While the basic design of a tuxedo or suit is simple (jacket, pants, shirt, shoes, and tie), one of the most challenging aspects of formal wear to understand and master is color etiquette. Finding a tuxedo is easy, picking the colors tends to be much harder.
When it comes to formal attire, there have traditionally been very specific colors that are considered “appropriate.” Despite this, in today’s society, even though many people still feel most comfortable sticking with these traditional designs, many people have begun to branch out and combine new colors and patterns that create a unique and personal style.
Since color etiquette can be one of the most challenging aspects of picking out a tuxedo or suit, we thought that we would use this blog post to cover some of the basics. As many of the traditional colors are still considered appropriate for nearly any occasion, we will begin by going over common combinations and styles that are formal and reserved, but still allow space for individual style and preference. Along with this, as color etiquette has slowly become much less strict over time, we will also explore some of the new ways colors are being incorporated.
Typically, if you ask anyone familiar with formal attire they will usually tell you that the standard suit colors are black, blue, and grey. Even though you might find blue and grey suits in lighter shades today, the darker shades tend to be considered more formal and traditional.
Of course, arguably the most traditional color scheme of them all is the standard black suit with a white shirt and black tie, a combination of which you can never go wrong. Even when it is a blue or grey suit, the most common shirt will probably be white, light blue, light grey, etc.; essentially, it will be something that is one color, no pattern, and easily matches to any tie color.
For traditional formal wear, the tie is most likely the predominant place in which you can exercise your color judgement and freedom. For traditional color combinations, it is usually easiest to follow the color wheel and common color combinations. For example, certain colors are usually paired together because they contrast each other in a way that helps them stand out. While this is not always followed for traditional formal wear, it is an easy guide to follow when you want to begin to branch out and experiment with new colors.
Overall, even when less common color combinations are used for traditional suits or tuxedos, they tend to be very muted. In other words, traditional formal wear is typically not meant to “stand out” in terms of color. However, if you want to explore different ways to match colors and begin to personalize your wardrobe, the current cultural changes have provided an easy and affordable way to do so.
While the colors and combinations mentioned above tend to be considered the most classic and straightforward way to put together a full suit or tuxedo, many changes have occurred over the last decade, leading to a colorful revolution in formal wear. Today, you can find suits that really stand out and showcase your individual style and flare. Including colors such as bright yellow, dark maroon, grass green, deep purple, and even neon pink, the suits that you can find are endless.
Furthermore, as suit colors have begun to vary more and more, so have shirt and tie combinations. While the traditional suit typically stuck with more standard and reserved color combinations for shirts and ties, today we are beginning to see a vast range of combinations that had never really been considered before.
Many people have recognized this growing trend as ties and shirts have begun to incorporate colors typically not seen in traditional suits, such as yellow, orange, purple, green, pink, and an incredible variance across all of them in regards to shade and material. Furthermore, while the white button down shirt is often regarded as the most standard and safe for any suit, this has also began to change, and colors never thought to be combined are now making fashion trends.
Along with this, emerging new patterns have only enhanced these new color schemes. With patterns like plaid, floral, and polka dot, the new colors for shirts, ties, and pocket squares only expand the availability of new ways to dress.
If you take a look at this basic color wheel on the right, colors that are typically paired together will be on opposite sides of the wheel. Even though this is not a concrete “rule,” it is a good guide to get you started.
Altogether, the incorporation of these new colors and patterns into the world of formal wear has allowed people the freedom to express their individual style far more.
Now, an essential disclaimer for any of these suits and shirt/tie combinations that incorporate such unorthodox colors for formal attire: these suit colors tend to be reserved for occasions in which dress code is not as strict and thus not as formal. While this of course is not always the case, more formal occasions typically call for more traditional color etiquette. However, as with any occasion that calls for formal attire, each and every one is its own, and therefore you will usually know what is appropriate and what is not. With that in mind, while the traditional colors will always be safe for practically any occasion, exploring new and unique colors can be fun, and you might even learn something about yourself.
Overall, if you ever feel unsure or nervous about which colors to choose, you can be assured that it is always appropriate to stick with the “standards” that are typically held by most people. However, experimenting with creative color combinations also has the potential to help you stand out and show that you not only care about how you look, but it also reflects your individuality.