What Color Tie to Wear With a Gray Suit: A Style Guide
Gray suits—from somber, business-appropriate charcoal to light and breezy dove gray—are an amazing wardrobe staple for men looking to dress smartly. Giving you a fantastic neutral canvas to build around, they are versatile and sleek and will help you defy expectations stylishly. However, while your suit is the cornerstone of your look, building a great image doesn’t stop there! You need to know what to pair it with to create the perfect first impression. Today, the gurus at Oliver Wicks have rounded up everything you need to build a stylish gray suit look that will wow everyone around you—from ties to shoes and everything in between. So, let’s get started!
Whether you are brand-new to building a great wardrobe of suits or you already have some favorites in your daily rotation, the power of a solid neutral with a little lift cannot be underestimated. No matter your preferred suit style or destination, gray just looks great.
For the silver foxes among you, gray offers a fantastic backdrop to add additional elegance to your years of experience and create a look that’s both suave and sophisticated. For blondes and those with pale skin and warm undertones, it gives you a lift and brightness that’s hard to beat. And, if you’re a brunette or have dark skin or cool undertones, it provides the ideal icy neutral to play up your best features.
Paired with the broad spectrum of shades open to you, it’s the perfect choice for almost all situations. To add the icing to this sophisticated cake, gray also lets you play around with leather accessories, pairing perfectly with both black and brown for some added versatility.
However, there are a lot of different grays out there! Here’s a quick guide to what looks best worn where.
Light and breezy, light gray works fantastically any time you are venturing out in hot weather or to outdoor events. This makes it a fantastic choice for destination and outdoor weddings, whether you’re the groom or a guest. However, it’s also a fantastic staple for any summer activity—especially if paired with a high-end and sophisticated hot weather fabric like linen or seersucker. Keep it more casual with brown accessories, or dress it up a little with black.
Medium gray brings a cool blend of sophistication, without being too heavy on the eye. This makes it a great transitional choice for seasonal wear, as well as a sharp and snappy choice for business casual and even some formal business looks. There’s almost nothing a medium gray suit can’t do.
This is a sophisticated and darker neutral that fits fantastically into business settings, without the somber funerary vibes of pure black. It is a little tougher to style because of this darkness, but that also makes it a sophisticated choice for evenings and more formal events. It makes a great alternative to the classic navy suit.
Once you’ve selected the perfect gray tone, it's time to finish the look with your accessories. A lot goes into creating a suit, tie, shirt, and shoe combination that not only gels well with each other but also maintains the tone and overall formality you need for an occasion. Pairing well can be intimidating to try at first, but with time and practice, it is a skill well worth building. To help you get started, the team at Oliver Wicks has leveraged their experience in high-end men’s attire to help you with some basics.
As we’ve already covered, suits in the light gray category bring breezy elegance to the table but don’t make for the most formal choice. Because of this, pastel shirts can be a fantastic choice for a light gray shirt. This is a look that Fred Astaire made popular back in the day, and it still looks great. A white shirt is never a bad choice, but it can be a little too much with paler grays, so this is a great opportunity for a soft pastel or a light blue pinstripe. Opt for pale blue for a timeless look, or be a little more fashion-forward with pinks and purples.
In addition to the “can’t go wrong” reds, plums, and greens for ties we’ll mention below, a cool purple, steel blue, or bright violet can help you bring out the best in a paler gray. A light green or yellow can also look good with this effortless backdrop, as can a crisp, light combination. Just consider the overall tones of your shirt when making your pick.
You can add a little intrigue and interest to your tie by opting for an unusual tie knot, like a trinity or eldredge knot. Proceed with caution on this road though - These knots are strictly for ceremonial events, and even then they can be a be “try hard”. If in doubt, a classic Half-Windsor Knot never fails.
Due to the either-or versatility of medium gray, it can easily be dressed up or down to suit the destination and occasion. While not particularly appropriate for very informal settings and hot weather, medium gray can take you far in a business casual environment, and can even meet the standards for formal events when worn correctly and accessorized appropriately.
As we cover below, you will want to select your tie pattern carefully and according to your intent. The smaller and more subdued the pattern, the more formal it will look. If you’re wearing your suit about town for a daily look, you can try being a little brighter and bolder. Likewise, a medium gray suit has some room for experimentation with the tie fabric, so a chunky grenadine (possibly with a Double Windsor knot) can add visual interest without seeming over-the-top in the right setting. Of course, a classic silk tie will never be wrong, either.
A medium gray suit will carry a classic white shirt perfectly, but can also look amazing with a light blue dress shirt, too. Small tweaks, like skipping a breast pocket, using barrel cuffs over French cuffs, or opting for a casual collar cut, can dress it down if required. Or you can be a little fashion-forward, and try something like a structured denim shirt under a textured medium gray suit for visual interest. Obviously, this would be a strictly informal look.
Moving on to selecting a tie. For most of these looks, a navy or navy-based tie will look fantastic, as will most blues. Likewise, reds, greens, and plums will always look good. Orange is the complementary color to blue on the color wheel, so bronzes, or even more vibrant oranges, will look good with the right shirt underneath.
Our most dignified choice of gray suit, you’re likely to wear this combination somewhere with an air of formality—so your tie and shirt combination needs to account for this, too.
It’s hard to go wrong with a crisp white shirt and charcoal suit. This builds a nice contrast into your look and creates a suave and sophisticated framework for your other accessories. For business or formal events, the chances are that you will want a full dress shirt, inclusive of French cuffs and cufflinks, to create the right atmosphere. For this, a l Windsor or Half Windsor tie knot is the best approach.
Most formal occasions will demand a subdued tie to match the seriousness, so you will typically need to opt for plain colors or sophisticated and “adult” patterns, like stripes, which “tie” themselves to the world of business like Winnie-the-Pooh and honey. Typically, a classic silk tie will be your best choice here, too.
Most dark-toned ties will work perfectly with a charcoal suit. Lean into deep bronzes, burgundies, and plums to bring a little warmth to the table, or keep it cool with a classic navy or forest green. A brighter red can also work but this will depend on where you are wearing the suit.
Now you have some solid tie choices for gray suits, let’s look at some general rules of thumb when wearing gray. Remember, you always need to consider the whole package. Plan your shirt and leather accessories before making your final decision on tie choice. We’ve given you some tips on your shirt choice above. With leather, opt for black belts and shoes for a more formal tone, or make them brown for a more casual look. And remember—just because it’s a casual event, this doesn’t mean that your suit shouldn’t fit well!
There’s a reason why the Oliver Wicks motto is, the suit that fits you. No matter what physical quirks you have, a well-tailored suit that is built for your body will always scream class and elegance. Our made-to-measure collection is carefully constructed according to your body, not built around “one size fits everyone principles,” as many off-the-rack suits are. Paired with elegant fabrics, like our Italian and English fabrics, and with the final touches from our European master tailors, you will see an immediate difference. Investing in your style and image is one of the smartest moves you can make if you’re looking to project class and confidence.
It’s also worth giving some consideration to whether your suit is built from a naturally textured fabric (like linen or seersucker), or has been created with some texture for added interest. Lastly, don’t forget to do a pattern check—if your suit already has style elements added to it, additional patterns in the tie and shirt can get very busy, very fast. While some added jazziness and personalization are fine if you’re heading out on a lunch date or using your suit as a style basic, it isn’t appropriate in the boardroom or at a very formal event. Likewise, you will need to choose your tie knot to match the occasion. When in doubt, go simple and classic… and spend that extra 30-seconds dressing the tie neatly before you leave the house.
The more texture, and the larger the pattern, the less formal a suit will be perceived. The heavier and smoother the fabric, the more formality it communicates.
Remember - Fit is everything. You’ll look far, far better in a perfectly fitting $850 made-to-measure suit than you will in a less-than-ideal-fitting $3000 designer label suit.
We’re sure you’re now empowered with everything you need to know to pick a smart choice of tie with your gray suit. Of course, if you have any other questions, you are always welcome to reach out to our skilled team at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more great tips on fit, style, top fabrics, and everything else Oliver Wicks, including our helpful video guides on fit, you are also welcome to sign up to our newsletter—the link is on every page of our website, so it couldn’t be simpler.