Black Suits For Men: Should You Wear Them? Smarter Outfit Options (2024)

Aside from gray, blue, and brown, there is one other color in the world of men’s suiting that’s fairly widely seen, and that’s black. But for how popular and ubiquitous it’s become, the question remains: is it truly a good look for most men?

Table of Contents

  1. Why Are Black Suits So Widely Seen Today?
  2. Should You Wear A Black Suit?
  3. When Are Black Suits Appropriate?
  4. How To Look Good In A Black Suit

As a general rule in suiting, brighter and bolder colors are seen as less formal, whereas various shades of gray, blue, and sometimes brown are seen as more formal and therefore, business appropriate. And yet, the black suit persists. But why?

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Why Are Black Suits So Widely Seen Today?

The answer has a lot to do with the fact that the typical dress of the general populace around the world, especially in the United States, is largely dictated today by what famous and other notable people are wearing–be they celebrities, politicians, or people in similar fields. And to focus in on men, what do we see these famous individuals wearing? We see them wearing black ensembles at award shows, black ensembles in music videos, black ensembles at political debates and other state functions. In short, the color black is everywhere.

With that said though, the presence of black ensembles in these various situations can ultimately be divided into three camps; appropriately formal, high fashion, or ultimately misguided.

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Appropriately Formal

When we see men wearing black ensembles at awards ceremonies and other similar functions, they aren’t wearing–or at least shouldn’t be wearing–conventional black business suits. Rather, they’re adhering to historical dress codes where the formality of black is appropriate. These, of course, would be black tie or tuxedos, white tie or tailcoat ensembles, or formal day wear or morning dress (featuring cutaway coats). In these kinds of formal situations, a black business suit wouldn’t be formal enough in its details and styling, and would therefore be an ill-advised choice to wear.

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High Fashion

Of course, black is the bedrock of the fashion world for both men and women. You don’t really need to look any further than the little black dresses that women wear to award ceremonies, or in movies, and on runways and so forth. And for men, there are all kinds of black garments as well like black turtleneck sweaters, black leather jackets, and black suits. As an example, famous designers like Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld have made black suits their signature ensemble over the years as a way to look stark and chic but there’s an important distinction to be made here too and it can actually best be summed up in famous words from another designer Yves Saint Laurent. He said “Fashion fades, Style is eternal.”

What we mean by that is this, if you’d like to look hip, trendy, on point and so on, there’s nothing wrong with you wearing an ultra skinny fit black suit, white shirt, and black necktie. More power to you if you’d like to do it! But on the whole, black suits and especially monochromatic all black looks don’t have a place in the traditional style canon of the early 20th century which, of course, is our focus here at the Gentleman’s Gazette. Phrased another way, black suits, black shirts, and so on, undeniably have a place in modern fashion but they’re harder to implement well in a classic gentleman’s wardrobe.

Misguided Wearers of Black

The main culprits in this camp are politicians. Now, I know what you’re thinking but hold any specific political beliefs because that’s not what we’re talking about here. When we say misguided, rather what we mean is that most politicians from various political parties all across the Western world but again, particularly in America, have adopted the black business suit as a sort of default uniform over the last 30 years or so. Why is it that they’ve done this? Probably, it’s an effort to look as serious and businesslike as possible and in reality, while a black suit certainly is serious, it’s not all that appropriate for most business settings and so it ultimately looks somewhat out of place.

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If we look back further though to presidents and other political figures of the early to mid 20th century, we’ll see that they weren’t afraid to wear suits in various different shades of blue, gray, brown, and other colors. As a notable example here, we can look at President Harry Truman who, believe it or not, was actually once a haberdasher before he eventually ascended to the Oval Office.

So to sum up these points, the reason that black suits are so ubiquitous in society today is largely as a result of various adjacent figures coming together on society as a whole.

Should You Wear A Black Suit?

Our answer, in a nutshell, is not often. As we laid out above, there are better choices for most scenarios.

  • Formal events should be given their proper due with adherence to formal daywear or black and white tie. More politicians should feel free and confident enough to shun the confines of the black suit uniform and while high fashion can have its own trends, we believe that classic menswear follows a different set of guidelines.
  • It all comes down to a matter of contrast. While it is true that the stark contrast of a black suit, white shirt, and black necktie can have a flattering effect on the silhouette of many men, it’s also true that there’s a downside to this. In that stark contrast between the black and white can also wash out the complexion of many fair skinned or fair haired men. This, of course, is especially true when out and about during the day and in direct sunlight. Of course, men who have darker complexions or darker hair could probably get away with wearing a black suit more easily but the fact of the matter remains that for a large amount of men, black suits in the daytime are just going to wash you out.

When Are Black Suits Appropriate?

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Funerals

The first situation, as you may have guessed, would be funerals. Black has a historical association with mourning and while formal daywear or evening wear would probably be seen as too celebratory in tone, a black business suit can strike the right somber tone that would be appropriate for a funeral.

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Musical Concerts

While the world of classical music does have an association with white tie and black tie that’s still ongoing today, a more contemporary and popular alternative to these dress codes has been the rise of the so-called Concert Black dress code. The objective here is that the musical ensemble look as uniform and consistent as possible so that what the audience will focus on will be the music itself.

Religion

Worship leaders such as priests and pastors will often wear black suits as will adherence to certain sects of religious tradition like Hasidic Jews or the Amish.

How To Look Good In A Black Suit

Fit Is Everything

We do believe that a slightly trimmer cut in a more modern style, though not ultra skinny, will help you to wear a black suit during the daytime without it looking like it’s swallowing you up. Just make sure that all of your bases are covered in that your shoulders, chest, and midsection are well fitted and that your trousers aren’t baggy or puddling around your ankles.

Incorporate A Bit Of Color

The black suit, white shirt, black tie look is one that’s only going to flatter a very small fraction of men. Therefore, wearing a shirt, tie, or other accessories that add a bit of color to liven up the outfit will take some of the somber tone out of the black suit.

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Stay Clear Of Shiny Fabric Finishes

Nothing is going to make you look more like a teenager wearing his first suit than an all-black ensemble in a cheap shiny finish. Suits with a more matte finish are going to look more refined and you should try to opt for wool or wool blends rather than synthetics. Also, a slightly textured weave will help to give the black suit a bit more character. On a related note, patterned black suits can look more lively than solids; you should avoid bold stripes unless you want to look like a Mafia Don at halloween but something like a pinstripe or wide check pattern could look good if it were subtle. Just keep in mind that if you are wearing a black suit with a pattern, it should be done confidently.

Wear It With Confidence & Cool

We laid out numerous reasons today why a black suit shouldn’t be your first choice very often. A navy or charcoal colored suit would be much more versatile and indeed more elegant in many situations. Therefore, wearing a black suit in spite of all this knowledge requires the confidence to say “I know the rules well enough to flout them.” As with any ensembles, you want to have the effect that you’re wearing it rather than having it wear you.

To sum everything up then, while there are certain situations where a black suit would be appropriate, we don’t believe that it should be the primary suit in any gentleman’s wardrobe.

How often do you wear black suits? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Black Suits For Men: Should You Wear Them? Smarter Outfit Options (2024)

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