The black suit is touted as the classic men’s suit: a staple in every man’s wardrobe. But what if – in our desperation to emulate timeless style – we’ve dampened the style power of the traditional black suit?
It’s time to reawaken the style prowess of black tailoring. And while it’s easy to add a bright pastel here and a muted Seventies hue there, to bolster the fashion credentials of a plain black suit, we’ve decided to use other means – aside from colour – to bright your sartorial resonance.
Here’s how to wear the men’s new black suit – designed especially for the office, the races and the all important party season. Bring on the holidays.
With monochrome continuing its furore in menswear this season, all-black tailoring is a sophisticated approach to styling the black suit.
By all-black we mean just that: black jacket, trouser and shoes, as well as a black shirt, tie, socks (even the usually audacious boutonniere or lapel flower), leaving colour back in the wardrobe for another time and place.
The lack of colour or print works best with a slight rock aesthetic. So, make sure the suit fit is lean in trouser and super sharp on the jacket. Another important rule with all-black: the shade of the blacks need to match – ensuring the shirt (in particular) is exactly the same black as the suit.
A change in the tone makes the shirt look old and faded – and cheapens the look – instead of appearing strong and fresh.
Checks are the official pattern for suits this season. And black is no exception. Once relegated to casual tailoring or separates, a slew of designers are making the square pattern the design mogul for two-piece men’s suits again today.
The best bit about checked tailoring? It can be as ‘statement’ or ‘subdued’ as you (or your workplace) like. The tonal check is the milder version but a huge step up from plain black. Classic and elegant, it’s perfect for the Spring Races or a stylish alternative to the boring business suit.
Other – more risky – checks are the larger windowpane, known for their gargantuan squares often made with white criss-cross lines. If you only invest in one type of patterned tailoring this season, make it tonal check suiting and for the style brash – go windowpane.
Jacquard is a fabric made on a special loom, which allows cloth to be woven into an intricate pattern or print. In other words, the design is incorporated into the weave instead of being printed or dyed on.
Jacquard cloth looks particularly stylish in black and let’s the gentleman incorporate typically outlandish patterns onto his jackets and trousers. This includes paisley – the boisterous floral normally reserved for pocket squares or ties. And it works for less audacious prints – chalk stripes and the aforementioned, windowpane check.
Essentially, jacquard adds vibrancy and more texture to a monotone black suit – without sacrificing the all-black colour. Keep accessories matte or sans print when rocking a black jacquard suit – letting the suit feature.
Stuck on black due to office practice? Now you don’t have to be. Selecting almost-black suit separates is a tonal way of breaking up the boring shade. Midnight blue, charcoal grey and dark chocolate brown -as a jacket and trouser – add some shade to a black waistcoat and black leather lace-ups.
The key is selecting the darkest of non-black hues, so it’s only really noticeable – that the jacket isn’t black – to the all-scrutinising eye. Wearing like-for-like fabrics also helps with the blend or opt for differing textile textures for a stylish punch – especially for a wedding or the weekend.
Play around with combinations and stick to monochrome or grayscale for nights, switching in navy for day time antics.
Statement separates are essential suit spice in the sartorial mix. In keeping with the monochrome palette, white is a sure-fire way to introduce a stellar pattern – especially stripes.
For the brasher gent, a chalk stripe blazer à la Beetlejuice and crisp white shirt is a rocker’s choice, with an open neck shirt and an inch of cuff better showcasing the clean, fresh lines.
For a blink-and-you-miss-it subtlety, keep the jacket and pant molten black, shafting the commonplace waistcoat with a barber-pole white-grey combination that adds an iciness to the black shirt and leather shoes.
Grace your feet with the the silver buckled, double-strap monks, which are the new season’s must-have.
The Finer Things
The final, and finer things pertaining to the black suit, will sort the fashion man from the boys: accessories. When restricted to a monochrome palette, ties should adopt old-world traditions with paisley montages or chinoiserie landscape – in black, grayscale or white.
New world patterns – polka dot and stripes – are business and function appropriate too – leaving flowery boutonnieres for a dandy summer party, the races or a wedding. The lapel is a style changer when cut in a strong peak silhouette. And a contrast lapel fabric – silk or satin – against a cotton, wool or even a velvet jacket, enhances the textural integrity of an all-black blazer.
It’s still a black suit. But the finer elements have upped their aesthetic strategy. And, therefore, so has your suit style game.