Q and Answer: What Can I Wear With A Black Blazer?
Sam writes: So I recently made a cardinal sin and bought an item, rather than an outfit. I saw on eBay a beautiful Ralph Lauren Purple Label Black Cashmere double breasted jacket, for a steal, which I grabbed. (It was from your eBay round up from last week.)
It was my first eBay purchase and after trying it on, it fits me perfectly. But - I have no idea what kind of clothes to match it with. Can you give me any suggestions?
You’re in a tough spot. Black is a deceptively difficult color to match. One’s inclination is to believe that it matches anything, but the truth is that in practical menswear terms, it matches very little. As you can see on the gentleman above, it tends to wash out the faces of most men whose coloration isn’t very high contrast (meaning very dark hair and very fair skin), and it tends to look less than classy under natural light. It’s a nice color for the evening, but in blazer form, it’s still tough to fit into the wardrobe.
Before I get into specific advice, though, I’d urge you to reconsider the idea that you should buy outfits rather than pieces. Instead, focus on building a library of versatile basics. If you have gray flannel trousers, a blue blazer, black and brown shoes, solid white and blue shirts, simple navy ties and so on, you’ll be able to incorporate more unusual pieces into your wardrobe easily. If you don’t, you’ll be forced to have a much larger (and more expensive) wardrobe, as the pieces won’t play well with each other.
In the case of this particular jacket, I’d start by changing the buttons to something a little more contrasting. Smoky gray mother-of-pearl would be perfect if you don’t like the metal-buttons look. If you don’t live somewhere with a great sewing and fabric store, you can try ordering them online from a source like Hwa Seng Textiles, which I’ve used in the past. You can also get super crafty and cut them off of a thrifted or eBayed high-end coat that’s selling for cheap because of damage. The blazer buttons’ contrast will clarify that this is an odd jacket and not half of a suit.
Then, you’ve really got two choices for pants: gray dress trousers or dark denim. For this particular piece, I think dark denim might be an odd fit, since the styling is so formal, but if you can pull off that part, you’ll be OK. With jeans, a white shirt and black Chelsea boots, you’d be suited for a casual-ish evening out.
Gray pants, and particularly gray flannels, will probably suit this coat best, though. Again, because the coat’s black, you’ll probably be wearing it mostly at night, and a pairing with gray flannels and simple black dress shoes will get you through a nice dinner out or an evening at the theater - the sorts of things that call for an outfit that’s considered and has some elements of formality but isn’t strictly formal.

Q and Answer: What Can I Wear With A Black Blazer?

Sam writes: So I recently made a cardinal sin and bought an item, rather than an outfit. I saw on eBay a beautiful Ralph Lauren Purple Label Black Cashmere double breasted jacket, for a steal, which I grabbed. (It was from your eBay round up from last week.)

It was my first eBay purchase and after trying it on, it fits me perfectly. But - I have no idea what kind of clothes to match it with. Can you give me any suggestions?

You’re in a tough spot. Black is a deceptively difficult color to match. One’s inclination is to believe that it matches anything, but the truth is that in practical menswear terms, it matches very little. As you can see on the gentleman above, it tends to wash out the faces of most men whose coloration isn’t very high contrast (meaning very dark hair and very fair skin), and it tends to look less than classy under natural light. It’s a nice color for the evening, but in blazer form, it’s still tough to fit into the wardrobe.

Before I get into specific advice, though, I’d urge you to reconsider the idea that you should buy outfits rather than pieces. Instead, focus on building a library of versatile basics. If you have gray flannel trousers, a blue blazer, black and brown shoes, solid white and blue shirts, simple navy ties and so on, you’ll be able to incorporate more unusual pieces into your wardrobe easily. If you don’t, you’ll be forced to have a much larger (and more expensive) wardrobe, as the pieces won’t play well with each other.

In the case of this particular jacket, I’d start by changing the buttons to something a little more contrasting. Smoky gray mother-of-pearl would be perfect if you don’t like the metal-buttons look. If you don’t live somewhere with a great sewing and fabric store, you can try ordering them online from a source like Hwa Seng Textiles, which I’ve used in the past. You can also get super crafty and cut them off of a thrifted or eBayed high-end coat that’s selling for cheap because of damage. The blazer buttons’ contrast will clarify that this is an odd jacket and not half of a suit.

Then, you’ve really got two choices for pants: gray dress trousers or dark denim. For this particular piece, I think dark denim might be an odd fit, since the styling is so formal, but if you can pull off that part, you’ll be OK. With jeans, a white shirt and black Chelsea boots, you’d be suited for a casual-ish evening out.

Gray pants, and particularly gray flannels, will probably suit this coat best, though. Again, because the coat’s black, you’ll probably be wearing it mostly at night, and a pairing with gray flannels and simple black dress shoes will get you through a nice dinner out or an evening at the theater - the sorts of things that call for an outfit that’s considered and has some elements of formality but isn’t strictly formal.

Conservatively Patterned Socks

There’s an old piece of wisdom that says men should match their socks to their trousers. Doing so elongates the leg line, which in turn supposedly makes the man look taller. I’ve never been quite sure of this rule (or the logic). It works fine for navy or charcoal trousers, but matching brown socks to similarly colored pants and shoes seems off to me. I also don’t care for light colored socks, so wheat and mid-grey trousers need a different colored hose. 

In the end, I’ve found that navy socks go with everything. It’s richer than black and complements any color next to it. Thus, most of my socks are a solid navy, with charcoal a close second. I also have a few pairs in odd colors such as dark bottle green and aubergine, which I wear whenever I want a bit of irreverence. Those are never worn to match trousers, of course, though sometimes they complement a secondary color in my tie. 

It can be a bit boring to only have solid colored socks, however, so you can mix in some conservative patterns. This takes a bit more focus in the morning, but can add real character to your ensemble. Time-honored combinations include a two-toned houndstooth with glen plaid flannels, fine herringbone with a chalk striped suiting, or well spaced pin-dot hose with windowpaned wools. The key here is to find a pattern that both complements and contrasts your trousers. If you stick to neutral colors and conservative, traditional patterns, this should be easy. 

Marcoliani and Bresciani makes some of the best patterned socks out there. Marcoliani can be found through Kabbaz & Kelly, Howard Yount, and O’Connell’s. If you’re in the Bay Area, you can also find them at The Hound Clothiers. Bresciani can be bought through A Suitable WardrobeBerg & Berg, and Mr. Porter. Both of these brands are expensive, but the construction is top-notch and the patterns are tasteful.

For more affordable options, keep an eye out for Pantherella socks on Sierra Trading Post. They have more synthetic fibers in their composition, which means they’re a bit less breathable and durable, but their patterns are equally tasteful and they can be had for as little as $5 a pair (just wait for the heavy markdowns). Uniqlo also has these dotted socks which you can buy through Suddenlee, but they’re cotton and not over-the-calf. I recommend waiting for the Pantherella sales instead, if you can wait. 

Photo credits: MostExerent, SpooPoker, and Pocket Square Guy.

We Got It For Free: Benjo’s Laces
When I was growing up in Southern California in the late ’80s/ early  ’90s, all the cool kids wore Adidas, and the even cooler kids wore them  with colored shoelaces. Lately, that seems to be coming back - mostly  with boots, but also with dress shoes.
Benjo’s,  one of the companies that makes such laces, sent me some to check out. I  was given a wide assortment of colors and each pair of laces was  waxed, which made them a bit stiff, but also more durable. They’re each  30” long, which means they’re most appropriate for shoes with three to  five eyelets (ballparking, as it depends on how wide your shoes are). I  put a pair of the dark green laces on my chocolate brown, suede chukkas,  and I like them.
In the next month or two, it seems like they’ll soon have some new  colors, new lengths, and some unwaxed and flat lace versions. Some will be  long enough for bigger boots such as the Alden Indys. Keep an eye on  their site.

We Got It For Free: Benjo’s Laces

When I was growing up in Southern California in the late ’80s/ early ’90s, all the cool kids wore Adidas, and the even cooler kids wore them with colored shoelaces. Lately, that seems to be coming back - mostly with boots, but also with dress shoes.

Benjo’s, one of the companies that makes such laces, sent me some to check out. I was given a wide assortment of colors and each pair of laces was waxed, which made them a bit stiff, but also more durable. They’re each 30” long, which means they’re most appropriate for shoes with three to five eyelets (ballparking, as it depends on how wide your shoes are). I put a pair of the dark green laces on my chocolate brown, suede chukkas, and I like them.

In the next month or two, it seems like they’ll soon have some new colors, new lengths, and some unwaxed and flat lace versions. Some will be long enough for bigger boots such as the Alden Indys. Keep an eye on their site.

Ochre, Burnt Orange, Rust, and Camel

It’s easy to wear color in the summer, but it takes a bit of thinking to do it in the fall. One way is to start with a foundation of your basic blues, browns, and grays, and then add one item from a non-traditional, but still autumnal, color. Racing green, burgundy, and eggplant can all be good. For example, a white oxford-cloth button-down shirt, navy sport coat, pair of grey trousers, and dark brown shoes would all look great with a racing green v-neck sweater. 

Some of my favorite autumnal colors, however, are in this muddy, orangish range that includes ochre, burnt orange, rust, and camel. I particularly like it in casual trousers such as chinos or corduroys. As you can see above, you can wear them with cream or charcoal colored sweaters, but I’ve also found that they work just as great with white button-up shirts and mid-grey sport coats.

If you already have your standard khakis chinos and dark brown corduroys, and you’re looking to incorporate some more color into your fall wardrobe, pants in this kind of muddy, orangish color can be a good place to start.

Via Esquire.

Via Esquire.

Q and Answer: Matching Shoe Colors with Pants Colors

Adam writes: Is it acceptable to wear dark colored slacks with dark brown shoes and a brown belt?  Usually I pair black with black and tan with brown while my dark blue slacks sit in a corner and slowly decay.  What’s the protocol here?

Earth-toned pants and suits will generally look their best with brown shoes.  We all know that.  But what about grey, or navy?

In England, the tradition is that black shoes are worn for business.  That means that traditional business colors, like dark gray and navy, are paired with black shoes.  If you’re English and work in a bank, it’s fine to leave it at that.

In the United States and Italy, the two other poles of the Western men’s style world, the rules are much less strict.  Brown shoes often look quite lovely with navy - see the gentleman at right in the party scene above.  It’s a slightly more casual look, certainly, but outside of bankers and lawyers in court, it’s tough to think of a suit-wearing daytime situation where it would be inappropriately casual. 

Gray is a similar situation.  Black is perfectly appropriate for situations where you want to tend towards the careful.  If you like a little more flair, though, brown can be a wonderful companion to gray.  Take a look at the fellow running for the taxi.  Black is more conservative, but brown a bit more dashing.  Perhaps because it suggests the more flavorful Italian version of men’s suited style.

Here’s a perfect illustration of a casual belt/shoe combination, courtesy of MistahWong.  Canvas shoes, rope belt.  Not the same color, but the same neighborhood.  Both casual.  Worn with casual cotton trousers.