The Essential Suit Colors Every Man Needs and When to Wear Each One
There is always at least one occasion in your life when you will need a suit. While you may have gotten away with not owning one in your youth, owning a sensible and appropriate suit in your closet is a style rule you ought to stick to as an adult. By that, we don’t mean sewing the holes in your old coat and tie from your high school prom and praying that they fit over a decade from now. A suit should be able to work with you and the social cues of the environment you’re in—you don’t want to look like the guy who’s drowning in fabric in an oversized sack suit in a poor attempt to stick to the dress code.
The first step in acquiring a suit is determining its use. It’s important to know details such as whether this is your first suit, and if you are wearing a suit to a job interview or a wedding. These bits of information tell you what color to get your suit in and in certain cases, the fabric. Here's a lowdown on the suit colors to wear to work, at a party, or during the days you want to impress.
Invest in a charcoal gray suit or a navy suit for your first.
While some men depend on a regular rotation of suits, some may only stick to one or a few. So, instead of making your first purchase with a distinct pattern, get one in a solid color that you can wear repeatedly without other people noticing. The rule in menswear dictates to either get your first suit in charcoal gray or navy. Deciding on which color to get largely depends on the area you live in, as well as the context. In North America, navy suits tend to be more popular with charcoal gray closely trailing behind, while it’s the reverse everywhere else.
In places like the Philippines, where the rules on suits are not as hard and fast, we reckon to make your purchase based on individual purpose. Navy is largely an attractive color, and in formal business environments, can denote conformity and deferment to higher authorities—desirable qualities in traditional company hierarchies. On the other hand, younger employees who want to be taken seriously in the workplace may want to sport charcoal gray as it lends a dignified air. While both navy and charcoal gray won’t look out of place at a job interview as well as a wedding, the latter may be more appropriate when paying respects at a funeral.
Upgrade to textured patterns for a third suit.
Once you’ve acquired the basic charcoal gray and navy suits in your closet, it’s time to play with some prints to add a bit of zing to your wardrobe. Glen plaid patterns are associated with old-school aristocracy and can be a sophisticated choice to wear at a business lunch; meanwhile, pinstripe patterns can help command presence at high-powered meetings. (Think Suits’ Harvey Specter.) Keep in mind, however, to maintain a subdued aesthetic by staying away from paisley and floral patterns on the jacket which can look garish.
Black suits are best for nighttime wear.
You may be able to wear black with a variety of shirts and pocket squares, but it’s not as versatile a color as you think. It’s too stark to be worn at the office in the mornings, and is likely to absorb too much heat under the sun. That said, a well-fitting black suit is an excellent choice for evening affairs. As tuxedos are hardly worn in this part of the world even in formal events, a proper black suit will already give you the upper hand at the dressiest galas. Switch the dress shirt for a funkier, printed one for more contemporary dress codes. Wear a t-shirt or a turtleneck instead, and you have an outfit for an art gallery premiere.
Wear brown and tan suits for more creative dress codes.
While brown suits may have you thinking of pot-bellied, middle-aged car salesmen in movies, khaki and chocolate-hued suits have made a stylish comeback. Brown may be frowned upon in traditional business workplaces, but it's a sartorially smart choice for business casual wear. A rich brown jacket pairs well with patterns like stripes and gingham, worn with navy chinos or dark, un-distressed jeans. Pair a warm tan blazer with a crewneck T-shirt and you’re ready to go out for cocktails. For monochromatic suits, however, you may want to stick to certain shades. A light khaki or oatmeal suit or a dark espresso suit looks great at weddings with rustic themes.
Light gray suits are best for dinner dates and cocktail mixers.
Suits in light gray are traditionally considered too casual for a business environment—the exception being for older, dignified men who are basically the bosses and can afford to bend the rules at work. Still, that doesn’t mean a light gray suit doesn’t have its merits for everyone else. Because of its color, they work well in hotter temperatures and look great in lighter fabrics such as cotton and linen.
Light gray suits also help the wearer stand out more than darker gray shades, and pair better with a more relaxed fit and demeanor. These qualities make them appropriate choices for dinner dates and cocktail mixers, where charm and social skills are put to use.
Look into cotton, linen, and seersucker suits for warmer temperatures.
It’s still possible to wear suits even in a tropical climate as ours. Keep in mind, however, that suits adapted for balmier climates will work differently and have a separate appeal from the usual wool, full-canvas suit. Summer jackets are typically unlined and will lose some of its structure. They will also wrinkle quickly, too—but that’s part of its charm.
Linen is a fantastic choice, with its breathable fabric, luxurious appeal, and durability. Meanwhile, cotton has some stiffness to it, lending a more work-friendly yet still casual appearance. A seersucker suit offers you the chance to stand out, yet maybe too carefree to wear in the office.
Wool, tweed, and cashmere suits are great for cooler climates abroad.
If you’re anticipating business trips abroad, then it may be time to look into heavier fabrics that will help you withstand the elements. Wool is the most popular fabric choice for suits, while tweed can shield you from the rain or snowfall. If you can splurge, cash out for a luxuriously soft cashmere jacket.
For the younger and stylish set: consider true blue, olive, and maroon
Provided that you’ve covered the basics, younger men can experiment more with their wardrobe choices using bolder colors that may not have even been possible a decade ago. Bright but tasteful choices include a true blue suit, olive, and maroon. These hues are excellent for mixing and matching pieces in your wardrobe for fun weekends and creative events.