Grey Suit Black Shirt: A Combination for the Daring
What’s the point of sartorial dressing if you can’t have a little fun too, right? Just as the Oliver Wicks team believes that the suit that fits you is key to elegant dressing, we also love to see men take a step (or three) away from the classics and get a little bold and daring.
A grey suit black shirt combination retains much of the elegance and style of a traditional suit look while adding a dash of daring and drama to the mix. Used well, it can be a surprisingly versatile component of your wardrobe, too.
So, if you’re looking to branch out from tried-and-tested neutrals and create a look that speaks for itself, a grey suit with a black shirt might be the next thing your wardrobe needs.
The Rules With Black Shirts
In fashion, black and white are always winners, right? For men, not so much. A crisp white cotton shirt may go with anything, but its black-hued counterpart needs a careful hand. It’s a rather bold and daring fashion choice for men, in fact, and can easily look like ‘too much’ if done wrong.
Firstly, if you’re pairing a bold shirt with a suit, it’s important to remember that the shirt isn’t the centerpiece of the look—but it’s critical to creating it and still brings a lot of fabric to the table. So, you need a strong and harmonious balance between the suit and shirt, or you will have a clash of the titans on your hands.
Black can often be a little overwhelming and ‘loud’ when worn on an area as central as the chest, and it doesn’t pair well with all suit colors, let alone when a tie is added. Luckily, grey and black do play nicely together in the right environment.
Secondly, and from a more practical perspective, it can be a fussy dye to maintain. Black shirts will often lose dye as they’re laundered, washing out the depth of the hue over time. Plus it can fade in UV light, and wear and tear shows more easily. It goes without saying that your chosen black shirt should be impeccably tailored and in the prime of its life, not sadly clinging to the last dregs of grungy dye. For this reason, it pays to invest in a high-quality shirt if you’re trying out black.
As with all bold shirt choices, there’s a time and a place. For black shirts, that’s either very formal occasions that allow personality (a tougher balance than you may think), or places where avant-garde dress standards are acceptable. A black shirt isn’t right for black tie events (ironically) as they require a tuxedo, nor is it right in a business environment. It’s too bold/non-mainstream for formal business settings, and too loud and styled for business casual.
A tech worker in a fast-paced novel work environment may pull a black shirt off, but for most formal business settings, it’s a no. So, a black shirt does best at events like specific weddings, red carpet galas, or when strutting your stuff—without going full peacock—in your free time.
A black shirt will shine at night but look funerary during the day, too. So it’s best for evening events. As a rule of thumb, choose the grey suit black shirt combo for more formal social events in the evening.
A wedding grey suit black shirt look is appropriate for formal and semi-formal evening weddings where the couple is fine with more modern looks and a non-classic dress code. It won’t, however, fit into daytime ceremonies easily (with the possible exception of a smart vineyard-style wedding) or be appropriate if it’s going to upstage the wedding party, so tread lightly. When in doubt, keep this look for social settings and stick to the classics for weddings—or ask the couple.
Be aware - If you have pets in your household, their hairs will be extremely visible on black fabric. You might find yourself spending more time with a lint roller than you’d like to!
Picking the Right Shade of Grey Suit
If you’ve read through any of the Oliver Wicks blogs and their helpful fashion tips before, then you’ll know it’s hard to go wrong with a grey suit. Whether you’re looking at a charcoal or dark grey ensemble for the evening or using a lighter grey to stay stylish for a beach wedding, grey goes anywhere and does everything. A custom-made grey suit with impeccable fit should be one of the first investments any gent looking to dress well makes, and it will be right up there with your classic navy suit in practicality, versatility, and style. There’s a reason why they’re popular best sellers!
When it comes to the world of grey suits there's…well, a lot of grey areas! The many shades of grey do give you a lot of options when choosing a suit, but that can be bewildering in itself. And matching the wrong grey suit to a black shirt can be a fashion disaster. So, how do you know if you have the right suit for this look?
First up, consider your suit fabric, the season, and the occasion. Light greys can look fantastic in breezy summer suiting materials, like cotton or linen, and even transition well into lightweight wools. However, those aren’t fabrics you’d be using in the winter boardroom—think champagne breakfasts, smart vineyard weddings, business-smart in warmer weather, and free-time snappy dressing instead. Luckily, light grey lends itself to the very same environments, lacking the stately gravitas for more formal functions.
In a similar vein, imagine how awkward a pearly light grey would look paired with a heavy winter material, like flannel or heavyweight wool, or a tight, dense fabric weave. To use some modern slang, the vibe check will not be passed. Luckily, both mid-grey and dark grey, as well as charcoal, look great in heavier fabrics. This is the sort of grey suit you’d choose for an evening wedding, an evening first date, or a meeting with company stakeholders. Both light and mid/dark grey can carry black shirts well when styled correctly, but make sure the grey is suitable for the environment and function.
There’s one more spoke to throw in the wheel—undertone. Grey can be anything from icy cool to warm and leaning to yellow-brown in undertones, whether it’s light or dark. For a black shirt grey suit look, it’s imperative that you opt for a cool to neutral grey and steer away from the warmer undertones, or the shirt and suit will subtly clash. You might not be able to tell why it’s wrong, but you will know it is!
So, light grey suits with black shirts bring a lot of contrast to the table, making it the more attention-grabbing option. A dark grey suit with a black shirt will tone down that contrast considerably.
Charcoal grey additionally brings a lot of near-black tones to the table already. So, to wear a charcoal grey suit with a black shirt takes a more confident hand than other greys and needs the right suit and occasion. This stunner, for example, is magnificent and versatile in any wardrobe, but the charcoal color is so consistent on a fine weave that adding a black shirt will just be too dour. On the other hand, the lighter, more open weave and textural variation of this linen blend charcoal suit could carry a charcoal suit black shirt look easily. You don’t want to blend your shirt and suit so much that no one can tell the color difference, or you’ll look less stylish and more like a bodyguard!
Typically, for an already bold look like this, you’ll stick with the classic two-piece suit. Three-piece combinations can work, but can also easily become too formal for the occasion, so tread carefully. And as always, make sure your suit is the right size, or invest in made-to-measure for the best fit possible.
Completing the Overall Style
Black shirts are always tough to match with a tie, and adding a grey suit doubles that woe. Very light ties often have such contrast to the rest of the grey suit black shirt look that they seem wrong. Think of a white tie on a black shirt—it screams waiter, not debonair guest. And using a black tie has so little contrast that you’ll look gauche (or like a rapper about to get their first Grammy).
So, we need a tie that is dark enough to fit the vibe, but light enough to have some contrast to complete this formal grey suit black shirt look. Unless you are ultra-confident in styling yourself, or at a function that’s avant-garde enough to carry it, adding another bold color to the mix will become too much. Err on the side of a darker grey if you’re looking for a quick and timeless combo. This airforce tie, for example, could work well with a light grey suit black shirt combo. The desaturated navy and grey stripe combination of this tie would carry a dark grey suit black shirt combo well. A bow tie is typically inappropriate unless the event is very fashion-forward, in which case, rules are there to be broken.
Can you ever be more adventurous? Sure—but remember the overall aim is a more daring, but still elegant and sophisticated look. A deep ruby red would work well. The brightest pattern you can find? Not so much. If the function calls for it—perhaps a classy but relaxed evening date—you can consider an open collar with no tie for a more relaxed feel, but this won’t suit most weddings.
When it comes to the rest of the outfit, you should stick with black leather for shoes and belts. The style of shoe you choose will be more dependent on the formality of the occasion, but you’re already wearing a bold suit and shirt—keep the shoes classic and simple. No patterns, dual-colors, or fancy straps here. You can’t go wrong with classic black Oxfords.
Keep the same sleek, minimalist idea throughout the rest of your wardrobe. An elegant black leather watch, smart metallic jewelry, and simple accessories will finish the look.
Where can you Wear the Grey Suit Black Shirt Look?
So, our rough rule of thumb for this look is social evening settings or specific types of formal daytime events that allow for more style and less traditional elegance. A grey suit black shirt look could work at
- Free-time evening activities that need elegance with personality—evening dates, theater performances, etc.
- Formal and semi-formal weddings where you won’t upstage the wedding party
- Awards ceremonies, company evening socials, and so on
- Anywhere it’s appropriate to make a statement with your look, without being vulgar
Want to get started? Try this classic charcoal suit, black shirt, and ruby tie for a dramatic, but still appropriate, evening wedding look. Or try this light grey suit with a steel tie for a champagne breakfast with a twist.
And remember these grey suit black shirt combo don’ts
- Don’t upstage the couple if you're wearing it to a wedding
- Don’t go overboard with added colors, patterns, and accessories
- Don’t wear a worn or tired black shirt
- Don’t use a grey suit with warm undertones
- Don’t forget to check seasonality, fabric, and occasion when picking your suit
And there you have it! This is a bold and dramatic, but still sophisticated and elegant, way to add some extra sparkle to your classic grey suit looks. While it won’t fit every function, when it does, it packs a fashionable punch that goes far enough to attract attention without turning you into a peacock.
If you’d like more handy tips, remember that the Oliver Wicks newsletter comes straight to your inbox packed full of them—you can sign up from any page on our site, and no purchase is needed! Or you can always feel free to reach out to our team of expert tailors at firstname.lastname@example.org