The reason most men choose to wear a black suit is because it’s easy. You typically can’t screw up a black suit and black shoes because conventional wisdom suggests that everything goes with black.
While there’s some validity to that statement, it’s certainly not true that everything goes with black. What makes wearing a black suit difficult at times is having to lift it out of the mundane. A black suit and white shirt combination isn’t ever a bad move per se, it simply lacks a certain something; moxie, let’s say.
So how does one elevate the black suit, then?
Well, there are a few ways to do this and one of them is to mix in a shirt that’s a colour most wouldn’t expect. This doesn’t necessarily mean the shirt has to be bold and loud, but a subtle shift in colour can make a big difference when wearing a black suit. Today we’ll offer solutions to that problem, and give the best shirt colours to wear with a black suit (save for white, of course, because that’s obvious and everyone’s go-to when it comes to black suits).
It must be said also that when wearing a black suit, it’s even more important than it usually is to have the fit and details on point. A black suit can be fairly mundane so ensuring all the details and fit points are spot on is important, and the best way to elevate the humble black suit. With that in mind, here are our three favourite white shirt alternatives, and one to avoid, when you’re staring at your closet trying to decide what colour shirt to wear with your black suit.
Some people will say that black and blue don’t work well together; “they clash” they’ll say. That’s an erroneous statement and this person shouldn’t be allowed to offer any sort of sartorial advice. We happen to think that a black suit, whether plain or patterned is quite handsome when paired with a light blue shirt (yes, the one you’re thinking of. Probably the other shirt in your closet that’s not white).
A lot of people may not think of this pairing immediately when looking in their closets, but it happens to work quite well. The light blue is different enough to provide contrast and offset the black, while not standing out or “clashing” with the suit.
Be sure to keep that blue quite light if you can. The darker and richer the blue the more it’s going to stand out, which will in turn lead to looking like a wannabe prom king. Think of it as a dusty, or almost washed-out blue. This is an easy pairing and likely something most people already own. Give it a go next time and we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Like light blue, pink is another fine alternative to the white shirt when wearing a black suit. Pink is actually a very versatile colour when done right. Also like the light blue, the best pinks are of the lighter and dustier varieties.
Many men scoff at pink because they associate it with ladies’ clothes, which is dumb, or they think it’ll wash them out (whatever that means). Anyway, the point is that a pink shirt (the lighter the better), whether it be solid or slightly patterned, will work just fine with your black suit.
What you want to watch out for here, as I alluded to, is a big and bold pink. I find that when this happens it tends to backfire and stands out way too much. It once again takes what could be a good look into high school graduation territory. People like to wear pink as a statement colour, but it works so much better when it’s worn as an accenting colour instead. If you stick to that simple idea and wear it subtly, you’re well on your way to looking damn good.
How to Wear It: Black Suit with Vertical Stripes, Plaids and When in Doubt White
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This may seem obvious, but wearing a pattern with a plain suit is a great way to give it a little life. We’re fans of patterned shirts here, but they have to be done the right way. We like simple vertical stripes, small geometric patterns, and very small plaids. These will all add much-needed pep to your plain suit while without stealing its thunder.
We like simple vertical stripes, small geometric patterns, and very small plaids. These will all add much-needed pep to your plain suit while without stealing its thunder.
Where this can go wrong occasionally, is when the pattern is too big or bold. Small patterns will serve to accent, while larger patterns will only steal the focus away from your suit, which is exactly what we’re trying not to do. The problem most men have with patterns is that they try to make a statement with them, or associate loud shirts with being stylish. It’s important to know your sartorial limits and to stay within them.
Dressing well, especially when wearing a suit, is all about striking the right balance. If your suit is subtle, then punch it up a bit with a shirt or tie. Don’t layer on louder elements thinking it’s all going to work together; I can assure it will not. Find the right balance and the right elements for you and run with them.
Perhaps you’ve thought to yourself that the whole idea of black on black is quite sexy. It’s got a real European, suave vibe to it, you’ve told yourself. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong and that vibe is, in fact, Eurotrash. That’s a bit harsh, but the point is that a black shirt under a black suit is not something that you should be considering. The idea of it certainly sounds nice, but it never ends of looking that way.
Why? I think the lack of contrast really drags down a look. I won’t say that it can’t be done, I tend to think, though, that it’s best left to those with real sartorial chops. Realistically, any time you’re going to go dark on dark, pause and give it a second thought. As I mentioned earlier, dressing well, and especially doing so in a suit, requires striking the right balance between fits, colours, and patterns. Dark on dark, or black on black, isn’t doing that and that forces you to find that contrast and balance in some other capacity.
When in doubt, throw on your white shirt because while it may be boring, it will never fail to strike the right colour balance.