On a day where all you want to do is pay your respects, feeling underdressed or overdressed is never good. So, can you wear a black shirt to a funeral?
A black shirt would be appropriate to wear to most funerals, but make sure it doesn’t look too dressy. Wear a black or charcoal suit over it, go for a dark, solid-colored necktie, and avoid pocket squares and boutonnieres.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it. Here are some crucial tips to make sure you wear that black shirt the right way.
Let’s get to it.
1. Make Sure It’s OK First
While a black shirt would be OK most of the time, there may be certain funerals where it simply isn’t. These are usually funerals within specific cultures where a specific style or color would be required.
For example, people wear all-white to funerals in certain cultures. A black shirt wouldn’t be a good way to go.
It would be pretty unusual for you not to be told this in advance, but it’s always worth double-checking before you attend the service.
It may be a case of asking in passing during the initial invitation – just a couple of lines. “Is there anything in particular I should wear”?
If you forget to ask at the time, it’s probably best to ask a friend or relative instead of bothering the family themselves at this time.
Either way, try to make sure a black shirt would definitely not be against any specific dress code before you attend.
If there’s simply no dress code at all, a black shirt would be fine.
Now it’s time to wear it in the most proper and respectful way possible.
2. Avoid Excessive Shine
When wearing a black shirt to a funeral, avoid excessive shine.
Black shirts will always have a pretty “dressy” appearance to them – it’s why they work so well for smart-casual dress codes.
But shiny dress shirts look even dressier and more attention-grabbing. While this would look great for a party or a dance, it would look inappropriate for a funeral.
At funerals, you don’t want to come across as though you’re dressing up. You want to dress as simple and subtle as possible because you aren’t looking for attention.
There are certain fabrics we all know are notoriously shiny, such as silk and satin. But practically any fabric can be “shiny” depending on how it’s finished.
For example, you can get polished cotton and shiny polyester.
It’s difficult to say “avoid” certain types of fabric because it really depends on how it’s finished.
Instead, take each shirt at face value and ask yourself (honestly) how shiny it really looks.
If you feel as though it’s shiny enough to be eye-catching, avoid it.
3. Go For A Black Or Charcoal Suit
Black and charcoal suits work well with black shirts when attending a funeral. Avoid lighter-colored and patterned suits, as they often look inappropriate at funerals.
This is even more important when wearing a black shirt.
Let’s use a light grey suit as an example.
While a light grey suit would often look great with a black shirt, the entire outfit will look smart-casual and less appropriate for a funeral.
A night out at the theater or a high-end restaurant – sure.
But not a funeral.
In the modern era, it’s true that dress codes for funerals are becoming more relaxed.
But there are still certain do’s and don’ts you should stick to if you want to play it safe.
Sticking to dark, solid-colored suits is just one of those guiding principles you won’t go wrong with.
When wearing a black shirt, the trick is to prevent it from looking too fancy or dressy.
Another tip would be to avoid wearing a 3-piece suit.
While it’s definitely possible to wear a 3-piece suit to a funeral, it’s just not a good idea when wearing a black shirt as well.
A 3-piece suit with a black shirt will often look like you’re trying hard to impress, as you would if you were going to a party.
Keep it as simple as possible.
A black or charcoal 2-piece suit would be a much better option to go with that black shirt.
4. Choose A Dark, Solid-Colored Necktie
Just as you did with your suit, choose a dark, solid-colored necktie. Avoid patterns – they look too casual and they also draw unwanted attention.
While going for dark “everything” would usually be a no-no, when dressing for a funeral, it isn’t.
The look you end up with will probably be pretty monochromatic and that’s perfectly fine.
People are expected to dress in dark colors when attending a funeral. It’s probably the only occasion where nobody would question a dark, monochromatic outfit.
However, if you were wearing all black (i.e a black shirt with a black suit), it would usually be a good idea to change things up just a little with your necktie.
While it would be OK to go for a black necktie too, going for a different dark color would be a better option to break things up a little.
You could go for charcoal grey or a different shade of dark grey. Navy blue could potentially work. Burgundy red may be acceptable as long as it was dark enough and didn’t look too fancy.
Bow ties can be worn to funerals, but when wearing a black shirt, try to avoid it. It’ll just look too dressy.
5. Dark Brown Leather Dress Shoes
Black or dark brown leather dress shoes would both be reasonable options to round off the outfit.
If you were going for all-black, however, dark brown dress shoes would be a good way of adding some contrast to make sure you weren’t literally wearing black from head to toe.
Just make sure that the shoes you choose are dark enough to sync well with your suit and your shirt.
What you don’t want is a light-colored pair of shoes to add too much contrast and draw attention.
Remember, looking monochromatic-ish is not such a bad thing in these circumstances.
The style of dress shoe you choose is less important than the color.
You don’t need to go for cap-toe Oxfords, while they would be a great choice. Going a little more casual with your shoes is still reasonable.
A black or dark brown pair of leather Derby shoes, monk straps, or even bit loafers could also work.
While suede can sometimes work, it’s generally best to go for a shinier grain such as calfskin or cowhide.
This isn’t just because suede can come across as a little too casual.
It’s also because segments of funeral services often take place outside, sometimes in cold, rainy, and muddy conditions.
With suede being so notoriously difficult to maintain and clean, it probably won’t be a good idea.
6. Avoid Pocket Squares And Boutonnieres
Avoid pocket squares and boutonnieres. It’ll come across as though you’re trying too hard to dress up, especially when wearing a black shirt.
Black shirts look pretty dressy when a pocket square or a boutonniere is thrown into the mix.
While your intentions may be good, it’s tough to make it work for a funeral.
The trick is to dress the black shirt down, not up.
Avoid over-accessorizing. Keep things as simple as possible.
In general, it’s best to avoid boutonnieres at funerals altogether. You don’t want to be the only one.
A simple white pocket square with a straight fold (no puffs or peaks) can sometimes work for funerals. But they’re just not a good idea when wearing a black shirt.
If you were wearing a dark, solid-colored 2-piece suit with a white dress shirt, the outfit would look simple and subtle enough where a white pocket square probably would draw much attention.
But the black shirt would just make the pocket square look too fancy for a funeral.
7. Consider An Overcoat
While it does depend on the weather, wearing an overcoat over your suit and black shirt is often a wise decision. This is mainly for practical reasons, as funeral services often partly take place outside.
Layering becomes important, as you may be going from indoors to outdoors quite frequently.
Grey or charcoal overcoats would be the most versatile color – they look formal and also would most likely pair well with many of your other suits.
This tip, as well as the others, should ensure that you never set a foot wrong. Ultimately, it’s fine to wear a black shirt to most funerals. But as you can see, there’s definitely a proper and respectful way to do it.