CUSTOM SUIT FABRICS – COLORS AND THEIR MEANINGS
We put this article first even though the color of the fabric doesn't usually affect its actual quality or cost very much.
That's because the color is the first thing people see — and it's usually the first thing people pick out when they're buying their own suits, too. It's a lot easier to decide that you want “a gray suit” than it is to decide that you want “heather gray Harris tweed in a herringbone weave.”
So for now we can put thread counts and plain weaves and stitching aside and start with the basic color choices for a custom suit and the functions each option serves:
- Charcoal Gray – The business classic. Dark, somber, and easy to match. Most men's first or second suit.
- Navy Blue – The other business classic. Brighter and more youthful, but still a powerful man's choice.
- Black – Bold, sharp, and serious. Not as versatile as a dark gray or deep navy, but very striking worn right.
- Medium Gray – The relaxed man's suit. Dapper and timeless for casual offices or weekends off. Works well in light patterns.
- Dark Brown – Again, suitable for relaxed offices or off-hours. Warm, comfortable, and approachable-looking.
- Tan – Or khaki, or taupe, or similar light shades. Popular in summer suits, particularly ones made from cotton or linen rather than wool. Associated with outdoor events.
- Light Gray – A great favorite in tropical-weight wools and other lighter suits. Doesn't take patterns very well. A social suit color rather than business.
- Blue – In a brighter blue than navy these are good casual suits that stand out in a crowd. They also help make a man look younger.
- White – A gentleman's classic in the Southern U. S. but a bit of a novelty elsewhere. Done in linen with a relaxed cut they can be casual summer outfits.
- Deep Green, Purple, Etc. – Bordering on novelty but can be striking with the right complexion. Unusual colors should be kept dark to stay presentable. Often popular with college administrators, athletic coaches, etc.
The easiest way to pick your color is often to think about the role your suit will play in your day-to-day life. Odds are your goals will eliminate all but a few colors, which you can pick from as your own tastes dictate. Ask yourself how you plan to use this suit:
Is this suit for business or pleasure?
Most offices don't require suits anymore. The ones that do usually expect full business dress, limiting you to charcoal gray or navy blue most days. Brown, black, and medium grays are maybes, depending on the specific setting, but at most you're still limited to three or four color choices.
Casual suits are something of a rarity. Most men, when dressing down, prefer a sport jacket and odd trousers or something even less formal these days. At the point where you are having one made for your own pleasure it's worth looking at less common colors: light grays, tans and khakis, browns and blues, etc.
How versatile do you need this suit to be?
A simply-cut suit in a solid, dark color can go a lot of places. It works in business settings but can be worn without a tie for a more relaxed look as well. You can even break it up and wear the jacket or the trousers separately when you need to.
As you get into more unusual and casual colors the suit becomes less versatile. You won't be able to use it for much more than social events and perhaps occasional service broken up as an odd jacket or trousers.
How serious do you need to look?
Some men wear a suit for fun and to show off their dressing skills; other men are looking for a deliberate advantage over their competition.
If you're planning on playing the dandy, light-colored suits are definitely on the table.
For a comfortable, approachable look that doesn't intimidate people you're best off in browns or medium grays.
Power-dressers will want the darkest shades, navy blues and charcoal grays, unbroken by any pattern beyond a light pinstripe at the most.
Do you want a patterned suit, or monochrome?
Not all colors take patterns well. Light grays and tans are already informal enough that they don't look very good with a pattern (which would have to be in a darker shade than the suit itself).
Dark colors take patterns better, but the darkest colors are too formal for significant patterning. Navy blue and charcoal gray look best solid or marked by plain white pinstripes.
Often the best colors for patterns are the middle range: medium gray, a classic in light plaids like a Glen check, or dark browns with windowpanes or stripes.
Does your complexion work with (or not work with) specific colors?
Some skin tones just don't go great with certain colors. Pale-skinned men tend to look washed-out in a black suit, for example, and would do better in navy blue or a dark gray.
A lot of complexion problems come from contrast rather than color, and you can adjust for that by choosing the right shirts and neckties. But if something isn't one of your best colors you should probably avoid having an entire suit in it covering 80% of your body…
Will a specific color add extra cost to your suit?
The day and age of rare, imported dyes making cloth significantly more expensive are mostly over. But you can still see a jump in price, particularly in textiles that are still dyed using non-automated processes. You'll be able to decide how much that extra care is worth to you.
All that may seem like a lot of questions, given that we started with “what color should your suit be?” But the color of your suit is going to be the first thing that people notice. It covers most of your body — whatever the color is saying, it's going to say it loud.
And that's why we put it first. But not all suits are a single color, and that takes us into our next consideration: patterns and formality!
Read next: how to choose a suit color.