The Only Suit You’ll Ever Need?

A lot of the questions I get asked by guys who are new to men’s fashion and style revolve around tailoring. Whether it’s the way a certain piece should fit (very important) or what hues will go with their new oddly-coloured blazer, it seems that many struggle when it comes to dressing on the sharper end of the spectrum.

However, above all others, the question that I get asked the most is: “If I only buy one suit, what should it be?” And while this may seem like a relatively easy one to answer, I can assure you it is not.

“It’s simple”, I hear you cry. “A navy, two button, peak lapel suit with double vents”, I hear you scream. “We thought you actually knew stuff about style”, I hear you jeer.

Valid points. Yet I’m here to argue that there may be an alternative to the holier than holy navy option. So today I put a case forward for the grey suit being the only one you’ll ever need in your wardrobe…

The Navy Alternative

Now believe me when I tell you that there are going be plenty of traditionalists and conservatives going crazy over what I’ve just said. If you don’t believe me, just scroll down to the comments section and witness it for yourself. There’s no denying that navy is a good choice. But, in my opinion, it’s not a wise choice.

Of course, there are certain scenarios where navy will remain your best option. For instance, if you work in a formal business environment, especially within the financial sector, you might find that anything other than navy is actually frowned upon.

Yet this no longer applies to the majority of individuals, especially with more and more work places beginning to adopt business-casual dress codes. In fact, in these companies, a navy suit may be considered a bit too much.

Navy also feels like more of a daytime, business-appropriate colour whereas grey can effortlessly transition into the evening, especially when paired with black. There’s nothing easier than swapping your white shirt and black tie combination for a crisp black polo as you walk out the office for a well-earned drink after a long day. The fact that grey goes with any colour under the sun doesn’t hurt either.

Personally, I think grey is more versatile as well. Due to the navy suit’s business connotations, it can be slightly harder to dress down when compared to its grey counterpart.

For example, try pairing your grey suit with brown desert boots and a casual shirt in flannel plaid or chambray, then skip the tie and go wild with your pocket square.

Alternatively, for full on dressed down summer cool, why not combine it with crisp Converse trainers/boat shoes and a plain white t-shirt? Again, go all out with your choice of pocket square and finish off with a straw hat.

Formal Styling

What about styling the grey suit for more formal situations? Well, here are some go-to combinations that any man can pull off:

  • Weddings: A white dress shirt and patterned tie with black dress shoes and matching accessories.
  • Funerals: A black dress shirt, black shoes and black knitted tie.
  • Formal Functions: A French cuffed white placket dress shirt and a black bow tie.

As you can see, there’s not a lot this suit can’t do, especially when you consider how wearing your navy suit to a wedding or funeral always has that ‘just came from the office’ feel to it:

Formal Lookbook

Men's Grey Suit Lookbook - Full Formal Styling

he by mango aw13de fursac aw12massimo dutti nyc 5th avenue ss13digel aw13digel aw13cerruti 1881 aw13digel aw13ovadia & sons ss13cerruti 1881 ready to wear ss13pal zileri ss13ted baker ss14Baldessarini 2013
Grey Suit Separates Lookbook

Men's Grey Suit Lookbook - Worn As Separates

he by mango aw13filippa k aw10ted baker aw13gant rugger aw13h&m october 2013digel aw12perry ellis ss13banana republic aw13drykorn aw13joop aw10zara editions aw13he by mango september 2012
Key Purchasing Considerations

Thanks to its versatility, you only need to focus on two things when buying a grey suit: fit and colour.

Firstly, colour is easy – you want a mid-grey tone that sits somewhere between cement and charcoal. These hues are both business- and pleasure-appropriate and will complement the majority of colours you already have in your wardrobe.

Keep it solid as well; no fancy stripes or checks. If this is going to be your only suit you want it to be as timeless as possible.

Secondly, as always, nail the fit. You want the jacket to hug your shoulders and to be cut slim in the waist while still allowing for 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.

I’d stick with a classic style, so try a two button, notch lapel, double vented version safe in the knowledge that it will never date. A lot of suits at the moment tend to have slimmer proportions when it comes to both lapels and length, but I’d recommend opting for something right in the middle.

This is because these elements, in particular lapel width, are prone to following current industry trends – meaning they can quickly fall out of style – and often determine your shirt collar and tie proportions. And not every guy suits a slim collar or skinny tie.

Key Pieces
  • Grey Slim Fit Suit: JacketGrey Slim Fit Suit: Jacket
  • Asos Slim Fit Suit In Grey BirdseyeAsos Slim Fit Suit In Grey Birdseye
  • Vito Suit In GreyVito Suit In Grey
  • River Island Grey Skinny Suit JacketRiver Island Grey Skinny Suit Jacket
  • Topman Mid Grey Slim Fit SuitTopman Mid Grey Slim Fit Suit
  • Reiss Youngs One Button Peak Lapel Suit GreyReiss Youngs One Button Peak Lapel Suit Grey
  • Signature Grey Shark Slim Fit Suit : JacketSignature Grey Shark Slim Fit Suit : Jacket
  • Austin Reed Contemporary Fit Grey Sharkskin JacketAustin Reed Contemporary Fit Grey Sharkskin Jacket
  • Ted Baker Gatzbyj Wool Suit JacketTed Baker Gatzbyj Wool Suit Jacket
  • Ted Baker Tantkop Wool Grosgrain Suit BlazerTed Baker Tantkop Wool Grosgrain Suit Blazer
  • Balenciaga Fantasia Wool Two Button Suit 168964Balenciaga Fantasia Wool Two Button Suit 168964
  • Gucci Grey Brera Slim-fit Wool SuitGucci Grey Brera Slim-fit Wool Suit
Final Word

Finally, and most importantly, wear the crap out of it. Seriously, the more you wear it, the more it will mould to your body and look like it’s part of you.

Wear it as a suit or as separates, just make sure you wear it. It will quickly become one of the most reliable pieces that you own in your wardrobe – I know it did for me. For a long time it was the only suit I owned, which is saying something coming from a tailoring fanatic like me.

So there you have it, my reasoning as to why a grey suit should be your first purchase when on the path to tailoring glory.

But now I want to hear what you have to say – especially on what may be a bit of a controversial topic.

Let me know your opinion in the comments section below…