How to Choose and Style Black and Charcoal Suits

black suits mens street style justin oshea black suit
PHOTO CREDIT: The Impression

Check out our complete guide on black and charcoal suits; with tips and tricks on everything from the different shades to consider, to how to mix and match with your shirts.

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There is never a bad time to wear a charcoal or black suit. Even when we hit our two weeks of heatwave weather per year, you’ll still look amazing even if it does get hot under the collar. However, it can be easy to ruin all of those good intentions for a classy look with some ill-advised combinations. Fear not, though, as we’re here to help you get that style on point.

It can be the problem with choice sometimes. Too much of it often leads to us making a poor decision than when just faced with a couple of variables. Unless you’re rocking suits every day (and if you are, ensure you have a good selection on rotation) then it is likely you’ll only don a suit for those special occasions. If it only arises every once in a while, that’s even more reason to nail it.

Dark suits are typically used for more formal affairs, including interviews, business meetings and unfortunately sombre events such as funerals. If you aren’t a fan of navy blue, or you’re after another string to the sartorial bow, look no further.

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Charcoal Colour Suits

There’s so many options when it comes to charcoal suiting – this is what makes it so exciting to wear out a charcoal suit, as there are a plethora of ways to flaunt your style without looking too ‘out there’. You can choose minor deviations to the suit fittings to give you a more unique look as well.

Consider adding more or less length to the tails to give it a different hold, and if that still isn’t sufficient then opt for a double-breasted jacket, peak out the lapels… there are many dimensions to the suit game!

There are definitely various stages of charcoal along the colour chart, since charcoal offers that slightly darker colour. You wouldn’t necessarily attain this cordial appearance from a lighter grey suit. This helps to increase the level of formality whilst still not looking like it’s too free-spirited.

Charcoal Grey Suit

For one thing, charcoal grey suits ought be omnipresent in every man’s wardrobe simply because of their neutrality. Grey is a colour that is difficult to clash against any other, therefore making it a perfect suit to throw on alongside some brighter shirt and tie options.

Let’s commence at the slightly lighter end of the dark suit array. The preferred selection of many a businessman since they are lighter than the very formal black suit, there are also many different options to bring a charcoal suit to life and make it your own.

Charcoal Suit Blue Shirt

Pastel shirts are commonly considered to be the one to go along with a charcoal colour suit and perpetuate a fresh look. Colours such as light blue and light pink fit perfectly into this category, as they appear understated in the best way, such as a blue tie with a black suit. It just draws a minor extent of attention but such choices can blend in with the suit tone perfectly. Should you already have an apothecary of good looking shirts, but you feel like you’re missing out on an elevated suit game, charcoal could be your answer.

dark grey suit for men street style
PHOTO CREDIT: Gentleman’s Gazette

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Dark Grey Suit

So what is the difference between dark and charcoal grey? Definitive answers will be left to Dulux colour coders, but charcoal is generally a darker tone somewhere between grey and black, a noticeable shade less than absolute black. Dark grey therefore is somewhere along this scale as well. If you can pinpoint the disparity you may well lean towards a specific shade, but both of these colours lend themselves well to the advice above.

don draper dark grey suit
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Black Suits

If you feel like all the conversation about charcoal suits has been continuing on for ages in terms of the ‘style rules’ set out, it pales in comparison to our relationship with the humble black suit. I say humble in reference to the beginnings of a suit from cotton bud to a Prince Charming essential, but a black suit can heighten an appearance unparalleled to others.

How to Wear a Black Suit

What is the meaning of life? How long is a piece of string? Many hypothetical and seemingly unanswerable questions have rumbled on since earlier stages of civilisation and differing opinions over how to wear the black suit will always be contested. Some people will be insistent that it be worn a certain way and only one way. Fear not, it isn’t an impossible task to fix up your black suit attire.

Some people look more distinguished in a black suit than others, and the first thing is to make sure it fits right. How well a suit hangs depends on a number of factors, including quality of suit (of course) and what size you are. For the larger sized men amongst us, sometimes it is better to be honest and take a size up to stop everything from bulging in the wrong place, and if the suit is too tight, it will turn when you turn.

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All Black Suits

Assuming you’ve managed to get that bit nailed down, and you’ve sought out a style of fit you’re happy with, it’s time to look at all of the different options to wear it out with. With opportunities to attend all sorts of affairs and events with a serious feel in a black suit, possessing an enlarged spectrum of styles you can rock it with is paramount. And, if you’ve ever wondered what suit to wear to a wedding or what colour suit to wear to a wedding then I’d pay attention in this part.

Black Suit Combinations

We’ll begin our journey through the combinations to talk through the most common options people go for when looking for something to go with a black suit. Remember, black suits are the most formal suit you can go for, so whatever you choose to go with it has to match those intentions. If you are to be attending a funeral, a bright green shirt may not be your best bet.

Black Suit and Tie

Right then, let us talk about the tie and start pairing some black suit combinations. Although it only appears to be a thin strip of material, it is nothing inconsequential when chosen correctly. With the right colour and material,  ties can thus elevate a suited and booted look from classy to model status.

A tie is a way to add a bit of colour or pattern if you are confident it will compliment the look, but be careful not to go too avant-garde. Ridiculous ties may work for dress-down Fridays and that photo shoot you just don’t want to be a part of (and are trying hard not to be in), but for formal occasions they just won’t be competing in the same race.

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Black Suit Red Tie

Returning to the black and red mix. It’s still fashionable just a few paragraphs later, don’t worry. Red ties can implement just that little hint of excitement without coming on too strong. You don’t want to detract from how amazing the rest of your ensemble is with something so insanely boisterous that you miss the rest, but a splash of red on a tie can do wonders to add that little bit of flair into the black suit attire.

What Colour Shirt with Black Suit?

As we have already alluded to, lime green and fluorescent orange aren’t likely candidates to make your crisp black suit sing like a star. Unless your face is so perfect that nobody will notice what shirt you’re wearing, it’s probably best to not stretch the limits of people’s visual acceptance too far. That doesn’t mean you can’t jazz it up a bit with some flair, but we’ll get to that a bit later.

In case you’re wondering what shoes to go with your new suit, see our guide to formal shoes here.

Black Suit White Shirt

Ah yes, the timeless classic. The black suit and white shirt phenomenon has existed since before we had photographs that only developed in black and white. Whilst Queen Victoria was mourning the loss of her Prince Albert a couple of centuries ago, black became the new vogue as everyone dressed with a bit more sadness. We have all come a long way since then, but the formality of the black suit and a white shirt is still an enduring feature.

Finish the job off with a black tie, unless it turns out to be super serious but not the saddest thing to happen, in which case you might be able to drop in some mild pinstripes on the tie to detract slightly from the overall serious tone you are conveying.

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Black Suit Blue Shirt

Here we are encroaching into the realms of breaking away from the classic black and white feel. Alongside a good quality shirt and well-woven stitching, you can find some appropriate colours to blend in with a black suit and still look cool as anything. A quick look of celebrity hot takes and there are plenty of this blue shirt theme to be found, adding an informal, much less serious undertone to the overall striking semblance of a contemporary black suit.

bradley cooper black suit blue shirt mens street style
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Black Suit Green Shirt

‘Are you crazy!?’, I can hear you starting to wonder as I write this. Let me start off by advising that pulling off this one really depends on how green your shirt is. Similar to the pastel vibe we were discussing earlier, a nice pastel type lime green can enter seamlessly into a black suit combo. This keeps it light and fresh whilst allowing the darker tones of a black suit to shine through.

That being the case, darker greens will make it difficult for you to casually bring in to your look. Dark greens have a striking quality the same way that black suits do, and so this poses a risk of clashing hugely. Especially if you are to be attending a serious affair, it is important to bear this one in mind before rolling out in it. Green can easily assimilate with a black suit feel, however if green outdoes the black it can backfire.

Black Suit Red Shirt

Considered the most classic of the edgy styles, black and red have always had a bit of a thing going on – no matter what kind of combination is being involved, the chances are that black and red will deliver you a winning formula.

They are both striking, strong colours in their own right, and so it is easy to find the balance without them clashing as they seem to compliment each other pretty well. As in, is this a black outfit with some red, or vice versa? Does the answer lie in between? For formal black suit affairs, a crisp red shirt can add an additional classy layer to the get-up.

Red waistcoats also tend to go well with a black suit, so there are several ways to mix up the colour game and still attain that formal status.

black-suit-red-shirt

Black Suit Black Shirt

A black suit and shirt combination will always look pretty suave and sophisticated. The one thing that’s imperative to consider, however, is the different shades of black. Certain shades won’t go well together – so be sure to check them out in bright daylight.

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How to Choose Black and Charcoal Suits

  • Make sure you get yourself a suit that fits – this is the most important part after all!
  • Don’t go crazy with the bright colours for shirts and ties, it can take too much attention away from the suit
  • Channel your need for bright colours into your choice of pocket square instead, or opt for some colourful socks
  • Waistcoats are also a great way to add colour while maintaining your style
  • A couple of easy accessories such as a tie clip and cufflinks can add a tiny glimmer of bling to the mix
  • Consider what shoes you put on alongside to raise or reduce your formality
chris hemsworth black jeans with a suit mens street style
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On That Note

And there we have it! It may seem like the most simple of suiting conundrums, but even the most basic essentials can be tricky at times. With all the tips above, you’ll be set to style your black or charcoal suiting no matter what the event – whether that’s opting for the classic white shirt / black suit combination or adding a little sartorial flair with a black suit / red shirt mix. Just remember always consider where you’ll be going in your getup, and tailor the outfit accordingly!

Author: Dan Gibbon-Walsh

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