What grey flannel pants are to winter, off-white linen and cotton pants are to summer. You can wear them every day of the season without ever regretting it. This versatility is one good reason to have several such pants. Another is that they show dirt and stains easily, so you’ll want plenty in reserve when some need to be replaced or cleaned. Finally, there are many different shades of off-white, and it’s good to have a wide selection.
The photo below shows what I would consider the three different kinds of off-white: grayish white, brownish white, and yellowish white.
I’ve put these next to three common summer sport coats: brown, beige, and blue.
The most useful off-white shade to have is brownish white - what I would call “natural”, the color of undyed linen. You can see it in the middle of the photo above. This is a just-right happy medium between the too-warm color of yellowish white and too-cool color of grayish white. If you were to get only one pair of linen trousers, you would want these.
The yellowish trousers (you’ll see this color referred to as “cream” or “ivory”) are the least versatile. To my eye their yellowness draws too much attention when worn with a neutral-colored jacket like the one in the middle of the photo. But yellow is a complementary color to blue, and summer blue (Neapolitans call this “Naples blue”; bloggers call it “blogger blue”) is vibrant enough to hold its own above cream trousers.
Finally, grayish white (retailers usually call this “stone”) looks sheepish next to bright blue, but is nice next to navy or brown. Usually you’ll find stone pants in cotton, while linen and linen blends will be natural, cream, or pure white.
Pure white is a handy trouser to have as well, but the cleaning challenges here are truly daunting. Perhaps because of this fact, you never wear them to the office. But for a boat ride or summer cocktail party, white trousers are just the thing. There may be many off whites, but there’s only one pure white.
Quality content, like quality clothing, ages well. This article first appeared on the No Man blog in May 2015.