September 05, 2016

Black Suit Combinations

Though not as easily pulled off as ubiquitous – mostly thanks to their versatility – grey or navy men’s suits, a well-styled black two-piece is a thing of undeniable sartorial gravitas. 

Unsure of how to style yours? From colour combinations to finding the perfect coordinating accessories, we’re here to show you exactly why black is the new, well, black.

In this post we will cover:

  • What shirt colours work best with a black suit
  • What shoes to wear with a black suit
  • The difference accessories to enhance your look

Spoiled by too-often seen over-long trousers, ill-fitting jackets and mismatched colour combinations, the impact a sleek black suit can create has often been overlooked. Not only does it never date, the black suit can be styled and mixed and matched to suit almost any occasion. Black-tie dress code? Slip a white shirt and bow tie on with a smart three-piece. Monday-morning meeting? A black jacket and light-blue shirt looks polished and professional. Though it may require a little more thought, a beautifully cut, perfectly tailored men’s black suit that fits like a glove should be a staple in every refined gent’s wardrobe.

Black suit combinations image

Complexion
After cut, an important thing to consider when piecing together your black suit is how it works alongside your colouring and complexion. As a general rule, those with pale skin and fair hair would do well to opt for a shirt that eases the contrast between light and dark – grey, light blue or warmer pastel shades work nicely. Those with darker skin tones have much more flexibility and can play around with myriad colour combinations, from muted to bold.

Colour combinations

When building your outfit, nailing the colour combination of shirts and ties for black suits is key; anything overly saturated, garish or bright in colour just won’t work. That’s not to say colour can’t work at all, in fact, some of the most well put-together men’s suits involve unique colour combinations or pops of complementary hues. Take heed of our advice to showcase your sartorial nous:

The Black Suit and Blue Shirt
The age-old adage states that navy and black should never be worn together, but we’re here to attest that this could in fact be one of the sleekest tonal combinations around. Hinting at dressiness without the formality of, say, a white shirt, this ensemble makes light work of smartening up in a contemporary way.

Black suit black shirt

Alternatively, the black-suit-light-blue-shirt combination remains one not to be sniffed at. Perfect for the office, it looks entirely appropriate for meeting clients, and works for after-work drinks too.

Black shirt light blue shirt
Image Source: Raymondnext.com

The Black Suit and Grey or Silver Shirt
A beautiful colour combination that works for any skintone, a black suit and silver or grey shirt is a sartorial go-to. Not quite as stark a contrast as white and black, it’s smart without being harsh; a tonal tie and silver accessories will pull the look together effortlessly.

Black suit silver shirt

The Black Suit and Pink Shirt
Softening against black, a pink shirt is surprisingly flattering and easier to pull off than you think. In the same ballpark as a light-blue Oxford button down, the look is smart but not stuffy, making it a safe bet for work or with jeans for smart-casual dress codes. Alternatively, a light or pastel-pink shirt makes a dapper alternative to white when your RSVP calls for something a little smarter.

Black suit pink shirt

The Black Suit and White Shirt
John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, Will Smith in Men in Black, James Bond… some of the most iconic scenes in modern film have featured a black suit and crisp white shirt – a testament to the ensemble’s enduring impact. The ultimate way to smarten up for a formal affair, this combination gives off a certain air of masculinity that can’t be achieved with any other combination; it’s suave, sharp and slick.

Black suit white shirt
Image Source: Dailymail.co.uk

Step it up even further with the tuxedo. The main difference between a tux and a run-of-the-mill black suit and white shirt is the presence of satin on the lapels and trims, and the bow tie or cummerbund/vest worn with it. The very last word in debonair sophistication, the tux is the reserve of the elite of social engagements and we’d argue that a gent looks at his very best in a beautifully crafted tuxedo.

Black tuxedo

The Black Suit and Printed Shirt
Now here’s where things get interesting. Inject a little personality into your look with a print or motif that complements your black suit. Take your pick from geos, florals or polka dots, but to avoid a style catastrophe keep the print small and tonal, keeping the colours of the shirt and suit complementary – they should work together rather than battling for the limelight.

Black suit printed shirt

The Black Suit and Non-formal Shirt
A contemporary update for the gent who likes to stand out from the crowd, swapping a shirt for a high-quality cotton tee or knitwear can really highlight your standing as a man of impeccable taste and sartorial know how. Perfect for low-key occasions and winter layering, try a grey cashmere roll neck or a printed t-shirt. Just remember the golden rule: keep the neckline high and the cut form fitting.

Black suit with turtle neck top
Image Source: Thefashionisto.com

The Finer Details

Finally, we move onto the accessories which can make or break your look. Below we run through those small touches that will add the final touch of finesse to your black suit.


Ties
The most obvious choice is the black suit and black tie combination. Really, you can’t go wrong with it for a special occasion; effortlessly suave and polished with minimal effort, it’s a sartorial no-brainer.

For a pop of colour, red can really finish off a black suit to perfection and is a smart choice for a wedding. To avoid looking dated, forego shiny fabrics in favour of matt tones and subtle texture. Just make sure the tie is in proportion to the lapels and fit of your suit.

Black suit red tie

Pocket Square and Socks                             
Accent a dapper print or colour with your pocket square or socks. Giving a hint of your style leanings, these accoutrements allow you a little more creative freedom than your tie or shirt. But whatever you do, remember your look should work together as a whole, and the golden rule is to keep in mind is that your tie should never directly match your pocket square.

The colours in your tie should be sympathetic to those on your pocket square. So either you can take a secondary colour from your tie and have that in your pocket square such as in the image below where the yellow stripes in the blue tie work well with the yellow primary colours of our Lion Hunt pocket square which can be seen here: Lion Hunt Pocket Square

Black suit pocket square

Shoes
The easiest rule of them all: a black suit should always be paired with a pair of polished black shoes. For a slightly less formal look go for a pair of Derby black shoes, but for formal events go for a pair of whole cut Oxfords.

Black Oxford shoes
Image Source: Soletopia.com

Watch, Cufflinks and Tie Bar
Whichever watch, cufflink and tie bar you opt for, remember to keep the metal on each the same. Nothing ruins an outfit quicker than mismatched metal. And if you’re wearing a belt, ensure the buckle follows suit. The devil is in the detail after all.

Conclusion

In summary, the black suit is a classic article of clothing that can be worn a number of ways to either dress it up or down depending on the occation. Below is a recap of the main points we've covered.

  • The fairer your complexion the warmer your shirt’s colour should be.
  • A black suit and white shirt is a great choice for a very formal affair.
  • Looking for an office-appropriate men’s suit? Opt for black with a blue shirt.
  • If you really want to show off your satorial skill, reach for a printed shirt or a cashmere roll neck.
  • Match your metals, coordinate your accessories and always pair your black suit with black shoes. No exceptions.