Tie and suit color combos for formal events

Tie and suit color combos for formal events

Q. I was attending a funeral, and had a black suit and white shirt but was unclear what tie to wear. I chose a non-descript gray and red pattern. I realized that I’m never comfortable with what to wear with black-and-white or gray-and-white. With colors, I can pick out ties that work, but I am never sure when my trousers, jacket, and shirt are colorless. What should I be thinking in terms of matching with black or gray?

A. Certainly, when attending a funeral or dressing for a dressy occasion, you are not going to be wrong wearing black-and-white together. It is the dressiest of all color combinations (not the most versatile, but the dressiest). We just came off of, perhaps, the number one black-and-white clothing occasion–New Year’s Eve–where eliminating color is highly appropriate. On the other hand, in business settings, color is usually part of your attire. 

Since you already owned a black suit, your instinct was right to choose a quiet gray and red patterned tie.  A colored tie for a funeral is okay, but it should not be too colorful or loud. The gray (a shade of black) nicely repeated the black of the suit, and the red added a note of contrast. Anytime (other than for a funeral) that you are choosing a tie to wear with neutral colors, like black-and-white or gray-and-white, you have very few color limitations. You can be subtle or eye-catching. You can choose colors that coordinate or contrast.   

Before I explain further about choosing colors, I do want to provide a bit of caution about black suits. Although a black suit and a well-cut black blazer are useful garments to have in your closet, they are nowhere near as versatile as a dark gray or navy suit, or a navy blazer. There are places where a black garment is just not right. If your office is highly conservative and preppy, the look can make too much of a fashion statement. In that setting, it is too fashion forward, and might even be somewhat off-putting. While grays are shades of black, they present a far different vibe. Navy is often more flattering to a man’s coloring, eyes, and hair in addition to looking good with the other clothes in his closet.

Black-and-white and gray-and-white combinations also work well in casual wear. Sweaters with broad horizontal stripes, such as wide 8-inch black, gray, and white stripes, or thin stripes, such as ribbing, are ways to wear neutral colors for casual dressing. These can be layered subtly over a pastel-colored dress shirt or boldly over a royal blue or bright yellow shirt. Other designs, such as a solid gray sweater, a white sweater, or a white cold-weather fleece vest can work with black jeans and a plaid or checked shirt in many colors. 

To sum up, black-and-white is the dressiest combination. A step down is gray and white or navy and white. They can be dressed “up” with a fine white French-cuffed shirt or “down” with a button-down collar shirt in various shades of blue, light pink, creamy ivory, or pale purple. Avoid shirts in green, orange, and brown.

All of these work with, or without, a tie. Since you asked about how to coordinate a tie with your look, here is the simplest way to proceed: repeat colors. With black (and with gray or navy) pay attention to any other color you are adding with the shirt. If you incorporate that color as part of the mix in your tie, you can create a handsome color combination. With blue shirts, look for ties with blue in the pattern; if your shirt is pink, look for a tie with a splash of some shade of red, and if your shirt is pale purple, look for a blue-and-red patterned tie. Wearing a tie with just a bit of white in the pattern looks very smart with a white shirt.  

Your tie’s colors tie your look together.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions and comment to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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