There’s been a lot of talk lately about palewave – a lighter colored, ‘90-influenced aesthetic that’s grown as a reaction to modernist streetwear. So, instead of black technical jackets with black jeans, you have light-washed jeans, white minimalist sneakers, and a general reliance on white/ beige color palettes. I think the style works on the right person, but if someone dismissed it as ‘90s normcore, hipster nonsense, I wouldn’t blame them. A lot of the clothes can be pretty ugly – maybe something like “‘90s Spanish textbook style” repackaged with a bit of irony.
What makes palewave compelling isn’t necessarily about the clothes, however. It’s more about the color combinations. Most men rely on the same formula for how they dress: a lighter pair of pants is sandwiched between a dark jacket and dark pair of shoes. This allows all three items to look distinct.
Palewave is the opposite. It’s about exclusively relying on light colors and minimal contrast, which doesn’t have to be limited to just casualwear. See many of the examples here for great tailored looks.
The easiest combination is probably a tan suit with a white shirt. Although, whereas most men would reach for a navy or black tie, this requires something lighter – maybe mid-brown or cream. Similarly, an oatmeal-colored jacket can look great with khaki chinos (see Jake from The Armoury above). The key here is to get your contrast from something other than color – such as texture, pattern, or sheen. Wool, linen, and cotton all reflect light in different ways, so even if they’re in similar colors, there can be a lot of variation in visual depth.
Granted, low-contrast combinations can take a bit more time to put together – especially with sport coats, where you don’t have matching trousers. If nothing seems to work and you just want to get on with your day, try wearing a saturated blue shirt or dark tie. Either of those will work great as visual anchors when everything else is lighter.