Choosing the Right Colors for Men's Suits and Ties

Since the color of your suit is the first opportunity to make a positive impression, choosing the right shade for the right occasion could mean the difference between making a positive or negative impact. The general rule that the larger the clothing item the more conservative the color choice holds true for both men and women. If you rarely need a suit, a black, charcoal-gray or navy-blue one will always be a safe choice. On the other hand, if you wear suits regularly, you will probably want one of each and a variation on brown as well. These are the primary business colors that work best in the executive world. Adding accessories such as colorful ties allows you to insert your personality whenever the situation is appropriate.

Black suits are classic and very formal. They can also be depressing. Save yours for evening or formal-wear occasions or funerals. They are always in fashion and indicate the height of sophistication and elegance but feel out of place in the regular, everyday business world. You might appear to be usurping your boss’s authority if your black suit outranks his gray or navy choice.

Young men, however, can add the appearance of maturity when they choose a well-tailored, charcoal-gray suit. This is a very professional look and, depending upon the undertones of the suit, it can easily be paired with brown or black. Navy blue has become more and more popular in recent years. Although it can be perceived as a bit more casual, it still presents itself as stylish and responsible. Older men may find navy blue to be a bit more youthful and attractive for that purpose. Adding pinstripes to any of these solid colors will make them only slightly less formal.

Until the 1980s, brown was not considered an appropriate business suit color for the board room. That has changed today, especially among younger professionals who want to break out of traditional molds. Just be careful to know the attitude of those you will be doing business with on any particular occasion. Old-school executives may still look with some disfavor on this color choice.


  • Know what is appropriate for the occasion.
  • Know what colors highlight your hair, eyes and skin tones.
  • Try on the suit both in fluorescent and natural lighting situations.
  • When a suit must serve multiple purposes, choose a conservative charcoal gray and vary with appropriate ties.

Your choice of tie is an opportunity to express yourself. Any shade of red is considered a “power” color. The brighter the red, the louder message you are sending. For this reason, many men choose a safer burgundy or brick-red color. Add a solid navy and a gray one for a great trio of all-purpose ties. Against a white shirt, these choices look professional and always appropriate. Save the solid black tie for formal or evening wear. Choosing brighter, lighter colors should be done carefully and with consideration to the requirements of your job.