Tonal layering is the art of playing with the same hue, and a trend that’s quite popular in menswear, but not celebrated enough. Here’s your guide to perfecting your tones, at least fashionably.
Tonal layering, the best-kept dressing secret in the world of menswear, is also a trend that has been unknowingly followed by many. You don’t need to be a fashion enthusiast to try tonal dressing. Some time, in the distant past, wearing the same hue or varieties of it from head to foot was seen as an overly simplistic way of getting dressed. Now, it’s a strategy frequently used by celebrities like David Beckham, Ryan Reynolds, Kanye West, and Timothee Chalamet. It’s so slick that you probably haven’t even noticed them doing it.
Wearing a single colour from top to bottom sounds easy, yet, it requires some thought. Ongoing seasons are taking over with tonal looks, so you can head there for inspiration. And for everything else, here’s a curated guide on the know-hows of the trend.
Tonal dressing, when done well, is about mixing up textures and tones that look like they were almost made to sit alongside each other. If you already wear the same colour on repeat, you’re already a part of the Tonal Club. All you need to do is just switch up how you combine your pieces in the same get-up. Once your one-colour outfit is sorted, you’ll instantly look and feel put together.
Tonal layering refers to playing with different tones of the same hue in the layering of an outfit, while transitional layering means using pieces that can go from summer to winter without having to throw them out completely. “Oversized jacket, a shirt, or a stole are some key pieces to nail it,” says designer Jenjum Gadi. “You can go for any colour that you are comfortable with, as long as the colour is from the same family or the same tone. Firstly, kurta, pyjama, and bundi, secondly, printed T-shirt, plain jacket, and striped pants, and lastly, overcoat, sweater, scarf, and pants in shades of one colour. Maybe in grey, or brown,” he recommends.
Gadi’s rules to follow include choosing the tones that are three to four tones darker or lighter than each other. Avoid a very similar tone if it’s not the exact tone, otherwise it might look sloppy. The layering trend is the most effective and easiest way to repeat your wardrobe, and it can turn the simplest pieces into very stylish pieces.
Menswear fashion is being paid attention to by some excellent designers, who are breaking the barriers of the same old palettes and cuts with newer inventions. With menswear designers focusing on tonal layering in many silhouettes and styles, there has been a sudden shift in demand for the same. Men are now happy to experiment, and are taking tonal layering very seriously. “For example, a tone-on-tone kurta-pyjama with a matching jacket of the same tone is a huge win for any Indian wedding function. Even for brunch, we have seen men opt for white-on-white, or a light tone jacket with similar shade trousers to complete the look,” says Shilpa Sethi, the founder and curator of curating platform Dapper.
Celebrity stylist Amandeep Kaur recommends, “An oversized blazer in beige can be tonal layered in a million ways. For men, it can be layered over a brown shirt or an eggshell tee, with khaki chinos. Tonal layering looks extremely elegant and chic when done with neutral colours like beige, grey, black, whites, nudes, etc.”
We ask Kaur to share some looks. “Firstly, off-white jeans with an eggshell jumper and beige utility shacket, with white sneakers and a pair of sunglasses. Secondly, pastel yellow sweatsuit with a khaki trench coat and chunky pastel colour block sneakers, and lastly, a powder blue tee under a navy blue blazer with icy blue jeans, and electric blue loafers. If you want to make a strong statement, you can try pastels like powder blues, softer yellows,” she recommends.
The rules while following tonal layering are quite simple. Choose the right shades of the same colour, and add subtle contrast colours in accessories for maximum effect. Don’t add neon to tonal layering or pick too many different tones of the same colour. Restrict it to three or four tones, or else it might look too overpowering. Finally, let’s just say tonal’s the ultimate party trick.