Why you should not choose a black suit as your first suit

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I believe a mistake many people make when they start a job (or even later on) is to buy a black suit. Black is so versatile, it must be a good choice for a business suit - right? Except, according to all we know today, it isn't. I'm not one to stick to old traditions, just for the sake of it. However, this is not just a matter of taste, there are some very solid arguments why a black suit is not the best choice for your regular business suit - navy and gray are by far more appropriate choices.

This is not to say a black suit is entirely without use - there are plenty of occasions where a black suit  is not only expected, but can look great if worn right. Some guys wear black suits at their wedding (not in Europe, I think this is only true for US and maybe Canada), black is the traditional colour for suits at a funeral, black suits are also often worn at cocktail or dinner parties.

Some style magazines like GQ or Esquire have a pretty clear stance on black suits, read the quotes below:
Black suits are for waiters, funeral directors, and guys who are on their way to lose in court. If you're not one of those things, don't buy a black suit (Esquire)."
"I also find that in broad daylight, black suits tend to give off a funereal, clerical, Amish, or possibly satanic vibe (GQ)."
Indochino Black Suit Review
The Indochino Essential Black Suit - $449

Why is it still such a widely discussed topic on the internet? I am conducting a survey to find the most versatile Indochino Essential Suit at the moment and I can already tell that must of the participants and readers of this blog are not exactly fans of black suits. Still, you will find hundreds of forum threads on this topic, but the arguments largely remain the same. Here are the most valid ones summed up.
  • Black suits are difficult to wear with colours - you are very limited when it comes to shirts and ties. A simple white Oxford Shirt and a Black Tie work best. 
  • Want to wear a black suit with brown shoes? Forget it, black shoes are the only option. 
  • Black is traditionally reserved for funerals and evening wear, as mentioned above.
  • "There is hardly anything you can do with a black suit that you can't do with a dark navy or a charcoal suit (PutThisOn)".
  • Navy and gray suits are just more versatile.
  • Black tends to look bad in a very sunny environment or brightly lit areas.
  • Often doesn't make your skin look well.
List inspired by this post on Styleforum and this article on PutThisOn.

So what are the alternatives? Navy, charcoal and a lighter shade of gray come to mind immediately. Check out the Indochino Essential Collection for inspiration. And of course, should you still need a black suit, you can get one for $449 at Indochino too.

Indochino Black Suit Alternatives

What about you - do you own a black suit and what are the occasions you use it for? Maybe the world is not as black & white as most magazines want to make us believe? My girlfriend sure thinks men in black suits can look great and doesn't like my negative stance on the subject...