If there's one area in which women's costume tradition can never beat their male counterparts, it's the formality of the dress code signified by colours.
Just think of the phrases that stem from such sartorial codes _ "men in grey suits", "morning grey", "black tie" and "white tie".
Take black tie and white tie, for example; you could finish describing the dress code for ladies for such events in a few lines, while you need no less than a few paragraphs to explain what is and isn't acceptable for gentlemen. In a way, you could say men's clothing tradition and formalism are defined by colours.
In this regard, as black tie and white tie connote evening events, grey was de rigueur for formal business suits long before black started to creep into its daytime territory, circa 1990. Grey suits signify the invisible power of those who control business and politics; its multiple shades, most commonly charcoal and gun metal _ alongside navy _ dominate the Wall Street dress code.
So, as black suits signify formality, grey bespeaks the classic smartness of businessmen _ the darker the colour, the more serious it looks, while the light grey suit has the charming flair of a man who wants to look simultaneously graceful, active, semi-formal and well-dressed _ the colour of daytime James Bond (mostly Sean Connery and Daniel Craig). As suggested by the luxury retail website Mr Porter (www.mrporter.com), "the only black suit a man truly needs is a dinner jacket, although many choose to wear black for day and night. Unless the invitation calls for a dinner jacket or tuxedo, there's nothing wrong with wearing a blue or grey suit in the evening. Basic colours take on a subtly different appearance in mohair fabric, which is just shiny enough to stand out at night".
That explains why this season, when men are fed up with the fad of the uber fashion-conscious who shower their cash on the latest "it" designers, grey suits are making a comeback. It's an option for those who've ditched the notion of far-too-fashionable trends and who've instead embraced the classicism of a well-heeled gentleman, with a 21st century edge.
But why grey? The reason lies simply in the versatility of the shade, as mentioned above, and its ability to be personalised with an extra piece of accessory. Unlike the striking formality of black, the uptight conservatism of navy and the overtly-casual air of brown, you can play it safe in a consummate business ensemble of charcoal-grey suit with white or light blue shirt, navy tie and dress shoes, or play a naughty young office starter teaming a light grey Prince of Wales check suit with light pink gingham shirt and deep purple tie.
Shoes are another accessory that can become great fun with grey suits, especially for anyone who's taken a liking to brown footwear. While those who are bold enough can do some power contrast with light grey suit and trainers (of course, not for business meetings!), footwear in luxurious materials will also shine worn with gun metal or charcoal grey suits, be it ostrich or crocodile skin. The only universal rule to accessorising the grey suit is that you're not sporting brown shoes with a black belt or vice versa, and while accessories can be similar in shade, they're not meant to be identical in colour.
In addition, a grey suit looks particularly chic with a white handkerchief but the rule of practicality says you can just trade in an old-school handkerchief for a long card holder where you can keep cards and notes on the go.
About the author
- Writer: Samila Wenin
Position: Muse Editor