When it comes to men's suits, blue is cool – and hot – as high street retailers report the colour is the nation's new go-to hue for men's formal wear.
For the first time in John Lewis's 150-year history, blue suits are outselling black ones nearly four to one: a blue suit is sold nearly every four minutes. The department store chain has expanded its blue suit range by 30 per cent this season in response to demand.
It is a similar story at Marks & Spencer, where blue suits started outselling black in the past year and doubled its range of blue suits over the same period. It now sells two blue suits for every black one.
Tom Saunders, a buyer for men's formal wear at John Lewis, said the versatility of a blue suit was key: that while with black it was only really possible to change the weave, there were different shades of blues. The retailer's sales of bolder "statement" blue suits are up 51 per cent on last year, compared with a 20 per cent rise for classic navy.
The popularity of a brighter blue has also helped drive a 36 per cent year-on-year rise in sales of blue suits at Moss Bros, the formal menswear specialist, compared with a 28 per cent drop in black suit sales.
"Generally, men are wearing colour again," said Charles McKenna, buying director at menswear chain Slaters. "Last year, various shades of grey became very popular. This year, the cloth mills introduced blue in various shades, royal blue being extremely popular. The key point is these suits have to be in a modern shape: slimmer fit, shorter jacket, narrower trousers and teamed with tan shoes."
Slaters has expanded its blue suit range by a quarter for autumn/winter 2014, and by a third for spring/ summer 2015 ready for the wedding season. In October, it will introduce its first blue dinner suit designed for a clientele beyond the school prom.
Actor Daniel Craig's appearance in a midnight-blue tux in the 2012 Bond film Skyfall helped kick-start the trend. After previously selling a blue dinner suit on the internet, John Lewis will launch a new navy dinner suit in stores for the first time this autumn – at 15 branches – through its contemporary range, Kin.
Tony Glenville, creative director at the London College of Fashion, said that even if men were not always aware of fashion, they were taking in peripherally what other men were wearing on the red carpet and at weddings.
"Black is still important in fashion terms," he said, "but instead of being the only colour, it's taking its place in the colour group."