There are so many different colors for suits. How do I know which one to go for? I have a wedding coming up. Should I wear a blue suit or a tan suit? What are the best suit colors?
The best suit color depends on the occasion. Choose dark or medium blue and charcoal gray for business meetings and a day at the office. Black or dark navy suits are perfect for Board meetings and formal occasions. For a laid-back but smart ensemble, go for relaxing colors like tan, light blue, and green.
In this article, you’ll discover which colors are best for suits and which ones you should avoid. You’ll also learn how to use color to make you stand out from the crowd.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Suit Color
You need to consider a couple of things when choosing a color for your suit. First, and probably the most important, is why you need a suit. Although suits play a large part in men’s fashion, most of us only buy one when we need one.
Most of the time, you can get by with a blazer and a pair of chinos. But, sometimes, that combination has too much of a dressed-down look to be appropriate for more formal occasions, particularly if the two garments are different colors. Weddings, board meetings, and even a night at the theater all require a higher level of dress, which is why you need a suit.
Whether two-piece or three-piece suits, they are designed to be coordinated from top to toe. With the same patterning and color throughout, you look stylish, sophisticated, and in control.
Or at least you do if you get your colors right. Colors can evoke different emotions. Blue can mean cool, confident, and trustworthy, while red can conjure an image of rage, danger, or even seduction.
Those last three feelings probably aren’t the sentiments you want to portray at a top-level board meeting. Not if you want to be taken as a serious professional. You wouldn’t want to wear bright red to a wedding either. Unless you want people to think you’re trying to steal the attention away from the happy couple. Red, particularly vibrant shades, will make you stand out too much.
Wearing the wrong color suit to any occasion will send a confusing message to your audience and peers. This is why you need to think about the best color suit for the event you are attending.
Before you buy your suit, ask yourself if the occasion you need it for is relaxed, informal, or formal. Have you been invited for cocktails at a posh restaurant? Does the invitation state it’s a Black Tie event? That’s pretty formal, so you should consider dark colors like black or navy blue.
Or how about a wedding reception at your local bar? You’re looking at less formal so you can tone down the color of your suit. Maybe to a mid-blue, charcoal gray, or brown.
Suits you wear to the office can be a little less rigid on color requirements. All you need is a suit in a smart color, so avoid anything flamboyant. Light gray makes a good color for the office. Beware of the dress code rule. Some offices still insist on specific colors, so check with your employers to see if they have a dress code before choosing your office suit color.
The second thing to consider when looking for a suit is you and your complexion. Not all colors look good on everybody.
While you may be stuck with certain suit colors for specific events, you still need to go for a shade that looks good on you. Black is quite an unforgiving color and can make you look washed out. Instead of going for that hue, try a dark navy.
Similarly, lighter suits like beige can drain the color from you too. If a light brown is a way you want to go, consider a tan suit. Darker than beige but not as severe as a dark brown, it could be the middle ground you are looking for. Or, you could find a mid-blue that would work better.
There’s a very good reason why blue is a popular shade for a suit. Whether it’s light blue, mid blue, royal, or navy, you’ll find there is a blue that looks good on anyone. Even the darkest navy blue is less harsh than colors like black or dark brown. Going with a blue suit could mean you have better luck finding a suit that, well, suits you.
You also need to consider the accessories you already own. Buying a new suit in any color can be an expensive process. Being able to wear it with your existing shirts and ties is important if you want to keep costs down. Otherwise, you’ll be replacing your whole wardrobe.
The rule of thumb when choosing the best suit color is fairly simple. Let the image you want to portray and your complexion dictate the color of your suit.
Best Suit Colors
With so many things to consider, looking for the best color for your suit can be overwhelming. Where do you start? The first thing to know is suits fall into three categories. Informal, semi-formal, and formal. Otherwise better known as the fashion suit, the business suit, and the Black Tie suit.
As mentioned, getting your suit color right is essential if you want to look the part at whatever occasion you attend. You want to stand out for being sophisticated, not because you look like a sore thumb.
With that in mind, you need to know the different color families and the occasions they are best suited to. Let’s take a look at them in detail.
This color family is synonymous with somber occasions, pomp, and ceremony, from the darkest of navy blues to the ultimate in somber shades, black. A black suit is the epitome of formal attire. Both classic and steeped in tradition, black is the go-to color for Black Tie occasions. You’ll find black is the more popular choice for tuxedos.
The problem with black is its long association with formality. It’s the color of dignified solemnities. This is the color for entertaining business clients at a posh restaurant. Or spending the evening at the opera.
Depending on how you style your black suit, it could make you look imposing if you wear it every day to the office. Consider ditching the suit jacket or going for a pale blue shirt. Anything to tone down the formal edge of a black suit.
Other colors in the dark shade family are less rigid in their formal leanings. Dark navy blue, charcoal gray, and dark brown are excellent choices to replace black. However, you do have to choose the replacement color wisely.
Your dark navy blue suit will look as sophisticated as black at a Black Tie party. Navy is also at home at the office, at a business meeting, or for a special occasion.
Charcoal gray and dark brown can give you the same professional qualities in the office without the flamboyance of black. But, while charcoal gray can make all ages look distinguished, some shades of brown can be unflattering on those with slightly more miles on the clock.
Slightly less formal but still smart and business-like, medium colors span the gap between being overly grandiose and a relaxed professional. The medium color range includes shades of navy blue, charcoal gray, medium gray, burgundy, and green.
You’re probably wondering why navy and charcoal gray are in the medium color section. Both are dark shades and we covered them with dark colors. The thing is, both charcoal gray and navy are versatile colors that carry an aura of dependability and expertise. Key traits are needed in both the formal world of dark color suits and the less stringent world of the informal business suit.
Wear either to the office daily and you will look the epitome of the smart business professional. Other shades of gray and mid-blues will also give you that edge of dependability and experience. These shades fit with business dress codes still prevalent in many traditional offices.
For a more hip and modern office setting, the warm shades of burgundy and maroon will give you an air of charisma. Less vibrant than red, they have a more sedate air, albeit with a hint of fun-loving flair.
This color will take you from the office to after-work drinks and you’ll still look dashing. Want to push the boat out further? Try a dark to a mid-shade of matte green for a calming persona with a glimpse of mystery.
The light color section covers the fashion suit or day suit. Where you want to be smart but without the constraints of business stuffiness. These colors are for parties on a yacht or cocktails at a wine bar. Think light gray, beige, and tan for a calm yet confident look.
Some colors in this section can still be worn to the office, but it depends on the type of office you work in. For business, casual try to stick with shades of mid to light gray and blues.
Light suits are for relaxed, informal events. These are the type of occasions you can let your hair down and be yourself. With so many suits available in fashionable colors, you can express your personality in shades as vibrant as lime green or as sensual as post box red.
So far, we’ve looked at suits that are one solid color. Whether they are black, blue, or gray. We’ve seen that different shades can be suitable for formal, semi-formal, and informal wear. There is another factor that can make a suit suitable for business or pleasure.
A patterned suit can have the appearance of texture, like in some tweed suits. Or it can have a definitive design like a plaid or a pinstripe. This patterning can give your suit an extra dimension. Sometimes, rather than going for the best color, simply having a pattern woven into the fabric can lift your suit from fashion to business-like.
You have to be careful of your suit’s base color, though. A pinstripe design looks better if the suit is dark blue or dark gray. Plaids tend to look best on earth-toned suits like greens and browns. While herringbone and houndstooth work with gray, brown, or black.
Best Suit Color for a Professional Image
The best suit color for a professional image is one from the dark or medium color palettes. The shade you choose depends on what kind of event or situation you need to look professional for.
Although black is the traditional choice, these days, it is thought to be too severe for many day-to-day or run-of-the-mill business situations. Partly due to black suits being the go-to option for more formal events. But mostly because black is considered overly officious.
Black suits are more suitable for special business occasions like a publicity event, product launch, and high-level board meetings. Or maybe your company’s annual general meeting in front of shareholders.
Navy blue is a popular choice for professional-level suits. In many ways, it’s more adaptable than black and can fulfill the same role. Perfectly at home at a board meeting and a cocktail party, a navy blue suit will give you a professional image, Without the same stuffiness, a black suit will.
Your third option is a charcoal gray suit. This color is one step down from black in terms of shade. But it has heaps more style and sophistication. It gives a softer silhouette and looks great on anyone. Black and navy suits can drain the color from those with fair complexions.
Charcoal gray is the perfect choice for the modern-day professional at the office and in semi-formal events. While dark navy blue is the preferred option for those higher-level meetings and Black Tie events.
Having said that, whether you go black, navy blue, or charcoal gray, make sure your suit has a matte finish. A shiny suit only looks good at parties, balls, discos, and wedding receptions.
Can I Wear a White Suit to a Board Meeting?
Not if you want to be taken seriously. You shouldn’t wear a white suit to a board meeting. These are formal events and require a certain level of professionalism. Not only will you be in the company of your firm’s CEO, but also the chairperson and several other high-ranking officials.
Don’t let yourself down by dressing informally in a white suit. Play safe and stick to the accepted formal colors of black or dark navy blue. At a pinch, you could get away with midnight blue. But the key is dark and somber. Not light and airy, which is the image a white suit portrays.
Although, to be honest, it depends on where your board meeting is being held. While dark suits are the norm in some parts of the world, it’s not necessarily the case everywhere. If your board meeting is being held at the poolside on a Caribbean cruise, then a white suit will fit right in.
How Many Different Colored Suits Do I Need?
This is a tricky question to answer because it depends on you and your needs. You should have as many different colored suits as possible to cover any eventuality. But that isn’t always viable or sustainable. Either practically, financially, or when it comes to storage space.
At the very least, there is an argument for having four different suit colors. That way, you are certain to have one to cover any occasion. You should have a black one for those cocktail dinner parties at the Hilton.
Then you should have navy blue for the shareholder’s meeting. Charcoal gray for days at the office. Your fourth suit could be a mid-brown herringbone pattern so you don’t have to wear your charcoal suit daily.
But it’s a bit overkill to have that many suits if you don’t go to that many posh events. You can get away with a minimum of two. One dark suit in navy blue and one light suit in a relaxing shade. Something like tan or beige. Those two will cover your infrequent suit events. Whether they are formal, semi-formal, or informal occasions.
If you can only afford one suit, go for a navy blue one. There should be one suit of that color in every businessman’s closet. It’s the one shade that can span events from formal to informal without looking out of place. The second choice would be charcoal gray.
However, charcoal gray won’t get you into a Black Tie event. You’ll need black or navy. But, if you get an invite to a posh outing like that, don’t panic. You can always hire a black suit or even a tuxedo.
The best suit color depends on two things. Your personal preference and the reason you need the suit. Stick with dark colors like black and navy blue for formal events.
Mid-range shades like charcoal gray are perfect for semi-formal meetings. Keep light colors like tan or light blue for relaxed, informal occasions.
Whatever color you go for, make sure you feel good wearing the suit. It needs to look good on you! So you can ooze confidence at your next important meeting. Whether it’s business or pleasure.