When wearing a suit, swapping a single item for a less traditional color can lead to eye-catching results. But does it always work? More specifically, can you wear a blue suit with a black shirt?
A blue suit can easily be worn with a black shirt, with light shades of blue generally looking more casual than dark shades of blue. In general, the combination should be reserved for formal evening social events.
That’s the gist, but there’s more to it.
After going through 7 essential tips for wearing this combination in the most effective way possible, I’ll run through some FAQs on the topic to round things up.
Let’s get to it.
7 Tips For Wearing A Blue Suit With A Black Shirt
Consider all of these tips before putting together your outfit. While it’s tough to go “wrong” with this combination, there are definitely better ways of doing it and worse ways of doing it.
Make Sure It’s Appropriate
A blue suit with a black shirt should really only be worn to formal evening social settings.
If you’re dressing for a more traditional formal setting or a business-professional setting, do not wear a blue suit with a black shirt.
Examples would include weddings, interviews, funerals, as well as work settings where you’re required to wear a suit.
Here, you’ll want to wear a blue suit with a white shirt – not a black one.
Black shirts can look elegant and sophisticated when wearing a blue suit, but it has a very distinctive “social” feel to it.
It’s eye-catching and attention-grabbing and would look awkward and out of place in more traditional formal settings.
Consider The Shade Of Blue
While “black” is easy to define as a color, “blue” can refer to a wide range of different shades.
In many ways, describing something as “blue” really doesn’t help it all.
You’ve got light shades of blue such as sky blue, baby blue, and aqua blue.
You’ve got dark shades of blue such as navy, indigo, and azure.
It matters because the lighter the shade of blue suit you’re wearing, the more it’ll contrast with the black shirt you’re wearing underneath it.
In general, the more contrast you’ve got between the shirt and the suit, the more attention-grabbing and eye-catching it’ll look overall.
In addition, the more casual it tends to look as well.
So, go for a dark and muted shade of blue suit if you want a more understated, subtle, and formal look.
Consider a lighter, brighter, and bolder shade of blue suit if you want a more casual and striking appearance due to the contrast it’ll produce with the black shirt.
A blue linen suit coupled with a black Oxford shirt will look very different from a blue worsted wool suit paired with a black cotton dress shirt.
The second combo would look a whole lot more formal than the first.
The rugged, wrinkled texture of a blue linen suit would have a much more casual look to it than the sheen of a blue worsted wool suit.
The coarse texture of a black Oxford cloth would look more casual than a wrinkle-resistant black dress shirt.
There are so many potential suit and shirt fabrics out there that it’s important to keep it simple.
You can’t be expected to know which fabrics are “formal” and which are “casual” because in many ways this doesn’t make sense.
Some cotton suits will look more formal than others. The same goes for linen, wool, and so on.
To keep things simple, use the following rules of thumb:
If the blue suit or the black shirt has a shinier and less wrinkly look to it, it’s more formal. The darker the shade of blue, the more formal it’ll look too.
If the blue suit or the black shirt has a more rugged, coarse, and wrinkly look and feel to it, it’s more casual.
The lighter the shade of the blue suit, the more casual it’ll look.
Consider Forgetting The Tie
The ensemble often works great without a tie.
No matter how “formal” a blue suit and black shirt combination is, it’ll still have a pretty “smart-casual” aesthetic to it.
It’ll never look as formal as a blue suit and white shirt.
Because of this, wearing a tie often just isn’t necessary.
If the blue suit and black shirt is definitely appropriate for the setting you’re attending (usually evening social events), there’s a good chance it would look great without a tie.
Leave one or two buttons undone for a nice, laid-back feel.
Don’t get me wrong – a tie could still work great. In addition, if you feel as though you should wear a tie in whatever setting you’re dressing for, you should.
But going tieless does work great here.
Black Dress Shoes Work Best
When wearing a blue suit and black shirt, black dress shoes usually work best.
While brown shoes can still work, it often produces too much contrast with the shirt and even the suit.
Wearing a blue suit with a black shirt is already a pretty eye-catching look.
You want a pair of shoes that blends seamlessly with the outfit instead of standing out. The easiest way to do this would be to go for a pair of black dress shoes.
What’s more important is the style of dress shoe you choose to wear.
This will definitely depend on how formal or casual you’re looking to go.
Here are the main styles of dress shoes you’ve got to work with (in order of reducing formality):
- Oxford shoes
- Derby shoes
- Monk straps
The low-cut, laceless construction of loafers can look pretty casual, but they’re generally versatile enough to be worn with suits in smart-casual summer settings.
I’ve written more about wearing loafers with suits if you’re interested.
Any of these dress shoe styles can also look more formal or less formal depending on what they’re made from.
The shinier the leather, the more formal they’ll look. Calfskin and cowhide are important examples.
In contrast, the napped texture of black suede can look a lot more casual.
Go For A Black Belt
Given how you’re likely to be wearing black shoes with your blue suit and black shirt, go for a black belt.
A common style mistake people make is trying to match their belt to their suit, shirt, tie, or anything else.
Always try to match your belt to your shoes.
Doing so can really make any suit combination look well-coordinated, while not doing so can easily make it look sloppy.
The good thing is you’re pretty likely to own a black belt and if you don’t, you probably should.
The metal belt buckle also nicely breaks up the top and bottom halves of the blue suit.
Overall, a belt should be considered essential.
Add Color With A Pocket Square
Given how a blue suit and black shirt is still a pretty “neutral” combination, adding a splash or hint of color where you’re able to isn’t a bad idea.
A simple pocket square is the easiest way to achieve this.
If you’re looking to keep things neutral and minimalist, go for a neutral-colored pocket square (eg. white, grey, or black).
But in many ways, it’s best to use it as an opportunity to add some color.
You’ve got a wide range of options ranging from warm (eg. reds, pinks, oranges) to cool (eg. mint green, deep purple).
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few frequently asked (yet rarely answered) questions to round things up nicely.
Can You Wear A Blue Suit, Black Shirt, And Brown Shoes?
In general, black shoes work better than brown shoes when wearing a blue suit and black shirt. Brown shoes tend to produce too much of an eye-catching contrast.
If you do choose to wear brown shoes, try to stick to very dark shades of brown to make sure they sync with the rest of the outfit as seamlessly as possible.
Can You Wear A Blue Suit With A Black Shirt And Tie?
Yes, you can wear a blue suit with a black shirt and tie. Sticking to a dark and neutral tie color (eg. charcoal grey) usually works best. If you’d prefer a bolder color, stick to dark tones such as burgundy red.
As described earlier on, the combination often works great without a tie.
But if you do wear a tie, be careful with the color.
You don’t want the tie to stand out too much against the dark backdrop of the black shirt.
In general, the darker and more neutral, the better.
Can You Wear A Blue Suit And Black Shirt To A Wedding?
A blue suit and black shirt should not be worn to a wedding. It will look awkward and out of place, mainly due to the fact that black shirts are generally not worn to traditional daytime wedding ceremonies.
Wearing a black shirt to a wedding is generally frowned upon.
For one, it’ll draw attention, and drawing attention away from the wedding couple is considered a faux pas.
Also, weddings are celebratory occasions – wearing black is considered odd.
Can You Wear A Blue Suit With A Black Shirt And White Tie?
Avoid wearing a white tie with a black shirt and blue suit. The contrast between the white tie and black shirt will be too much. It’ll draw unwanted attention and will rarely ever look stylish.
Keep things simple.
Either go tieless (as recommended earlier on), or go for a dark and neutral color (eg. charcoal grey) that doesn’t produce too much contrast with the black shirt.
Going for a charcoal grey tie would be better than going for a black tie because you do still want the tie to be light enough to distinguish it from the black shirt.
Hopefully, that’s everything you could ever want to know about wearing this elegant combo.
Sticking to basic principles such as considering the formality, the shades, and the fabric will always see you through.