Nature's colors grow on you

March 17, 1994|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,Sun Fashion Editor

It's the day for the wearing of the green; a day when the fashion police allow color mismatches in favor of ethnic solidarity and a festive air.

All over town, you'll see men sporting shamrocks, green ties and socks. Those who take Irishness really seriously will turn out their bright green sport coats. Some of them got an early start last Saturday when the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick gathered for lunch.

"We're the largest Irish organization in the state and oldest Irish organization in America," says outgoing president of the Friendly Sons Bill McNamara. The luncheon, which benefits the Little Sisters of the Poor, annually draws 900 men dressed in various degrees of greenness. "Joe Bank is a popular source for green jackets," he says, "but I got my original from the Oxford Shop years ago."

"The most popular look for the occasion," says Mr. McNamara, "is a green jacket, black trousers and white button-down with a custom-designed tie." And very natty it is too.

Greens are gaining as a fashion color in menswear. Unfortunately, those chemically induced bright greens with no counterpart in nature that so many men already own and wear on the golf course are not part of that picture.

The greens of fashion are born of nature, shades taken from herbs, grasses and plants. They are natural derivatives -- celery, moss, sage, olive, laurel -- not just in their fresh spring state but sun-faded and parched just as in the wild.

"You can buy into green, because it's in the ecology color picture for the next five or six years," says Arnold Borenstein, men's fashion director for Hecht's.

"From suits to boxers, ecology is a strong issue and green keeps the consumer involved somehow," he says.

There's a greening at the retail level, too. A seedling is planted for every Timberland item sold at Hecht's.

Beigy and rustic neutrals in linens and cottons will dominate this summer's menswear, so greens, likewise, will need to be softened. The way is with vegetable greens rather than industrial, vat-strength shades, which are too harsh to pair with naturals.

You will see some strong nautical greens updated in traditional color blocking, says Tom Julian, spokesman for the Fashion Association, which represents menswear manufacturers.

"As a result, rather than red, white and blue you may see green, navy and white.

"People had been a little hesitant about green as a fashion color, but then it saturated the suit market starting about 1991 and carried through for about three seasons. That was in olive and taupe shades for traditional business suits," says Mr. Julian. "Today, in softer unconstructed pieces and separates, greens tend to the softer pastel shades."

There is a green awakening, says Harvey Hyatt, owner of Hyatt & Co. men's shops.

"The greenish khakis and mustards really work with the naturals. What is surprising, however, is that this spring we brought in a suit in green, brown and white houndstooth. It moved out of the stores where we would have expected resistance to anything other than a traditional black and white check."

At Emporio Armani, the directional designer's secondary line, a sun-drenched Mediterranean palette saturates relaxed cuts and loosely woven fabrics. The bits of green are so subtle, they could be cause for argument.

That's where fashion and festivity part company.

Chances are, proponents of shamrock green will never be happy with dusty eucalyptus.

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