The Gentleman: Style Sins

The Black Suit

The Gentleman is a lover and not a hater. However, there are some style mistakes so egregious that they demand to be called out and corrected immediately. Up until now, the Gentleman has almost exclusively discussed what to wear and almost never approached it from the other side. As I write, rain is pouring outside my window and The Gentleman’s mood has turned a bit grouchy. Pour yourself a glass of “haterade” because I am about to discuss the first Mortal Sin of Men’s Style.

Sin #1: The black suit.

A truly awful ill-fitting black suit. The bright sky blue shirt looks weirdly out of place behind the stark black wool of the suit.

The sin: The black suit is an extremely common Style Sin. As a law student, I see many young men wearing black suits to summer internships and job interviews. To their credit, it’s an understandable slip up. On television, navy and gray suits, depending on the shade, can look black. A gentleman who is unguided in buying his first suit often automatically thinks that black is the safest and most professional suit color. Unfortunately, low-end suit retailers, like Men’s Wearhouse, feed into this sin by offering black suits to their customers. In fact, black suits are unacceptable in the professional world and an instant giveaway that the wearer is a style novice.

Why the hate? The traditional reason a gentleman does not wear a black suit is because they were historically worn by “the help,” and a Gentleman in the know wouldn’t don the same color in order to avoid confusion. Today, we are hopefully less elitist, but black is still typically the color of the working uniform. A man in a black suit would probably not be mistaken for a waiter but would appear as though he is uneducated about clothing, and that alone is reason enough not to wear a black suit. There are aesthetic reasons for avoiding black as well. Black suits are extremely stark and do not pair as well with common tie colors. For me, a black suit is also more difficult to focus the eye, especially during the day, when compared with other “softer” colors like gray, brown or navy.

How to fix it: When most men buy a black suit, what they really want is a dark and serious garment. This is a worthy goal. Instead, go for a suit in a dark charcoal; it is just as serious, extremely distinguished, and shows that you know a bit about style.

A very simple, though well-fitting, charcoal suit from J.Crew’s Ludlow line.

Exception to a Rule: There is an ongoing debate in the men’s style community (yes, there is a men’s style community) about whether black suits are appropriate for funerals. Traditionally, a black suit was a man’s choice attire for a funeral because it symbolized a solemn sign of mourning. However, some argue that it is too overt a display of grief, and for such a sensitive time, a subdued dark gray suit is more appropriate.

An important note: tuxedos, which will be covered in a future post, are almost always black. Of course, a gentleman will never confuse (or attempt to substitute) a tuxedo for a suit or vice versa. That would be a style sin in and of itself.

Finally, to show that the Gentleman is not above a little self-deprecation, here’s something that I found in the vaults:

There’s a lot of bad things going on here. Yes, that is a black suit that I’m wearing. My black shirt and bright red tie are only making matters worse. I’ll be discussing the temptation to wear “clubbing shirts” in a future Style Sin column. Let’s not even discuss the scruff beard and the excessive amount of gel in my hair. I was young and had so much to learn.

Next week: the Gentleman basks in the glory of end of summer sales and points out a few items that you shouldn’t miss…



Filed under The Gentleman

4 responses to “The Gentleman: Style Sins

  1. Sandy

    What about Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith in MIB? And all those LDS guys – they always wear black!

  2. The Gentleman

    Well…its funny because the Men in Black thing is a play off of old conspiracy theories about shadowy agents who dressed in black suits and investigated aliens. Those “men in black” in the conspiracy theories were always notable for looking slightly out of place…as do the Mormons.

    • Sandy

      Yup! At least MIB has excellent humor!
      ‘You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good!’ – J

  3. sonnet21line9

    Actually, new Mormon missionaries now wear charcoal suits. However their bicycles and elder badges still accentuate their inability to blend into the style community.

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