A Primer On Black Suits - Do You Really Need A Black Suit?

The black suit. From classic Jazz musicians such as Count Basie and Thelonious Monk, to the silver-screen and movies like Reservoir Dogs or Men In Black, the black suit is a staple in men’s fashion. 


While it’s a timeless look, it is far from universal though. 


In this primer we dive into the history of black suits, when you should (and shouldn’t) wear a black suit, and what to pair your suit with. 


The History of the Black Suit


The black suit is one of the more formal colour choices in mens suits. And while we think of them as eternal, timeless classics, they first started appearing around the time of the Industrial Revolution. 


Advancements in the textile industry made creating articles of clothing easier. These newly adopted production methods and technology made clothes more affordable to produce, which made them cheaper to buy and made them more readily available to the masses. In this dawn of consumerism more people had the ability to dress better and now they had the access to mass-produced garments. Additionally, this societal shift also saw the evolution of the “modern businessman” who needed to dress accordingly. 


Throughout the next century the need for formal evening wear gradually dissipated giving way to the more fashionable black suit that many of us consider a staple of our wardrobes. Read on to learn more about when you should wear a black suit, and what to pair it with.


When Should I Wear a Black Suit?


From graduations, job interviews and the nine-to-five to weddings, dinner parties, funerals and plenty more, few suits boast quite the same versatility as black suits do. Think about it, if you're asked to wear “formal” or “cocktail attire” to an event, where does your brain go? A classic black suit. However, that actually isn’t the case in many instances.


In fact, a black suit is considered too formal for most workplaces. This rule goes for interviews as well, not to mention that depending on how strictly “black tie” dress codes are being followed - you might be required to wear a tuxedo. Most commonly there are a only a few instances that truly require that you wear a black suit:


  • Funerals. The first situation, as upsetting as it sounds, would be funerals. The wearing of black clothing has been a long-accepted funeral tradition intended to show respect for the deceased.
  • Black Tie events. Cocktail parties, the opera, a grandiose wedding, a prestigious gala, etc. The black suit is a good fall back when you need to go “black tie” - although, as we mentioned above, a tuxedo might be a better (or required) choice. 
  • Weddings. While not all weddings require this, black suits can be worn to weddings that require a formal dress code.


As you can tell, the black suit is a bit more limiting than we would originally think it would be. That’s not to mention that stylistically there aren’t many pairings that look good with a black suit.


What To Wear With A Black Suit?


Well, for shirts always wear a light-colored shirt with a black suit. There’s something that just feels right about a classic white french-cuff and a black suit. Some other pastels can also pair nicely - light pinks/purples, light blues, and greys tend to pair best, just keep in mind that anything too vibrant will clash. Another common trend is black-on-black, which can be striking if done correctly. The main takeaway here is this: keep it simple and classic. 


When it comes to ties, a white shirt and black tie is considered one the most reliable menswear combos of all time. However ties with deeper tones, like blue, grey, or purple can create a contrast that will stand out without looking tacky. Additionally, depending on the event, you can choose to skip the formality of the tie.


For shoes - keep it to black if you’re going classic. There’s no going wrong with a well-polished black Oxford or Derby dress shoe. If you are trying to look a bit more hip, a well-kept sneaker can also pair well. Again though, a black suit is a statement piece in-and-of itself, so you mightn’t want to distract from that too much. 


For a timeless finish, stick to classic accessories – a thin presidential fold pocket square that either matches your shirt or your tie, and a simple silver tie bar and cufflinks. 


Overall, just keep it simple, the classic monochrome look is timeless for a reason. Nothing commands attention quite like a simple, well fitted black suit. 


So, Do You Need A Black Suit?


The answer is that it depends. A black suit is not the best choice for a man who needs one suit for rare special occasions. But black makes an excellent suit choice for anyone who expects to regularly attend serious or formal events. 


If you are one of the people who needs one, we do suggest you check out our current inventory for two-piece black suits.