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New neutrals by Hannah Rochell of En Brogue

There was a time when wearing neutrals never involved including a print of any sort in your outfit - it was all buff block shades of beige and grey, or black and white, or, under special circumstances, jeans and white T-shirt could count at a push. But somewhere along the line, we learnt how to embrace prints without feeling OTT, and so the new neutral - AKA leopard print - was born. 

Leopard print is once more a staple in many women’s wardrobes, and with good reason. The one time reserve of tacky fictional soap characters like Coronation Street’s Bet Lynch and Eastenders’ Pat Butcher, we’ve reclaimed leopard as the easy-to-wear sartorial joy that strong women have loved since the dawn of civilization. There is a stele of the ancient Egyptian princess Nefertiabet wearing an asymmetric leopard print gown, and the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, Seshat, is often pictured sporting it too. Chinese mythology’s goddess Xi Wangmu wears the tail of a leopard (I don’t condone wearing actual leopard, obviously), Christian Dior was the first designer to put it on the catwalk (no pun intended) in 1947, and it’s now loved by everyone from Beyonce to Michelle Obama.

So how is it a neutral? Leopard is, by its very nature, a form of camouflage. The rosettes that form a leopard’s colouring keep it well hidden when it is hunting for prey. (Note: they’re not actually spots - if you want a dotty animal print try cheetah for a slightly more minimal effect.) The obvious thing to pair leopard with - as I have done here - is other safari-friendly shades of khaki, beige, cream and caramel. I particularly love the warm buttery ‘latte’ colour leather of these Yogi Finn Negative Heel shoes, which come with the added bonus of improving your posture while you stalk with a design that promotes a “heel first” foot action.

These unisex style shoes, as well as the boxy shape of my jacket and trousers, are a great way of avoiding those out-dated negative connotations of leopard print, too (if that’s what you want to do - if your desire is to wear it figuring hugging and top-to-toe I say go for it - it’s just not for me). I also tend to steer clear of red and pink, but there’s no doubt that leopard is an ideal companion for bold, bright colours - personally, I prefer apple green or tangerine. Its new neutral status means that leopard also acts as a backdrop for other prints if you’re feeling like making a statement. In my opinion, there’s nothing better to pair it with than navy and blue Breton stripes, which just so happens to be on equal new neutral footing with our favourite feline pattern. Or of course, you could always wear it with more leopard...

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