Your New Party Suit

When I first started my long journey down the rabbit hole that is menswear, the trickiest thing for me to get a handle on was the formal side of my wardrobe. I’d spent so much time in baggy jeans, knackered Converse trainers and hoodies that it was easy to upgrade the casual elements of my style. These items were already familiar to me and a lot of the key designers and stores were already on my radar.

However, tailoring was a completely different story. Until I made the conscious decision to up my style game, I very rarely wore anything close to resembling a full suit. I’m genuinely not sure I’d even tried on a blazer by that point. The prospect of diving into these murky waters was scary stuff and with no real guide to help me, I’ll be honest, a lot of mistakes were made.

They are the same mistakes that I still see guys making to this day. But luckily, that’s where FashionBeans comes in – we’re here to answer all of your sartorial dilemmas and point you in the right direction. And today I’d like to personally make a case for one of the most misunderstood and misused pieces of tailoring in menswear: the black suit.

The Black Suit

Now, there are going to be plenty of people that won’t agree with what I’m about to say. And like in any creative industry, there is always an element of subjectivity to what we discuss. But let me start by saying this: a black suit is not business appropriate. Ever.

Sure, black is great for shoes, ties, watches and even eyewear – but a nine-to-five suit? Not a chance. The reason is simple: most business is done during the daytime, when there is plenty of natural light about, which black does not look good under. Navy appears much richer and deeper under natural light than artificial. Black is essentially the other way around, making it perfect for evening wear when the majority of formal events tend to occur, such as wedding receptions, black tie events and nights on the town.

For example, during office hours, a black suit, white shirt and neutral tie can look stark and unwelcoming (maybe because you resemble an undertaker). Whereas under artificial light in a ballroom or bar it looks elegant, suave and sophisticated. In addition, black isn’t quite as versatile as navy and grey when it comes colour matching, as the majority of hues tend to make the black appear shiny and static, while the colour itself can look cheap.

But never fear, I’m not just here to highlight the negatives of the black suit. It has its advantages as well, which I’ve already mentioned: it’s the perfect evening suit, be it for formal occasions, a night spent in a fancy bar, or even a Christmas Eve bar crawl with the boys when split into separates. Think of your black suit as the one you purchase once you’ve nailed your business wardrobe. Essentially, it’s your party suit.

Purchasing Considerations

So what are the things to look out for when purchasing a black suit? Luckily, you don’t have to worry about the colour – they’re all the same – but there are still a few guidelines to bear in mind.

Firstly, and as always, nail the fit. You want the jacket to hug your shoulders and be cut slim through the waist, while still allowing room for light layering. Make sure it’s long enough to cover your bum and that the sleeves allow around half an inch of shirt cuff to show (you may want to show slightly more off if you’re going to be combining it with French cuff shirts and cuff links in the evening).

In terms of style, branch out from the tried and tested business formula. Why not consider a chic one-button jacket? Or how about a wide peak lapel that creates a powerful silhouette and communicates elegance and sophistication? You could venture even further by looking for a jacket with shawl lapels, patch pockets or statement detailing. Really explore the current market and try to find something that stands apart from the norm.

Lastly, consider the suit material. As this will be worn outside of normal working hours, it is worth looking into slightly lighter weight fabrics that will help regulate heat/sweat and can handle the occasional spillage. A wool/cotton blend is ideal, although 100 per cent cotton and tropical wools will work just as well.

  • Asos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Harris Tweed FabricAsos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Harris Tweed Fabric
  • Noose & Monkey Skinny Suit Jacket With Shawl CollarNoose & Monkey Skinny Suit Jacket With Shawl Collar
  • Vito Tonal Check SuitVito Tonal Check Suit
  • Next Black Three-piece SuitNext Black Three-piece Suit
  • Goodsouls Mens Double Breasted SuitGoodsouls Mens Double Breasted Suit
  • Reiss Heath Two Button Wool SuitReiss Heath Two Button Wool Suit
  • M&S Collection Slim Fit 1 Button Hopsack Eveningwear SuitM&s Collection Slim Fit 1 Button Hopsack Eveningwear Suit
  • Autograph Wool Rich 1 Button Eveningwear Suit With CashmereAutograph Wool Rich 1 Button Eveningwear Suit With Cashmere
  • T.m.lewin Franco Plain Black 1-button Skinny SuitT.m.lewin Franco Plain Black 1-button Skinny Suit
  • Austin Reed Regular Fit Black Herringbone SuitAustin Reed Regular Fit Black Herringbone Suit
  • Gucci Black Slim-fit Leather-trimmed Wool-blend SuitGucci Black Slim-fit Leather-trimmed Wool-blend Suit
  • A.p.c. Black Wool SuitA.p.c. Black Wool Suit
How To Style

Here are a few ways you can wear your black suit this season:

1. Full Formal

Not got enough money or the need to fork out on a full dinner suit? This is where your black suit can step in.

Pair it with a closed placket white dress shirt, black grenadine bow tie and some black Oxford shoes and you’ve got a ready-made substitute that no-one will even realise isn’t a tux.

Men's Black Suits With Formal Bow Ties Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

el burgues ss15unknowncalibre ss14m&s aw12Aquascutum aw14m&s winter 2014
2. All-Black

Not only on-trend this season, an all-black outfit can look extremely sharp and sophisticated when executed correctly.

the key is to vary the textures of your individual pieces in order to create definition and stop you looking like a black hole.

With this in mind, try combining a crisp black cotton dress shirt, knitted silk tie and patent leather shoes with your wool-blend suit to create a super slick ensemble that really comes into its own at night.

Men's Black Suits With Black Shirts And Ties Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

zara man aw12selected homme aw13Corneliani aw13filippa k 2014massimo dutti aw13sarar black tie aw14h&m style guide 2014David Naman aw14new look aw14
3. Party Season

With Christmas fast approaching, your diary will soon fill up with events.

Use your black suit as the blank canvas to work your party looks around. Patterned and printed shirts in neutral tones such as white, grey and navy are the perfect partner here and can be used to make the suit look different each time.

Combine them with a colourful pocket square and black penny loafers and you can’t go wrong.

Depending on the dress code and expected formality, other pieces that can be used to give your suit a more dressed-down feel include statement shirts (sans tie), roll necks, patterned knitwear and casual staples such as t-shirts and polos.

Men's Black Suits Dressed-Down With Printed Shirts, Knitwear, Roll Necks, T-Shirts - Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

selected homme aw13unknownj crew aw14unknownzara ss11charles tyrwhitt aw14reiss aw13drykorn aw14house of fraser kenneth cole aw14
4. Smart-Casual Cool

Heading out with your friends to a few bars? Try splitting your suit into separates.

For example, pair your usual dark indigo jeans and grey t-shirt combination with the suit jacket for a foolproof look. Grey and black is a classic colour pairing that flatters any man’s skin tone. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something slightly smarter, for a high-end cocktail bar or restaurant, try teaming your blazer with white jeans/chinos for a striking, on-trend contrast.

Finish with some luxe black trainers or smart leather Chelsea boots and you’ll be ready for whatever the night throws at you.

Don’t neglect your suit trousers either. With dressed-down trousers a key look for AW14, why not match them with a simple polo shirt and leather jacket/heavyweight bomber for a practical and effortlessly cool look for a Christmas night out?

Men's Black Suit Separates - Worn In Smart-Casual Outfits For Nights Out

club monaco aw14zara ss11allsaints aw12zara editions aw13allsaints ss13banana republic pre aw14house of fraser aw14bohemian ss14de fursac ss14massimo dutti november 2014reiss aw14drykorn aw14
Final Word

Finally, and I would say most importantly, wear your suit as often as you can! With any piece of clothing the more you wear it the more it will mould to your body and personal style – truly individualising the item to you.

So, whether it’s the full suit or separates, just make sure you have it on when you head out into the night this winter. Soon you’ll begin to wonder how you ever survived without it.

But now we want to hear what you have to say – what do think of the black suit? Is it business appropriate? How do you like to wear yours?

Make sure you leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below…