Given how we’re technically working with different shades of the same color, you could call it monochromatic. But does it work? More specifically, can you wear a grey suit with a black shirt?
A grey suit can be worn with a black shirt to formal social events that take place in the evening. The lighter the shade of the grey suit, the more it’ll contrast with the black shirt and the more striking the outfit will appear.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
After going through some essential tips for making this combination work, I’ll run through a couple of FAQs on the topic to really round things up in style.
Let’s get to it.
7 Tips For Wearing A Grey Suit With A Black Shirt
As always, consider all of these tips before putting your outfit together.
1. Consider The Dress Code
Wearing a grey suit with a black shirt will look formal, elegant, and sophisticated.
However, there are definitely settings where it would come across as too much or too little.
The combination should really only be worn to “formal” settings where a 2-piece suit would be required at the very least.
Going a step further than that, it should really only be worn in social settings.
Black shirts may have a formal edge to them, but they aren’t appropriate for business or work settings where a white shirt would be a much better choice.
So, wear a grey suit and black shirt combo to formal and social settings. Nothing else.
Here are the dress codes where you shouldn’t be wearing it:
- Black-Tie: A tuxedo is required. A grey suit of any variety wouldn’t be enough.
- Business-Professional: A grey suit would be fine, but a white shirt would be much more appropriate than a black one.
- Business-Casual: A suit of any sort would be too much. Stick to chinos/slacks + OCBD/dress shirt combos instead.
- Smart-Casual: A suit would be way too much. Think polo shirts, OCBDs, Henley shirts, chinos, and dark wash jeans instead.
2. Stick To Evening Events
While a grey suit would look fine when worn to events that occur during the day, black shirts tend to look a whole lot better when worn at night time.
Black shirts just don’t look quite right when worn during the day.
Consider why “black-tie” as a dress code is really only considered appropriate for events that occur after 6pm.
The ultra-formal daytime equivalent would be “morning dress” which consists of a lighter palette of colors.
To sum this up, try to reserve the grey suit and black shirt combo for formal social events that take place in the evening.
For anything else, there’s likely to be a better option.
3. Choose The Right Shade Of Grey Suit
The shade of grey suit you choose will depend on how much contrast you want between the suit and the black shirt. Light grey suits will lead to a lot of contrast with the black shirt, while dark grey and charcoal grey suits will lead to less contrast.
In general, the more contrast you have between the grey suit and the black shirt, the more striking and bold the outfit will appear.
If you want a more attention-grabbing aesthetic, go for more contrast (i.e light grey suit + black shirt).
If you want a more subtle and understated aesthetic, go for less contrast (i.e dark grey/charcoal grey suit + black shirt).
However, it’s important to note that if you do go for a dark grey suit, the shade should be light enough to easily distinguish it from the black shirt.
If a shade of grey suit is so dark that the shirt and the suit seem to blend seamlessly into each other, it’s possible that the suit is too dark.
Go for a lighter shade of grey instead.
4. Dark, Neutral Ties Work Best
When wearing a grey suit and black shirt, ties in dark and neutral colors such as grey tend to work best. “Warm” and dark colors such as burgundy red also work well.
It can be tough to color match black shirts with ties.
In general, however, the darker the better.
Going for a light-colored tie can often lead to the odd effect of there being too much contrast between the tie and the black shirt.
Taking the extreme example of a white tie over a black shirt, it tends to stand out too much to an extent where it almost looks comical.
You want a tie that is dark enough to sync well with the black shirt, while also being light enough to distinguish from it.
Ties in dark shades of grey tend to work best – they’re subtle, elegant, and easily distinguished from the black shirt.
While you could wear a black tie, it usually doesn’t look great.
A truly monochromatic shirt and tie combo such as this does have its place but can be tough to make work in practice.
You want a tie that stands out from the shirt, but not too much.
Dark grey works well for this purpose.
If you did want more color, however, consider a dark shade of red such as burgundy or even maroon.
5. Go Tie-less For A Smart-Casual Look
When wearing a grey suit with a black shirt, you don’t necessarily have to wear a tie at all. If you want a more laid-back aesthetic, consider going tieless.
Remember, it’s important to make sure it would be appropriate before you attempt this.
If a dress code is truly “formal”, you’ll want to wear a necktie at the very least.
But if it’s casual enough to get away with not wearing a tie, it’s definitely worth considering going tieless and leaving one or two buttons of your black shirt undone.
It’s simple, yet effective.
In addition, you remove the hassle of trying to find a tie that would work well with the black shirt.
As explained in the previous tip, color-matching black shirts and ties can be frustrating.
6. A 3-Piece Grey Suit To Go More Formal
A 3-piece grey suit can work well when worn with a black shirt in formal evening settings.
The simple addition of a waistcoat can transform an otherwise straightforward 2-piece suit into something a whole lot more dapper.
Once again, it’s important to consider the tone and dress code of the setting you’re dressing for before doing so.
While a 3-piece suit isn’t as formal as a tuxedo, for example, you do run the risk of overdressing a little if the event isn’t quite as formal as you might think.
However, if you feel as though it would be appropriate, going for a 3-piece suit instead of a 2-piece suit could be a great way to stand out from the crowd.
7. Go For Brown Or Black Dress Shoes
Both brown and black dress shoes work well when wearing a grey suit with a black shirt, with black being the more formal of the two options.
In general, the darker the shoes, the more formal they’ll look.
Both black and dark brown dress shoes would be appropriate if you were looking to dress more formally.
Lighter shades of brown would still work well with a grey suit and black shirt – the combination is neutral enough to pull off without a hitch.
But it’s worth remembering that light brown shoes will look more casual than black or darker shades of brown.
One reason for this is that you’ll simply have more contrast between the shoes and the rest of the outfit. The light-colored shoes will catch the eye and draw attention.
If you were looking to dress the grey suit and black shirt down a notch, this may be appealing.
In addition, consider the leather.
Shinier grains of leather such as cowhide and calfskin tend to work better here. They just have a more sophisticated edge to them.
However, if you really wanted to dress the suit down, consider suede dress shoes instead.
The napped texture of suede can work with suits in social settings but does make the outfit appear more casual overall.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a couple of frequently asked questions on the topic to finish up.
Can You Wear A Grey Suit With A Black Shirt And Red Tie?
A red tie can be worn with a grey suit and black shirt, but it’s best to stick to darker shades of red such as burgundy or maroon.
While the warm tone of red syncs well with black shirts, stick to darker shades wherever possible.
The darker the shade of red, the more likely it is to pair well with the black shirt and not lead to too much contrast.
Can You Wear A Grey Suit And Black Shirt To A Wedding?
A grey suit and black shirt should not be worn to a wedding as it would look out of place at a traditional and celebratory daytime event.
Wearing a dark-colored shirt to a wedding is considered a faux pas.
While a grey suit would most likely be absolutely fine, black shirts are rarely ever worn. Because of this, you’re likely to stand out from the crowd and draw attention away from the wedding couple.
This, in itself, is considered a faux pas.
Overall, it’s simply not worth doing.
Go for a simple grey suit and white dress shirt instead.
Grey suits and black shirts go well together given how neutral and elegant the monochromatic aesthetic can come across.
However, as you can see, there are definitely better ways of pulling it off.
Hopefully, you’re now several steps closer to wearing it in the best way possible, each and every time.