Pick any piece of menswear and there’s a solid chance it’s done a tour in the armed forces. The T-shirt: issued to sailors as underwear in the late 19th century. Bomber jackets: designed, as the name suggests, to keep pilots warm in high altitude cockpits. The trench coat: now you’re not even trying.
So it’s understandable that the military’s preferred colour palette is equally perennial. Admittedly, it helps that khaki, in particular, is basically neutral, which means you can pair it with just about anything. “Khaki looks good with black, so dress it down with black denim,” suggests James Lawrence, head of menswear design at ASOS. White and brown make equally happy bunkmates if you feel like toeing the parade ground line, while flanking it with blue makes for a decidedly modern pairing.
Of course, despite the appeal of green’s in-the-ranks heritage, there are also several ways to make the shade less uniform. Here’s how to wear this season’s key colour without looking like a soldier (unless you really want to, that is).
Menswear may be moving in a roomier direction, but leave baggy greens in the barracks. “While there is still a strong army fatigue trend, it has also been seen as part of a slimmer silhouette,” says Damien Paul, head of menswear at MatchesFashion.
Burberry notably took the shade in a typically suave direction in recent seasons, with figure-hugging suits just green enough to stand you apart from your colleagues. Channel the look with a perfectly tailored two-piece in cotton (avoid country materials like tweed, unless you’re actually going on a pheasant hunt), grounding your tailoring with a sky blue or chambray shirt and brown shoes.
It’s strange to think there was a life before camouflage. Once described as a fleeting trend, now a menswear mainstay, the military motif is the most standout way to go green this side of a Toyota Prius.
Whether you’re wearing camo on T-shirts, trousers, jackets or coats, keep the rest of your look pared-back and simple to allow the pattern to stand front and centre.
Monochrome is always a solid choice for a tonal look, especially in autumn, but when all-black-errrthing feels a little drab and all-white feels a little P Diddy, allow green to step in.
“Khaki is surprisingly easy to wear, and looks great head-to-toe, providing you mix different shades,” says Lawrence. When colours can’t clash, experimenting with print and shape is suddenly simpler to pull off.
Even the most edited-down outerwear rotation is likely to contain a few coats and jackets that started out on the frontline. Fortunately, the breadth of styles available means it’s possible to sidestep the drill-sergeant vibes.
Bombers, trench coats and field jackets in smooth, shiny fabrics are decidedly more modern than tactile pea coats in wool and perfectly offset everything from white chinos to black jeans.
If you’re not quite ready to enlist a full green look, consider flanking your existing tailoring rotation with suit separates. “Olive green is a great alternative to the ubiquitous navy and grey tones,” says Giles Farnham, head of the River Island Style Studio.
Because the shade is lesser-spotted, and a touch less formal, you can afford to break some other rules, too. “Try [a deconstructed blazer] with a Cuban or granddad collar shirt for something that oozes relaxed style.” That’s two trends ticked off without breaking a sweat.
Cargo trousers are the Lazarus-like resurrection that no one saw coming, and their popularity has gone on to spur green shades of everything from chinos to denim. This is likely because the dark fabric allows whites to pop, making them your minimalist sneaker’s new best friend.
“Trousers are an easy way to invest in green without going overboard,” says Farnham, who recommends switching in chinos wherever you’d normally pick denim. They smarten up well, too. “The neutral tone will match easily with any shoe, from a white sneaker to a black penny loafer.”
Military-inspired knitwear sounds all kinds of scratchy, but fortunately, it’s only the colour we’re after here. Rationing shades of green to simple layering pieces, especially when worn under outerwear or tailoring, also means there’s room to play with bolder shades.
“Try a crew neck jumper in emerald green paired with jeans, a white button-down shirt and a dark jacket,” says Farnham. The jewel tone, which works great with a darker skin tone, catches eyes without people asking where your pot of gold is.
As a great frog once said, it’s not easy being green, but we’d be inclined to disagree, having browsed this season’s range of Kermit-tinged accessories.
Hats, scarves, watches and bags are all solid ways to add a subtle pop to a safer outfit, particularly when it’s important not to fall out of line in a smart office setting.