The majority of men's suits come in either black, gray, blue, or brown. Those four basic colors can range from the starkly formal to the cheerfully casual depending on their pattern, cut, and material.
But for the adventurous dresser there are other colors, none quite as universally accepted but all striking when worn properly.
Dark green is the most common after the four “core” colors, and the most flexible as well.
Formality of a Dark Green Men's Suit
Unusually-colored suits are generally considered informal no matter how they are patterned or cut. A green suit is unlikely to ever be appropriate for an important meeting or occasion.
Employees of colleges or organizations that use green as their dominant color might find a small exception, but even then it is important to remember that the vast majority of men in the room will be wearing grays and blues — the green is going to stand out.
Some conservative dressers will always see anything that attention-grabbing as garish, and therefore informal.
That said, a deep green suit in a rich fabric is an extremely elegant color.
The unusual hue makes it a sort of personal decoration that is frowned upon in business culture, but would be perfectly acceptable at any sort of social gathering short of a “black tie” or “black tie optional” event (for those, only a tuxedo or a plain black or charcoal gray suit are appropriate).
Dark green suits carry particularly well at the theater or opera, or at any venue done in an older style of decoration with plush and gilt accents.
Lighter greens become less formal and border on becoming novelty outfits rather than proper menswear. The exception is olive green, which can be worn in much the same way as a tan or khaki suit, and has an automatic military connotation that makes it a useful choice for servicemen appearing out of uniform or for civilians expecting to interact with soldiers.
A suit worn for its pseudo-military appeal should stop short of imitating a uniform, however — brass buttons or epaulettes would be going too far, turning the jacket into a parody rather than a deferential nod.
Construction of the Dark Green Suit
Dark green suits do best in rich, thick fabrics. Heavy wool with a smooth finish is far and away the best choice. The weight and uniform texture of wool gives the jacket a consistent drape along the body.
Natural wool also offers smoothness without the reflective shininess of artificial fibers. Since green must appear deep and rich to seem a luxurious color rather than a novelty gag, the flat luster is crucial to carrying the look.
Lighter suits may be made of lighter materials. Olive suits are often made in woven cotton instead of wool.
A twill weave, familiar to most of us as the construction of everyday blue jeans, is common and gives the fabric a subtle but distinct pattern of diagonal lines. This is the most “military” look; olive suits can also be made from wool or from cotton blended with artificial fibers for a smooth front.
While rarer than the traditional blue-and-white pattern, seersucker suits are occasionally made in alternating green and white.
This distinctive weave is recognizable by its wrinkled texture, and is purely a casual summer style. It is widely seen as a style for Southern gentlemen, who may be seen sporting it in blue, green, or even pinks and reds.
Fitting a Dark Green Suit
The basics of fit remain unchanged from color to color: the suit should fit closely enough to keep from billowing loosely, but should never be tight enough to pinch or hinder movement anywhere on your body.
Men should pay close attention to the sides of the jacket, which should stay close to the body when unbuttoned, and to the “drop” between the trouser waist and crotch, which should always be as snug as comfort allows. Few things will ruin a suit as quickly as a sagging crotch.
Beyond those basics, it is important to consider the role of the green suit. As a richly extravagant garment for social evening wear, it already catches the eye — a man might as well make the most of it and add flourishes to the garment.
Peaked lapels instead of the conventional notched style are an excellent first step. Since the green trousers are unlikely to be worn without the matching jacket, a man might also eschew belt loops altogether, leaving the waistband smooth and relying on suspenders for support.
A more conservative olive drab suit requires a bit more stylistic severity. A simple two-button, single-breasted cut is best for the jacket, and the fit should err toward the side of tightness.
As mentioned above, any details that seem too close to imitating military uniforms should be avoided — try to keep the suit stark and functional rather than decorative to avoid offending. Other lighter green suits, including seersucker with green striping, are purely casual and can be fitted more loosely.
Matching Dark Green Suits and Other Colors
Dark green is a natural match for gold accents of any kind. Brass buttons, gold jewelry, or even a dark cream-colored shirt make logical pairings for a dark green suit.
Red is its naturally contrasting color, but in America and much of Europe comes with an inescapable Christmas association that makes it too much of a novelty.
Very light or dark shades like burgundy and pink may still work with a green suit, but in general red is best to avoid unless one wants a specific (and somewhat “novelty”) holiday look.
Lighter greens are somewhat more flexible than dark green and can be matched with most other light colors. Soft pastels work well, as do striped shirts with equal parts color and white. Plain white is a bit stark for a lightly-colored suit, and can make a man appear washed-out.
The only real caution with a light green suit is avoiding anything else with a hint of green in it — many light blues or browns have faint green tinges that will not be apparent on their own but will be highlighted when worn against a green background. These will always appear mismatched, and should be avoided.
Like other non-neutral colors green of any shade may simply be the wrong choice for certain complexions. It can be particularly hard to match with blue eyes, which stand out as more clashing than most men think.
Some skin tones also appear slightly greenish when worn with a green suit, making it a poor choice for certain men no matter how it is worn. The only way to be sure that green works for you is to try it on.
Green suits may be hard to come by, but at the very least search out a sweater or an outdoors jacket in the shade you're considering before having a suit made.
The Final Analysis: Reasons to Own a Dark Green Suit
Green suits are always going to be a personal affectation, not a wardrobe staple. No one really “needs” a green suit, with the possible exceptions of college employees looking to wear the school colors or civilians with frequent military exposure.
Teachers whose dress codes still require a suit and tie at work might also find green helpful as a less formal, less intimidating color to wear around students, but schools with full business dress requirements are growing few and far between.
That leaves men who want a green suit as the majority of consumers, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you're confidant in your ability to carry the color and you want to stand out at social occasions, a green suit is a great addition to the wardrobe.
Worn well, it will always turn heads and draw admiring comments. And if that doesn't work you can always wear it with a red shirt at Christmas parties…
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