Bright colours often need reining in. Or perhaps anchoring is the right metaphor.

Left on its own, a bright jacket (for example) can dominate an outfit and seem to float above it, rather than harmonising. It strikes the viewer as an individual item rather than part of an intelligently worked ensemble. Equally, if the jacket is dark and the rest of the outfit bright, something needs to link that jacket to the brightness elsewhere.

The most effective tool for this is the pocket handkerchief.

Pick out a colour from the shirt or tie and echo it in the handkerchief – suddenly there is a connection across the lapel and everything hangs together. In the top image, for example, this navy jacket could look a little out of place with the yellow, green and pink, not to mention the shorts. It could look like he’d put on his suit jacket on by mistake. But by echoing the pink panel of the shirt in the pink handkerchief, the jacket is anchored.

The second image demonstrates this the other way around. Here a bright yellow jacket threatens to lift right off the model and float unaided. The contrast would be particularly stark were I (or someone equally undaring) to wear this jacket – as I would certainly not pair it with such bright socks, shirt or tie. I would have plainer accompaniments and need something to anchor that jacket to them. The white of the collar would do, or a blue pattern if that were in the tie or trousers.

In this image, the handkerchief is linked to the tie by its similar tone – though to be fair that job is also performed by the horse emblazoned on the breast pocket.

Lastly, the white suit is given some kind of foundation by linking a blue handkerchief to the blues in the shirt and tie. Note, though, that the blues are slightly different in each of these items – it is harmonising, not matching.


Anchoring a bright item, like a jacket, is particularly important as the warm weather strikes (particularly in recent weeks in the UK). Suddenly you’re considering linen jackets, tan jackets, white trousers or even trousers in other brights. Go with it, but every time consider how to link that summery item back to everything else.

At a simple level, when I wear my bright green jacket I always add either a blue or white handkerchief, whichever best fits the rest of the outfit. Try it.