By Guest Writer
on 3.24.09

say-no-to-black-suitsRecently, I found myself reading the latest issue of one of my favorite men’s magazines and scratching my head. It’s not often that I disagree with many of its suggestions, but in this matter, I cannot comply. In a (popular) section where the magazine offers ideas for filling out your business wardrobe, it states that a black suit means business. It’s not that I feel you can’t wear black at the office, it’s just that I’m here to tell you that it wouldn’t be the color I would suggest first. Let’s discuss.

Many things come to my mind when thinking about a black suit. Some things good – like elegance and James Bond. Some things bad – like funerals and penguins (am I the only one who’s put off by penguins?). My question to you, Gear Patrol reader, is this: is that black suit your best option for the office?

Why not, say you? The answer simply is versatility.

I have long believed the black suit to be a great piece to own as part of your wardrobe, but it’s not the one to build your wardrobe around. Why not, say you? The answer is simple: versatility. During my days at the haberdashery, customers would often ask about the “staple” suit in their wardrobe being black. My response came in the form of the simple question, “what color of shoes and belt will you wear?” Pretty obvious, huh?

Think about this for a minute. If you only had one suit that you could wear and that suit was black, how could you possibly change your look, let alone on a daily basis? Your only options would be to change your shirt and tie because you’d be relegated to choosing between black shoes… and well, black shoes.

gray-suitConversely, think about the color combinations you can build around dark charcoal, medium grays, and dark navy suits. With those, you can wear your favorite black shoes, but you can also choose burgundy, oxblood, or cordovan, and most other shades of brown depending on the color of the suit and the season. In addition, there are some shirts and ties that simply look better with blue/gray suits – especially when paired with shades of brown in your shoes and belt. Don’t misunderstand me, though; there is definitely a place in your clothing repertoire for a black suit. A well-fitted black suit with a crisp white shirt is simply one of the best and most classic looks a man can wear. I just recommend that you start (or update) your business wardrobe by focusing on blues and grays. Save that black suit of yours for formal affairs like black-tie weddings, evening events, or special nights out with your significant other.

Before you jump all over me, saying, “I love my black suit and I look damn good in it, too,” consider this… I’m talking about versatility here (something we mere mortals have to consider when budget is of concern).

If you have the luxury of owning more than 3 or 4 suits, then the black suit is an essential item for your wardrobe. Even then, choose a black cloth that has a subtle pattern to it, like a thin stripe or herringbone, instead of solid black worsted wool. However, if you only have three suits that you rotate between, then a black suit is not one that I would recommend. Actually, I’m of the opinion that one of the best looking and most versatile outfits you could wear in a business setting is a medium gray suit with dark brown shoes. All this to say, I promise you’re going to find yourself with more options by ditching the black suit for a dark navy or gray one.

…if you only have three suits that you rotate between, then a black suit is not one that I would recommend

I understand that talking about a black suit like this can be a bit controversial to some. Let’s be honest though – the concept of “not wearing black suits” isn’t new. One need only look to our friends across the Atlantic. The Brits, the Italians, and the French have been doing this for years and no one can deny the Europeans and their suits.

Okay okay, perhaps emulating the French is a bit much…

Suit Shown: Calvin Klein Two Button Grey Stripe Slim Fit Wool Suit ($525)

Disagree? Share your comments, suggestions, and thoughts below.

Send your style questions and tips (some of which will be shared on Gear Patrol) to helpmystyle@gearpatrol.com.