Robert asks:

“White pants on men. Yay or Nay?”

Great question Robert. Perfect for summer!

The short answer is yay.

The longer answer…

White pants for men is what I categorize as a seasonal trend. A piece of clothing that you want to restrict to certain seasons, like puffer jackets in the winter. Sure, you could wear a puffer jacket when it’s warm out, but you’ll look weird.

White pants brighten up a look so much that it almost begs to be worn in spring and summer.

So how do you pull it off?

To answer that question, we’re going to look to the Italians for some inspiration. (Or at least, the stylish men in Italy going to Pitti Uomo.)

Here are 3 rules to help you pull of white pants effortlessly.

RULE #1: START WITH A NEUTRAL OUTFIT 

LEFT TO RIGHT: PICS VIA TOMMY TON, GQ, SARTORIALIST
LEFT TO RIGHT: PICS VIA STOCKHOLM STREETSTYLE, GQ, SARTORIALIST

Most guys look at a pair of white pants and get stuck trying to figure out what to wear with it.

An easier way to incorporate white pants into your look?

Use The Swap Trick.

The Swap Trick is simple:

  1. You start with an outfit you know looks good
  2. You swap out the pants in that outfit for a pair of white pants

If you notice in the three examples above, outside of their white pants, the men are wearing all neutral colors. We’re going to do the same. We’re going to start with a neutral colored outfit, then swap in a pair of white colored pants.

The Swap Trick is great because:

  1. We don’t have to think of an outfit from scratch.
  2. It’s gradual. We already know the outfit we’re starting with looks good, so this lets us test out new trends and colors, like white pants.
  3. If we don’t like it, we can simply revert to the outfit we started with before the swap.

Let’s try it out:

Start with an outfit composed of neutrals (black, navy, brown, olive, and gray).

While white is technically a neutral color, we’re going to treat it a little different in this case because it’s so bright. Treat it like a pop color. Because white pants aren’t worn often, it stands out a lot more. Just like if you were wearing bright yellow socks, you don’t want to overdo it.

look1800px
COTTON LINEN BLAZER: FOLK, $330 | IRISH LINEN SHIRT: J.CREW, $79 | CLUBMASTER SUNGLASSES: RAY-BAN, $150 | SILK TWILL POCKET SQUARE: LANVIN, $70 | COTTON CHINOS: POLO RALPH LAUREN, $145 | INVISIBLE SOCKS: FALKE, $15 | SUEDE BUCKS: J.CREW, $198

The outfit on the left is a solid outfit composed of neutral colors. All we have to do is swap out the gray chinos for a white pair.

That’s it!

That’s the beauty of The Swap Trick. It takes out the guess-work of trying to incorporate a unique piece into your wardrobe.

White pants aren’t just reserved for dressy styles. You can wear white pants in your casual looks as well in the form of white denim.

look2800px
STRIPED COTTON-JERSEY T-SHIRT: SATURDAYS NYC, $70 | 484 RINSED WHITE JEANS: J.CREW, $125 | BROWN BURNISHED LEATHER BELT: PAUL SMITH, $175 | 1970S CHUCK TAYLOR ALL STARS: CONVERSE, $80

While The Swap Trick makes wearing white pants easy, there are a couple of things you should watch out for.

RULE #2: AVOID WEARING HEAD TO TOE WHITE

PHOTO VIA GLAMOUR
PHOTO VIA GLAMOUR

White is such an intense color that you should be cautious about wearing too much of it.

Trends and colors come off stylish when they’re seamlessly incorporated, which is why I love starting with a neutral outfit and doing a simple swap of the pants. Wearing too much of a trend or color comes off like you’re peacocking. So save white blazers and jackets for dark pants. 

Also be careful of wearing white shirts with white pants. 

look3800px

Even with a dark-colored jacket (above, left), it can come off as too much white. A small tweak, like opting for a fine pale blue striped shirt (above, right), is enough contrast to take down the brightness.

Finally, just as with tops, I recommend avoiding white shoes. White shoes will blend in with your pants and give off a weird white onesie effect. To avoid this, go for off-white or darker colors. Brown shoes go particularly well with white pants.

RULE #3: LIKE ANY TREND, LESS IS MORE

PHOTO VIA GQ BY TOMMY TON
PHOTO VIA GQ BY TOMMY TON

Remember that white pants are a seasonal trend. Like any trend, less is more.

Piling on more colors, trendy items, accessories also screams “Look at me!!!” And there’s nothing that ruins a look more that looking like you’re trying too hard for attention.

It’s hard not to notice the yellow shoes in the photo above, and I’m sure that’s his intention. But does the outfit really need it?

Try this out.

Cover his shoes with your hands and take a look at his outfit.

Now imagine it with a beautiful pair of brown suede brogues, like these:

PRINCETON SUEDE BROGUES: OFFICINE CREATIVE, $685
PRINCETON SUEDE BROGUES: OFFICINE CREATIVE, $685

Would he still look good?

Yes!

In fact, I’d argue it would be even more stylish because the brown suede shoes would blend so beautifully with his look.

It’s like watching a movie where the special effects are so glaringly obvious that that’s all you notice. You want elements of your look to blend and work together, not be distractions.

Great style is invisible.

And when people can’t put a finger on what makes you look so stylish, your style comes off as effortless.

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peter@theessentialman.com'
Author

Hi, I'm Peter. I spent 11 years as a menswear designer here in NYC. Now, I help some of the most successful men look really good as a Private Personal Stylist and writer of The Essential Man. You can learn more about what I do by clicking here