Mention a white suit and most people will picture one of two things; Al Pacino in the Godfather or a Jay Gatsby style gent from the roaring 20s. Either way, it’s not a contemporary reference and if most chaps were asked to give a white suit a whirl, you’d likely be met with a blank stare and the faintest whiff of fear.
When it comes down to it, a white suit is a bold fashion statement, even for the most sartorially discerning. However, when pulled off well, it can also be the ultimate in gentlemanly chic and a sure-fire way to pull ahead of the pack when it comes to the fashion stakes. Here, we explain how to wear the white suit for modern times.
How To Wear A Formal White Suit
When the mercury rises, so too do pale coloured suits in lighter fabrics. While white is perhaps the boldest amongst them, it’s also a great way to keep cool at cocktail events or dinners in the warmer months.
Look for an unlined or half-lined version of this suit, paying attention to details like a wider peaked lapel and soft Neapolitan tailoring around the shoulders. This ensures that the suit looks chic without feeling overly stiff or like a white version of the standard business suit.
For more formal occasions, look at pairing your white suit with either a pale blue cotton shirt or, alternatively, a contrasting indigo or khaki shirt. If a tie is required, turn to knitted silk ties with a squared off base to ensure that your look remains more ‘the Hamptons’ than Central Business District.
How To Wear A Casual White Suit
A white suit is the ultimate hybrid – whilst it can be dressed up, with some small tweaks it can easily transition to something more casual. One of my favourite summer-time looks is a white linen suit paired with a well-fitted navy crew neck tee. If you’re sure of your style credentials, you can even look at scrunching up the sleeves for a laid-back but elegant sartorial moment.
If the thought of wearing a suit sans collared shirt abhors you, a linen shirt is also a terrific way to dial down the formality of suiting whilst still keeping you cool in a delightfully foppish, dishevelled way. Experiment with Chinese collars here and be open to playing with patterns like bold candy stripes.
What Shoes To Wear With A White Suit
Never. Ever. Black. Unlike other suiting occasions, a white suit leaves little margin for error when it comes to footwear and dark coloured shoes are certain to ruin your vibe. They add weight and throw off the nonchalance which a white suit inevitably imbues on the wearer.
Instead (and depending on the occasion) look at alternative options. A pair of Common Projects sneakers in white or even blush lend an attitude whilst still maintaining a level of polish. Alternatively, a loafer in a lighter shade of brown or a suede espadrille are both great options that can be worn time and time again.
Regardless of the footwear you opt for, I would discourage socks as they make for a more Winter-y ensemble. Instead, talk your tailor about having your trousers hemmed with a thick cuff that hits just on the ankle bone. This will make for a sharp look and stop you from dipping into a territory that’s too casual.
White Suit Materials & Shades
Not all suits are made equal and this is even more so the case for a white one. Fabric and construction are everything and this will ultimately be what distinguishes you from looking like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
An easy thing to look for when you’re on the hunt is natural versus synthetic fibres. While a synthetic can be harder to spot when it’s in a darker shade, with white you can spot the difference from a mile away. Instead look for cottons, silks and light wool blends. These sometimes have a creamy colour to them which is totally normal and communicates quality and craftsmanship.
The other key thing is impeccable tailoring. White isn’t a universally flattering colour so make sure the area around your body fits correctly. A good tailor should be able to create the effect of a V-shaped torso even if your body is anything but.
What Accessories To Wear With A White Suit
Less is more with a white suit. The colour is bold enough as is, so look for pocket squares in similarly pale shades or colours that compliment whatever shirt you might be wearing. For example, if you’re in a blue shirt, look at a pocket square with a cobalt and white paisley pattern. Play with fabrics as well, looking at options like paper thin linen and silk to add a point of interest without detracting from the overall ensemble.
When it comes to belts, ideally you won’t need one. Like with heavy shoes, a belt can add unnecessary weight to a white suit so invest in a tailor who can ensure your trousers fit perfectly. If a belt is a must, ensure it complements the colour of your shoes and steer clear of anything too thick or dark.