Look, man, I make no secret of the fact that I’m a little bit hippie at heart. I hug random strangers at farmers’ markets whenever the planets direct and organize protests marches to protect the habitats of small, furry, cuddle animals with sad eyes (okay, not really either of those things… though, perhaps I should), but, when it comes to fashion anyway, it is true that I just can’t seem to help but love me a smattering of tie-dye. The problem is, rainbow spirals and the like are, anymore, a little too, well, far out. Such things have been filed away in the great costume archives of cultural consciousness (or at least are now reserved exclusively for fans of the Grateful Dead… and more power to them).
And while I do like to live on the edge, sartorially speaking, that’s a line I’m careful not to cross – the line dividing clothes from costume. But with the spirit of the sixties alive in my soul, how do I, a man of my generation, embody the ethos of those freedom-loving flower children and still manage to be modern? Well, there are definitely more forward-facing ways to don a dye job in 2016. Let’s explore a few.
Ombre & Dip-Dye
British fashion designer and couturier Alexander McQueen is famously quoted to have said, “Menswear is about subtlety. It’s about good style and good taste.” And while I believe there’s room in menswear to make some bolder statements from time to time (always in good style and taste, of course), I agree that the employment of subtlety is central, all in all. And there’s just nothing more subtle than a gradient – or “ombre,” as we call it in fashion. As explained by Wikipedia, “ombre (literally “shade” in French) is the gradual blending of one color hue to another, usually moving tints and shades from light to dark.” It is the boiled frog of fashion. (Ew, I’m leading a protest march against myself right now.) You might say, though, it is the every-man’s tie-dye. Any dude can look good in an ombre. Plus, it can be a great tool to help you draw attention to or divert attention from select areas of your body. Sometimes this style is also referred to as “dip-dye,” in reference to the method used to create such an effect… obvs.
The New Tie-Dye
Graduating up from ombre, we come upon the direct descendant of the tie-dye fashion trend our parents and/or grandparents grooved out in. This is the next of kin to those trailblazing, Haight-Ashbury iterations, may they rest in peace. The key to twenty-first century tie-dye is, again, subtlety. What that means is, avoid anything that looks as though it requires a too specific pattern (e.x. spiral, spider, sunburst, circles, target, etc.). Stick to things that use a more freeform scrunchy, crumpled, or marbled tie-dying method. Also, look for items with limited colors and/or contrast. You want either a monochromatic or an analogous duotone color scheme, meaning using only two colors that are similar to each other and close to one another on the color wheel such as green and blue. Your best bet for looking both modern and laid-back throwback is to stick to tonal tie-dyes.
Tie-dye’s eastern relative is the Japanese dyeing technique known as shibori. While the term shibori includes a fairly wide variety of methods and effects, typically it is done with indigo dye and the result is some sort of organic, handmade-looking pattern. There’s often simultaneously a structure and a looseness to a shibori dye that makes it intriguing.
The yin of dyed fabrics finds its yang in bleached fashions. Much like adding pigment to only portions of a fabric can create some interesting looks, so too can the removal of pigments.
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