Every man needs a go-to suit in their wardrobe, but if you’re bored of classic black and overdone navy, try something a little slicker and opt for the subtle hues of a grey look. Effortless and versatile, a grey suit will take you from work to weekend to wedding. Read on to find out the perfect shade for you and how to style it right.
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Grey is the new black when it comes to suits. A good grey suit, from soft pale hues to dark charcoal tones, compliments any guy and any occasion. Giving you a sharp, sleek and stand-out look, grey is perfect for taking you from the office, to after-work drinks and onto that spring/summer wedding.
Grey, however suave, can be trickier to get right than the classic black. Picking the perfect hue is tough, especially when there can be, ahem, 50 shades to choose from. Then there’s the rest of the outfit; shirts, ties, shoes and accessories all need a little more thought when paired with a grey suit. But when styled right, a grey get-up gives you a stand-out sophisticated look that will become a smart looking staple and an occasion wear go-to.
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How to Choose Your Shade
The first step on the road to wearing grey is getting the shade right. As a general rule of thumb, those with a lighter complexion are more suited to darker shades and those with darker skin look great in lighter greys. That said, don’t be afraid to break the rules here. With the right shirt and tie combo every grey will look great on any man. Instead, consider where you’ll be wearing your grey get-up and how much of formal feel you need.
Light grey is great for a more laid-back feel. For ultra-casual, think rolled up hems, crisp white shirts and boat shoes for a fresh take on dressed down tailoring. For smart with a twist, try contrasting pale grey with a deep burgundy or navy blue. If you want to go light but need an even more formal finish, opt for a three-piece for special occasions.
Lighter shades of grey exude a relaxed feel but, it has to be said, are more high maintenance in their upkeep. Spills and stains are difficult to mask so regular dry cleaning is crucial - hence, always be extra wary of that bottle of red wine on your table when wearing pale grey. Size and fit also require more thought with lighter shades. An ill-fitting suit is less forgiving in a pale hue so finding a good tailor is a must and the proper cut is even more important to keep it looking sharp.
All that being said, light grey suits are perfect for standing out from the crowd of traditional darker colours and were made for summer events. Whether it’s for a more casual style or simply to mix things up, lighter greys are versatile, bold and effortlessly stylish.
Mid grey is highly versatile lending itself to both the more relaxed styles of a paler shade, and the smarter finish of a charcoal hue. Here, mixing and matching is encouraged. Experiment with shirt and tie combos in a range of colours to take you from the desk to the bar and onto even smarter occasions.
Mid greys encompass everything from lighter silvery suits to traditional darker matte grey and anything in between. Pair with darker shirts for sharp, sleek looks and with a lighter shirt for a more classically smart finish. Taking you through every season, mid grey suits are ideal for a more refined and traditional look.
Dressed down looks are harder to achieve with a mid grey suit but that doesn’t make them impossible. Swap out the shirt for dark polo neck and finish the look with loafers. Freshen up your tired black tailoring with a mid grey piece for an effortlessly suave and eternally smart look.
Dark grey gives a sleek and refined look allowing you to stand out from the throngs of traditional black suits whilst still retaining a timeless feel. From almost black to rich charcoal, dark grey itself can vary wildly with each shade giving an effortless suave feeling to man underneath.
From business to pleasure, darker greys are ideal for when you need an undeniably smart look but still want to stand out. Keep the whole look dark with a black shirt and tie for that slick feel, or add contrast with a white shirt for a classic black tie outfit. Play with colour combos to keep it versatile and bring some cheeriness to the mix.
Dark grey suits are ideal for special occasions, when you need a polished finish, or nights out when you want something crisp and cool. As with mid grey, darker suits don’t lend themselves quite as easily to casual styles, but again, don’t be afraid to play. Try wearing over a crisp white tee, and finishing with trainers for a contrasting smart casual look that somehow just works.
Printed or Patterned
Don’t be afraid of prints or patterns, especially if you’re after a statement suit. Subtle checks, plaid, herringbone or even pinstripes can freshen up grey shades and give added interest to the whole ensemble. Be sure to keep shirts and ties plain so as to not over complicate your look.
When kept simple, a patterned suit is perfect for bolder stand out styles that still carry the sophistication of a grey shade. Dress it up with three-piece options teamed with white or light blue shirts for a fail-safe finish.
Keep it casual with unexpected colour combos, added knitwear and tassel loafers. Printed grey suits are ideal for bringing an edginess to occasion wear and adding personality to an otherwise classic look.
Light grey suits are ideal for more summer friendly styles so an effortless pairing is with soft pastel shirt shades. Add a spring and summer feel to the mix with powder blues, baby pinks and mint greens.
White, of course, is a well-loved combo and complements pale grey effortlessly leaving you with lots of room to experiment with the tie. Don’t be afraid to go dark though, contrasting a light grey suit with a black or dark navy shirt for a smarter and more sophisticated feel.
If your suit is mid or dark grey, be a little bolder with your shirt choice. Navy, black, burgundy or even salmon pink complement darker shades of grey perfectly. If you’re feely edgy try a printed shirt with stripes, checks and even polka dots to bring some personality to the look. Of course, you can always opt for a crisp and classic white or pale blue shirt for a traditional black tie feel.
If you’ve chosen a patterned grey suit, a plain shirt is a must. Keep it simple with black, blue or white to make the print pop ensuring your suit is the centre of attention.
For more casual styles switch out the shirt altogether and try pairing your suit with a fresh white crew neck tee, a polo neck t-shirt or even a roll neck to dress it down. Light greys look great contrasted against a navy or dark green roll neck. Try adding a casual cardigan to the mix to dress down darker suits or reach for a classic crew neck tee for a fresh take on smart casual.
When it comes to matching a pair of shoes with your grey suit, you really can’t go wrong with classic pair of black brogues, but this isn't necessarily the most stylish choice either. Grey suits, and their shirt and tie combos, lend themselves to a range of finishing touches when it comes to footwear. Check out some ideas below on what shoes to pair your suit with:
Grey Suits and Black Shoes
While a grey suit paired with some smart black shoes won't do you any wrong, it's safe to say you won't be winning the 'most stylish man of the year' award anytime soon. Ideal for men who prefer to take a more reserved approach to dressing, almost every style of black shoes will work well with grey suiting.
Grey Suits and Brown Shoes
The art of pairing brown shoes with your grey suiting can be a little tricky at the best of times. The general rule of thumb - avoid brown shoes with darker shades of grey suiting, as dark brown shoes will ultimately throw off the depth of grey, and light brown would be too informal. With mid-to-light grey suiting, brown shoes should work just fine.
Grey Suits and Alternative Colours
Generally (bar a few exceptions) grey suits are perfectly matchable with almost any shade / material of smart shoes. Navy is one of the most complimentary colours to pair with your grey suiting, working exceptionally well in both work and social settings.
Burgundy is another great option, both leather and suede options lend themselves well to social settings or a more liberal office atmosphere. A lighter cream or beige coloured shoe will also work just fine with various shades of grey.
Generally speaking, once the shoes aren't too similar a tone to the suit, you're perfectly fine.
When it comes to the tie, have fun with it. Be bolder with colour choices and mix and match to give your suit versatility. If you’re wearing a white shirt go wild with bright blues, emerald greens, rich plums and purples or keep things classy with black.
A white shirt gives you room to play with prints too, try stripes, checks or spots to bring some personality to the occasion. If your shirt is coloured ensure you’re not clashing your hues here. To play it safe, keep shades within the same family, think navy tie with pale blue shirt, red tie against a salmon background.
On the braver side? Break the mould with a pale blue shirt and burgundy tie, orange on blue and, of course, you can never go wrong with black. Pinks and reds give a great colourful contrast to light grey suits. Darker shades keep charcoal suits looking slick. As much as contrast is king with the grey suit don’t be afraid of the tonal look by going with a grey tie.
If you can match your shades, an all grey ensemble paired with a clean white or black shirt is a stylish alternative. Be brave, be bold and remember bow ties are always an option.
When it comes to accessories, a few well-chosen finishing touches can bring the whole look together. Pocket squares are ideal for adding character to the look. Experiment with different shades and fabrics to keep things fresh and bring versatility to the suit.
For a more relaxed look try forgoing the tie in favour of the pocket square alone. Contrasting hues are best here with navy, burgundy or black giving a crisp, clean feel. If you’re opting for both tie and pocket square make sure they don’t clash by matching or complementing the shades. Don’t be afraid of prints and textures here – try spots or checks for a more casual feel.
A few metallic details are great for entertaining the eye and really pulling the look together. The key here, is to always keep them the same shades by matching your watch to a few key pieces such as cufflinks or a tie clip. At more casual events feel free to bring out your personality here with playful pieces, although keep in mind too much can overwhelm and overcomplicate the look.
Braces, bow ties, hats and overcoats can add edginess to otherwise traditionally smart ensembles. Play with stand-out colours and prints but always bear in mind your shirt and tie choices and bringing it back to that all important shade of grey.
How to Style a Grey Suit
The trickiest part of wearing grey is figuring out what to wear it with. Where traditional black goes with everything and navy is more forgiving, grey requires a little more effort to find the colours and combinations that work. The shirt, tie, shoes and accessories can all make or break the style so it’s worth the effort to get it right. Here’s our take on what to wear with every shade of grey.
The Bone Idle Guide to Styling a Grey Suit
- Light grey suits work best with deep burgundy or navy blue contrasting.
- Mid grey suits should be paired with darker shirts for sharp, sleek looks and with a lighter shirt for a more classically smart finish.
- Dark grey works very similar to mid grey suiting. Darker shirt - Chic, Lighter shirt - classical.
- Dress grey printed suits up with white or light blue shirts for a fail-safe finish.
- Bright blues, emerald greens, rich plums and purples ties all work well with grey suiting.
- Pretty much every formal shoe colour / style works well with grey suiting.
And There You Have It
Grey suits are a sleek and suave alternative to traditional tailoring. Each shade lends itself to versatility in its formality - taking you from relaxed and edgy, to classic and refined. There’s also room to play with colour combinations, from a light and clean smart look to darker sharp styles and all the stand-out hues in-between.
Grey offers a seamless transition from day to night allowing you to look at just as at ease at after-work drinks, as at summer events and pretty much every occasion in-between. Light, mid, dark and patterned, grey is always worth the little extra effort to pull off to achieved that stand-out sharpness that only a grey suit can.