Matt Preston's outre outfits are coloured for success

When it comes to men's suits there are three colours to choose from: navy, black and a few shades of grey. OK, if you're Tom Wolfe maybe you can get away with white.

Not everyone agrees with sticking to such a limited palette. MasterChef's Matt Preston is a case in point.

"It important to remember that dowdy colours for menswear – just like the tie – are a comparatively recent invention," Preston told Executive Style. "If you look at Australian flash dressing of the 1870s you'll see that we had our own unique style back then – or we did, until the rather dowdy conformity of Victorian England obliterated everything else. Prior to that, blokes dressed with panache, as 600 years of portraiture and painting will show you."

Master dresser

As one of the three judges on Network Ten hit MasterChef, Preston has become known for his colourful suits and cravats. Last week he rocked a pastel lavender ensemble. The week before he slipped into an electric purple three-piece and wandered around a Melbourne fair ground.

Preston says his suits are made by Melbourne tailor Pino Prinzi, of Prinzi Collections in Carlton.

Dowdy colours for menswear – just like the tie – are a comparatively recent invention.

Matt Preston

"Before the beginning of each season I look at book after book of fabrics with our wardrobe mistress Charmaine de Pasquale and order in those we want, as the unique stuff often has to come from the UK or Italy," says Preston. "The choice available has grown dramatically in the last six years but it still takes a bit of work to find interesting stuff – like the softer dusty colours and pastels we've majored in this year.

"As any student of fashion history will tell you, this palette was popular in both the '20s and '80s – as you'll see if you watch The Great Gatsby or Miami Vice – so I'm not really breaking any ground here.

"We'll also discuss the cuts we want to introduce; whether it's long frock coats and drape coats such as in 2014, or the shawl-collared double breasted waistcoats of this season. This year I've also started to break up the looks by wearing jeans along with a more formal jacket/waistcoat combo."



Fashion forward

Preston reckons his MasterChef attire is a direct reference to the clothes he's been wearing since he was a 16-year-old punk rocker on London streets. "I'd baulk at calling it an affectation," he says. "It's far less of an affectation than wearing a tie, which really has no point at all. I just wear what I want to wear without paying too much heed to the dictates of current fashion trends. Having said that, this is my business attire; when I'm mowing the lawn or going to watch the kids' sport you're more likely to find me in jeans, a work shirt and Carhartt jackets than a lilac three piece!"

He admits some of the MasterChef wardrobe choices have been a little over the top, even for him - particularly the loud plaids from a couple of years ago. And he says his partner wasn't a fan of the argyle golf pants from last season, but she generally approves of his unique style. "She loves it (most of the time) – it's who I've always been - but I've learnt never to dress bigger than the event I'm going to. Style is one thing, but respecting your hosts is just as important.

Punk rock chic

"Having said all this, it is always how you wear things that matters and as an old punk rocker I've never really been a big fan of conforming to what the media thinks a bloke should wear. If Aussie men relied on the media, we'd all still be wearing ties and pale blue shirts with charcoal suits to work. And how dull would that be!"

"I'm delighted to see how far men's fashion has come in the last eight years and how men have become so much more adventurous about the colours and patterns they'll wear. Whether it's a floral shirt, block colour pants or checked suit - these were things that it was unthinkable for Aussie men to wear a decade ago and yet today they are everywhere. They were also things that I was lambasted for wearing when I wore them in 2011, 2010 and 2013 respectively!"


Double the jaffles, double the immunity pins, quadruple the fun... @masterchefau

A photo posted by Matt Preston (@mattscravat) on


Royal mystique

Stylist Louise Edmonds, who writes the Stitched Up blog for Executive Style, says colour is very powerful when it comes to portraying emotion, and that our primal instincts are important in relation to selecting suit colour.

"The obvious safe colours we see in men's suiting are various shades of blue, black, grey and brown, which all have different emotion attached to them," Edmonds says.

"Blue is clearly the overwhelming favourite for men; it represents a feeling of trustworthiness, dependability and commitment."

Edmonds says a purple suit evokes a sense of the mystic and royal, and it is often worn by creative or eccentric types. "Designers who commonly release men's collections in purple are Raf Simons and Canali."

Man about town

Festival director Leo Schofield is known as a dapper man about town, but says he dresses conservatively when it comes to suits. "I stick to the more serviceable colours with my suits, because a lot of my clients are quite elderly. Would I wear a mauve three-piece? Christ no!"

Schofield says he gets his dose of colour through his choice of shirts. "I have about 80 of them, plus a lot of colourful ties and pocket squares to give me a bit of a lift. At the moment I'm wearing a small check shirt with a brown Harris Tweed jacket from Brooks Brothers, a happy blue pocket square and a bright orange tie."

Is there room for colour in your suit ensemble? Have a look through our inspiration gallery at the top of the page and let us know in the Comments section.