Certain combinations are tough to go wrong with but can easily look “average” when not worn in the right way. The question is, can you actually wear a navy suit with a black shirt?
A navy suit and black shirt can easily be worn to formal social events that take place in the evening. The combination often looks great without a tie and when coupled with a pair of black leather dress shoes. Add a pocket square for a splash of color.
But there’s more to it.
You’re about to learn 7 essential tips for wearing a navy suit with a black shirt in the most effective way possible.
At the end, I’ll run through some FAQs on the topic to really round things up.
Let’s get to it.
7 Tips For Wearing A Navy Suit With A Black Shirt
Consider all of these tips before putting your outfit together.
Make Sure It’s Appropriate
A navy suit and black shirt should really only be worn in formal evening social settings.
While it’s true the combination will look “formal”, it’s generally best not to wear it to more “traditional” formal and business-professional settings.
Examples where you wouldn’t want to wear it include weddings, interviews, and work settings.
In these settings, wear a navy suit with a white shirt instead of a black one.
Examples where a navy suit would look great with a black shirt would generally fall into the “evening social” categories.
Dinners, galas, ceremonies, fancy nights out, etc.
Trying to wear the combination to a more traditionally formal or daytime setting would look awkward, more often than not.
Consider The Type Of “Navy”
While “navy” is technically a well-defined dark shade of blue, it’s no secret that it can mean different things to different people.
Often incorrectly, people refer to any vaguely dark shade of blue as “navy”.
Some of these shades of blue will definitely be lighter than others.
So, it’s important to consider the type of “navy” you’re working with.
In general, the darker the shade of a navy suit, the more formal it’ll look when worn with a black shirt.
The reason for this is that a dark navy suit will produce less contrast with the black shirt. Less contrast results in a more subtle and understated appearance.
This tends to look less casual.
On the other hand, lighter shades of “navy” will produce a little more contrast with the black shirt and will have a more striking, eye-catching, and casual appearance to it.
Of course, it gets to a point where a shade of blue is so light that it should never be called “navy” in the first place.
But the main point here is that “navy” is a spectrum of relatively dark shades of blue in itself.
Some will be lighter and more casual looking, while others will be darker and more formal looking when worn with a black shirt.
Consider The Fabric
Fabric is just as important as color/shade when it comes to pairing suits and shirts.
It can make any suit and shirt combination look more or less formal.
But it wouldn’t make sense to brand certain fabrics as “casual” and others as “formal”.
Instead, consider the following rule-of-thumb:
The shinier and less wrinkly the fabric is, the more formal it’ll look. The less shiny and more wrinkly the fabric is, the more casual it’ll look.
Let’s go through a couple of examples.
A navy linen suit worn with black linen or Oxford cloth shirt would look quite casual. Both linen and Oxford cloth are pretty rugged, coarse, and wrinkly. Neither of them have any real sheen to them.
A navy worsted wool suit worn with a black 100% cotton dress shirt would look quite formal. Both items will have a visible sheen and will also be quite wrinkle-resistant.
This shows you how a navy suit and black shirt combination can look more or less formal depending on the fabric each of them is made from.
Forget The Tie
In general, a navy suit and black shirt will look better without a tie. It produces a great laid-back and smart-casual aesthetic.
Undo one or two shirt buttons and you’re all set. No need for a tie.
However, you may feel as though the setting you’re dressing for is formal enough to require a tie.
If this is true, strongly consider whether you should be wearing a black shirt in the first place – would a white one be more appropriate?
Either way, if you do choose to wear a tie, the color you choose does matter.
Black shirts are tough to wear with ties, simply because going for too light, bright, or bold of a color will produce too much contrast.
Taking an extreme example, a white tie worn with a black shirt will produce so much contrast that it almost looks comical. This is true to the point where only magicians and entertainers can really pull it off.
In general, if you are going to wear a tie, stick to a dark and neutral color to produce the minimal amount of contrast with the black shirt.
But at the same time, it should be light enough to easily distinguish from the black shirt.
Charcoal grey works especially well here.
If you did want a bolder-colored tie, however, try to keep it dark. Burgundy red could work.
Black Dress Shoes Are Best
When wearing a navy suit and black shirt, keep things simple and wear black dress shoes.
While you could go for brown, it’ll usually produce a little too much contrast.
Black shoes will blend seamlessly with the suit and shirt – it’s tough to go wrong with.
The style of black dress shoes you go for is important, as some look more formal than others.
In order of reducing formality, here are the main dress shoe styles you’ve got to choose from:
- Oxford shoes
- Derby shoes
- Monk strap shoes
Any of these could work but bear in mind that loafers tend to look pretty casual due to the laceless and low-cut aesthetic.
In addition, you’ll be going sockless or wearing no-show socks.
Because of this, reserve loafers for the more “casual” end of the smart-casual spectrum when wearing a navy suit and black shirt.
A Matching Black Belt
The belt you wear should match your dress shoes. Given how you’re likely to be wearing black shoes, go for a black belt.
If you do choose to wear brown shoes with your navy suit and black shirt combo, go for a black belt.
The easiest way to make a suit look well put-together and coordinated is to make sure your belt matches your shoes as closely as possible.
It doesn’t have to be an exact match, but the closer the better.
Not matching the two items is a common mistake and can, unfortunately, make any suit look amateurish as a result.
A Pocket Square For Color
The neutral color scheme of a navy suit and black shirt combination can be made to look a tad more interesting by adding a colorful pocket square.
It’s simple but incredibly effective.
A pocket square should be used as an opportunity to add a splash of color to your suit combination.
In addition, the neutral black is easy to pair with such a wide variety of colors.
If you do want to keep things subtle, stick to a neutral color scheme and go for a white, grey, black, or navy pocket square.
But it’s generally best to add a bit more vibrance and color by going for a “warm” or “cool” colored pocket square. It’ll produce contrast and catch the eye.
Warm colors you could choose from include reds, oranges, and pinks.
Cool colors you could choose from include greens, blues, and purples.
Given the neutral backdrop you’re working with, you’ve got so many different options.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few frequently asked questions on this combination to really round things up.
Can You Wear A Navy Suit, Black Shirt, And Brown Shoes?
While brown shoes can be worn with a navy suit and black shirt, black shoes generally work better. Brown shoes will generally produce a little too much contrast.
If you do choose to wear brown shoes, darker shades of brown would definitely work better.
The less contrast you have between the brown shoes and the black shirt, the better.
Can You Wear A Navy Suit With A Black Shirt And Black Tie?
Avoid wearing a navy suit and black shirt with a black tie. The black tie will be difficult to distinguish from the black shirt. Go for a lighter-colored tie instead.
But as I mentioned earlier, it’s important to not go too light with the tie color.
You don’t want so much contrast between the shirt and the tie that it draws too much attention.
You want a tie that’s light enough to easily stand out when worn over a black shirt, but not to stand out too much.
Greys work especially well, with dark shades of grey (eg. charcoal) really doing the trick.
Remember, navy suits and black shirts often work great without a tie as well.
Can You Wear A Navy Suit And Black Shirt To A Wedding?
A navy suit and black shirt shouldn’t be worn to a wedding. Wearing a black shirt is generally considered a faux pas at weddings and will stand out in a bad way.
Standing out from the crowd is frowned upon – you don’t want to wear anything that’ll draw attention away from the wedding couple.
Keep things simple and wear a white shirt with your navy suit instead here.
Can You Wear A Navy Suit And Black Shirt To A Funeral?
A navy suit and black shirt can be worn to a funeral, although a white shirt would generally be considered more traditional and appropriate.
Ultimately, the combination would be fine to wear to most modern, Western funerals.
There you have it.
Hopefully, that was a pretty comprehensive guide to wearing this sophisticated and eye-catching combination.
It’s important to remember that it won’t be appropriate to wear in every setting, but it’s surprisingly versatile.
Consider the formality, color/shade, and fabric, and you’ll generally end up with a combination that looks great.