear it as an accessory
Pastel accessories are the perfect starting point for the monochrome man who isn’t used to colour. These flattering, easy-to-wear shades offer a foolproof way to experiment with new shades without going all-out bright.
Keep the rest of your outfit fuss-free and add a playful pop of pastel with a pale peach baseball cap, a tie-dye pastel bucket hat, a lavender scarf, or an aqua green bum bag. Or play it extra safe and keep the sunshine shades for your shoes — think lilac Vans, powder blue trainers, or peachy pink boat shoes.
5. Try pastel tracksuit sets
If you’re fully committed to the pastel trend and ready to go all-in, a co-ordinated pastel tracksuit set will give your loungewear wardrobe a serious fashion update. For this all-over pastel look, stick to softer, muted shades in block colours.
Try washed-out blues, faded lavenders, or acid-washed greens to channel vintage 80s vibes, or opt for blush-hued pinks, dusty corals, and slate greys for laid-back luxe.
Men’s Pastel Key Pieces
Men’s pastel hoodie
Pastel shades offer a more refined, timeless alternative to primary colours, making them perfect for the classic hoodie. If you don’t want to commit to an all-over sorbet shade, opt for a contemporary streetwear design that uses pastel as an accent colour on the arms or the hood. Go for a hoodie in contrasting tones, such as turquoise and white, and team with dark wash denim jeans. Stick to oversized fits with baggy silhouettes to offset the soft shades.
What to wear with a men’s pastel hoodie?
- A denim jacket
- A white oversized t-shirt
- Dark wash denim jeans
- White denim shorts
- White trainers
Men’s pastel tracksuit set
Bring your streetwear wardrobe into summer with a co-ordinating tracksuit in seasonal ice cream shades. The loose, masculine silhouette of this streetwear staple will counter the traditionally female feel of the colours. Opt for a colour block design that will give your sweats some shape and contrast while ticking off two trends this summer. Mint greens and powder blues work well against white or black, and consider a shorts tracksuit set for a seasonal sporty luxe vibe.
What to wear with a men’s pastel tracksuit set?
- A denim jacket
- A white oversized t-shirt
- White trainers
- White sunglasses
- A bucket hat
Men’s pastel shirt
Pastels are flooding the high street in a variety of shapes and style this season, but sometimes it pays to keep things simple. A pastel shirt is a versatile item that can be dressed down with light wash denim jeans or joggers, or effortlessly paired with neutral chinos or black skinnies for a more put-together look. Softer blushes and dusky hues work particularly well against black and white in gingham, striped, or checked designs. Or go for a pastel plaid shirt in contrasting lavender and black for an on-trend yet extremely wearable off-duty piece.
What to wear with a men’s pastel shirt?
- A white t-shirt
- Light wash denim jeans
- Neutral chinos
- White trainers
Men’s pastel suit
A pastel suit may seem intimidating at first, but it’s all about finding your perfect hue. A slim-fit suit in powder blue will flatter most skin tones and look effortlessly cool at any spring wedding. Feeling more daring? Stand out from the crowd in co-ordinating wool blind separates in minty green, terracotta, or salmon pink. Just remember to counterbalance those sugary tones with structured tailoring and neutral shoes.
What to wear with a men’s pastel suit?
- A white dress shirt
- Neutral shoes
- Pastel suit accessories
With a flattering, easy-to-wear pastel shade to suit every style and complexion, there’s no reason to shy away from colour this season. Pay homage to the warmer, sunnier months and set yourself apart from every other monochrome-coloured gent out there with these soft, sunset shades.