colourful mens clothes sharp
New Yorkers aren’t afraid to wear colour all year round. Photography: @watchingnewyork

Jonathan Seidler is an Australian writer. This is his column for Esquire.

A few months ago, I started a new job. The role requires me to be in a physical office for a minimum of two-to-three days per week, which is very exciting for someone who has spent the majority of the last few years as a freelancer, because it means I need to Get Dressed. That’s not to say that I’ve been streaking starkers through my suburb since the onset of the pandemic, but my more exciting winter clothes – the type I bought last time I worked in a physical office – have been languishing in the depths of my wardrobe in favour of tracksuits, hoodies and ugg boots. Now I get to wheel them all out again, and in the process, attract a lot of commentary from my new workmates. 

To be clear, I’m not wearing anything particularly ‘out there’; I do not own any Thom Browne kilts or fresh-off-the-runway looks. What I am wearing, however, is a lot of colour. In particular, wintery stuff, like colourful sweaters, coats and knits. 

Over the years, I have acquired these items in all shades of the rainbow; bright fuschia, lavender, iridescent green and speckled mustard just to name a few. At a time of year when entire train carriages are filled with guys wearing puffers (usually Patagonia or Helly Hansen) and one of two colours (navy blue or black), my pieces pop like it’s nobody’s business. And every day I wear one of these items into the office, like clockwork, someone says something about it.

Interestingly, quite a few of my commentators are men. And rather than the typical roasting our tall poppy culture is famous for, I’ve started fielding private Slack enquiries from other guys wondering where my fun garments are from. My most common answer? Overseas. 

Australian brands do not have a problem with making exciting, colourful clothing. Yet I struggle to find these kinds of items (my wife calls them “statement pieces”) at an affordable price point. Yet none of the clothes I purchased, especially while living in London, were from particularly luxe, cutting-edge establishments. In fact, most of them came from stores we have in our own shopping malls, like Uniqlo, Mango, Zara and Cos. 

My fuschia sweater, which is like a wearable compliment magnet, from Uniqlo U, the directional Christophe Lemaire-designed Uniqlo line. It cost less than $100 when I bought it in London a couple of years ago. Uniqlo U is also available in Australia. Here though, the colours on offer are limited. I’ll let you guess what they are (no shade to Uniqlo; I am still a loyal customer). Cos often has at least one effervescent item per line (this season it’s green), but that’s only before you compare it to the brighter winter ranges that fill their international stores. 

Uniqlo U’s latest collection is very chic, and very neutral.
I will be directing my colleagues to this speckled green jumper from Cos.

You could put this down to a failure of imagination, but the people who make choices about what these stores stock are clever. They have obviously examined the market and realised that cream chinos, navy blue jeans and black coats will always sell. I have a friend who used to be a buyer for a store like these, and she told me as much many years ago. Although as a collective, Australian men have become slightly more adventurous with fashion choices since then, it doesn’t seem like the strategy of those who provide us with in-store options has changed. 

Don’t get me wrong: we allow ourselves more colour in summer, particularly in the boardshort and party shirt department. But when it comes to winter, we retreat to our blacks and blues. But is this because when options at stores regular guys like to shop at are limited, the idea that ‘this is what men should wear’ is reinforced? It’s that, or you spend your entire week’s salary on a sweater because you fancy something that isn’t muted within an inch of its life.

This publication has dedicated many pages to the marvels of the Australian fashion industry. And it’s fabulous that my mates have mostly all embraced chunky white sneakers and slightly looser trouser silhouettes. But if the clandestine Slack enquiries from my workmates prove anything, it’s that the appetite for colour clearly exists among guys in this country, even if it’s somewhat latent. Until fuschia sweaters start hitting the racks en masse, I guess I’ll be sitting here, in my physical office, raking in all the compliments.

Jonathan Seidler is an Australian writer, father and nu-metal apologist. He is the author of a memoir called It’s A Shame About Ray and a novel titled All the Beautiful Things You Love, which is out now. Jonno has some interesting things to say about music, fatherhood, Aussie culture, mental health, problematic faves and the social gymnastics of group chats. This is his column for Esquire. You can see all of his previous columns here.