Sid: Hey Israel C. Thank you for writing… what a fantastic question and quite a conundrum. My first thought is what fabric, and what color or shade of grey? I like a charcoal grey suit because it has such range to it that you can literally wear it to the most casual setting all the way to the dressiest, including black tie.
JB: So charcoal over a light or mid-grey?
Sid: Light grey is really most appropriate for warmer weather months, and a mid-grey can stretch from late spring and early fall, but the charcoal is year-round. It could look a tad heavy in the hottest of summer days, but with these fabrics, it still works. And your accessories can lift the darkness of the suit. Pink, lavender, even a bright blue. A bright tie will liven things up for a summer occasion. And the charcoal also covers elegant ground much more proficiently than a mid-grey or a light grey.
JB: Elegant ground?
Sid: A charcoal suit is great in case you don't have a tuxedo or have tuxedo fatigue or just want something different. Although it’s not always perfectly approved for black tie occasions, it can more than hold its own. Particularly when worn with a white shirt and a black or dark tie, and black cap-toe or plain toe shoes.
So the beauty is that it covers every occasion, whether it's an interview, a life-change event (meaning you're getting married or you're going to a funeral), some sort of fête or an event where it is clear that you need to dress up.
JB: Two suits in one. It clearly checks your all-important versatility box. You mentioned fabrics a minute ago...
The plainweave is really kind of our starter suit. The wool fabric is a fantastic quality but it's less expensive and is sort of a 101 for better dressing. As you get into the high-twist and the sharkskin, the fabric is a bit more complex in its structure and yarn count, and those suits are our higher-level makes, which means there’s a little bit more handwork. Which takes you into the 301, 401, 501 level of wearability.
What's nice about both the plainweave and the high-twist is that those are great fabrics to wear as odd pants. Not odd in the sense that they look odd but they don't have to be matched up with the jacket. They can be perfectly comfortable with a sweater or a blazer. Both of those fabrics almost function like a good pair of blue jeans or a pair of khakis – they're a workhorse and literally go with everything and cover every occasion.
The sharkskin could be worn that way also but not as deftly. That fabric is decidedly more dressy. There’s a lightness and a quietness to it that the plainweave and the high-twist doesn’t have.
JB: Let’s talk about styling… how do you pair a charcoal suit with shirts, shoes, colors, etc.
Sid: Easily! White shirts, always. Blue shirts, always. Blue patterned shirts, always. Obviously, you wouldn’t wear a large-sized plaid or a multicolor plaid with these, but you could wear softer colors – lavender or pink shirts (solid or with a small pattern) … even a light green or a light yellow could be nice. And same applies for ties, for non-formal affairs, many colors of solid ties would fit nicely with the charcoal suit. And navy, always. I never have enough navy ties.
JB: What about shoes?
Sid: Cap toes, double monks, tassel loafers, all fantastic. Suede or calfskin, medium dark to dark brown, or black. Or cordovan. The brown, to me, are a little more daytime and can go more casual. Usually for evening I would go for black. Then match your belt to your shoes (not exactly, just brown with brown or black with black), and go with over-the-calf charcoal wool socks to match… or dark, dark navy if you're in a pinch. And for the pocket square I’m going solid white or quiet shades of blue – I like to pare that element down with charcoal.
JB: I think that covers it…
Sid: One more thing. The pants can go with almost every blazer in your closet unless it’s some form of grey. These days I wear them almost twice a week. I learned to treat them like a pair of jeans so I wear them any day to build around my wardrobe. It's like the most blank canvas pant we have.
And I'd say a charcoal suit, next to navy is the blank canvas suit. Wear it to almost anything and almost anywhere.