This is the question that came in today:
“I think there's one thing missing from the basic shirts, a black one. I think black shirts always look very good and they have a little bit more ‘sex' in them than light colored shirts.”
Well, it's a good point. To some extent, I would have to say they nailed it there because black does symbolize – I mean, colors have symbols. Brown symbolizes trust and is a very earth color. White symbolizes cleanliness and there's a reason why doctors wear white jackets.
Now, what do we think of when we see black? We think of mystery. We think of the bad guy. We think of rebellion. We think of the guy wearing the black leather jacket. There are certain things that come to mind. And it being a little bit sexier on the right person, I can see that.
So let's go ahead and we'll talk about how to wear a black shirt and I'll talk about when I think it's appropriate, and how you should wear it.
The first rule with a black shirt is you need to have the complexion for it. Any man can wear a black shirt, but only men with dark hair and anywhere from medium to darker colored skin are really going to pull it off.
I'll talk in part two about other men who wear it and what they wear it for even though it doesn't complement them the best, but it's going to be the dark-haired, dark-skinned man who can wear the color black the best. The reason is it's not going to have a stark of a contrast and it's just really not going to overpower his natural colors.
I have dark brown hair. Actually, I haven't been in the sun too much. We've just started spring here in Wisconsin, but even with a good tan, I'm going to say black is a color that I can pull it off okay. But if I had black hair and the same colored skin, I would be able to kill it.
Because I would be mimicking the color in my hair and in my shirt here, and I would be in a sense framing the face properly which is the whole purpose of clothing. You want color to frame your face because that's where you want people focused at when they're communicating with you.
Now, let's say you have light-colored hair and light-colored skin, “When can I wear black? Can I even wear black?” Yes, you can when you want to isolate the face. One of the most famous examples is Steve Jobs and his black turtleneck. He's up on a big stage.
They're zooming in on him and he doesn't want any other focus except at on his face, his expressions as he was selling his products, as he was making a point, as he was trying to inspire. You see a lot of men who do have lighter features trying to pull off a black shirt and the whole idea, especially with a dark background, is it's going to, boom, all of a sudden, we're going to zero in on the face.
Another good example is the Blue Man Show in Vegas. Those guys are very good about isolating a blue face and they do it with the color black because black, as you artists know and anyone that deals with light, black just sucks up and absorbs all light and just doesn't reflect it back.
Let's talk about colored versus uncolored black shirts. Either way, it's going to send very similar signals, but a color black shirt is always going to be less formal than a white or a light-colored dress shirt. So if you're wearing it with your suit or sports jacket, it is going to be less formal than a lighter-colored jacket, even if it's solid.
Now, if you're wearing it without a collar, it could actually still look pretty good especially if it's a solid black. I've pulled this off. The key with wearing it though with any type of jacket is I think there should be a contrast or you should be wearing something black. Some guys like the black-on-black look and a guy pulled it off amazingly.
I mean, just look at vintage photos or even up until his unfortunate death, Johnny Cash, the man in black. He was a great example of a man that pulled this off. Here's a guy that played in Folsom Prison. Actually I can't remember the rest of the other prisons he played at but I know he did the Folsom Prison.
This is the kind of guy that is going into prisons and playing for a pretty rough crowd, having a great time, but wanting to send a little bit of a message that he is a rebel, that he is outside. I think he even talked about in Nashville at the time a lot of people were wearing lighter colors. Here's a guy that shows up in just dark colors and knew how to create mystery and he did a great job pulling it off.
I've seen this overdone though a lot of times. If you've got a very light-colored face, it's just going to make your head really stand out, so you want to be careful with that look. You need to be a little bit more style advanced. If you're going to try to introduce a black shirt, I think you should go for something that is matching it with something that's clearly not black.
What do I mean by that? I mean don't try to match it with a navy suit because it's close enough that some people may wonder, “Well, does he know that they're different colors?” Instead, go for a light tan or a Houndstooth jacket, a sports jacket that is white and black.
So clearly you can see that this does not match exactly, but there's enough of a contrast. And if you're going in the same color scheme, you could mix it with greys, so black shirt with grey trousers or grey jacket. That is better than trying to go with anything in the navy.
You can go with charcoal and that's an okay look, but I like it whenever the grey is lighter because again, we're going to see a little bit of the contrast between the fabrics. Again, to get it too close and it's not exactly close, that's when it starts to look bad.
Alright, so I've given you quite a bit on black. I would say touching on collarless black shirts, I didn't get into that too much. I think if it's made from fine-woven cotton, it can have a wool cotton mix. You can go with a few blends wearing that underneath. I've even got a synthetic, which is a performance shirt made by JUZD Streetwear.
They make some really nice clothing that I've worn in the clubs when I was down South by Southwest and I don't really get too many options to wear here in Wisconsin, but I think something like that you can pull off, especially when it's solid or if it's got a little bit of color introduced on the side.
That was my little bit about black shirts. I hope it helps!
Click below to watch the video – A Man's Guide To The Black Shirt