Black Is the Old Black

“Give ’em any color they want, as long as it’s black.” Henry Ford is supposed to have said that when asked about his cars. A lot of people seem to feel that way about suits, too. The black suit is, I’m afraid to say, here to stay.

It actually never went away. Well, since Brummel’s day when he put Edward, Prince of Wales into blue or black. Black is the old black.

Since the Industrial Revolution, dress clothing for evening — the white tie and tailcoat for men — has always been black. (The dinner jacket, derived from the tailcoat, is usually black. It was the Duke of Windsor who popularized midnight blue since it looked better under artificial light.) Serious men wore the frock coat and later the morning coat (in black) with striped trousers when cornering the market, opening a new bank, signing a treaty, that sort of thing.

(Anthony J Drexel, Sr., via The London Lounge)

Does the black suit have a place in a gentleman’s wardrobe today? Well, yes and no. It depends upon what you do. It is a stark colour. It stands out. Architects seem taken with it (my friend excluded).

As are celebrities (who choose Armani’s versions)

Celebrities do a lot of work at night. Black can be useful as a more formal option than denim and less so than a dinner jacket. But as business wear? I’d say no.

Why? It’s too easy. It shows no thought. How much more elegant is the man who can mix blues with browns and greys, greys with lavender, pink or yellow, brown/khaki/tan with greens, greys, reds and black? Perhaps elegant isn’t the right word. Sophisticated?

There are those who will insist on wearing a black suit regardless. I hear from my friends in The State Department that it is the predominant colour for men’s suiting. If you do choose to wear a black suit, particularly during the day,  please take note of the cut and fit. Go for modern — a slim suit, a white shirt, dark tie and classic black slim cut rounded plain-toe oxford laceups.

Of course, you run the risk of looking like the driver…

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