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Is black suit an acceptable business attire?

post #1 of 1038
Thread Starter 
I read somewhere long ago that black suit is not an acceptable business attire unless you are a matre'd or funeral home director. What's your opinion? Under what circumstances wearing a black suit appropriate beside going to a wake or funeral?
post #2 of 1038
[Putting on my bespoke flame retardant suit]: No.  Black is for formal wear only.  And shoes.  And grenadine ties.  And maybe one color of one stripe in a fancy striped shirt.  That's it. Suits, never.
post #3 of 1038
Going to an evening event or party. Going to a trendy gathering, such as a gallery opening, etc. An evening out generally. Black suits look odd for business, I think, unless you are in an somewhat edgier profession. Just my opinion though. The problem is that a black suit with a white shirt looks too dramatic for an office; on the flip side, pairing it with an Etro-type shirt can be a nice look (not a look I would do personally, but it can at least work), but that ensemble is also inappropriate for most office settings.
post #4 of 1038
I disagree. While I do not wear all-black suits, (though I know those who do,) I wear black with faint patterns, such as black pinstripe, or black with a very faint white windwopane. Can't really go wrong with a dark suit, IMO.
post #5 of 1038
Agree with Johnny - Black suits are generally only for evening wear. I have seen many people try and wear black suits during the day and they always end up looking a little "off" Panzer
post #6 of 1038
Instead of black, go for charcoal. Still very dark, but much more fitting for business attire. -boston
post #7 of 1038
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Going to an evening event or party.  Going to a trendy gathering, such as a gallery opening, etc.  An evening out generally.   Black suits look odd for business, I think, unless you are in an somewhat edgier profession.  Just my opinion though. The problem is that a black suit with a white shirt looks too dramatic for an office; on the flip side, pairing it with an Etro-type shirt can be a nice look (not a look I would do personally, but it can at least work), but that ensemble is also inappropriate for most office settings.
Thanks for the clarification. That's what I thought, just want to be sure. My original question referred to solid black suit. But how about black with pinstripes or window panes, like zjpj said. Pinstripes is perfect for business but black pinstripes is kind of ambiguous. You don't usually wear pinstripes to formal event, so what to do with black pinstripes?
post #8 of 1038
OK, I'm going to breathe deeply and try to stay calm, but this is a topic that really gets under my skin. It's also been discussed many times before if you search the archives. I wear black suits to work quite often, and I work in a conservative business environment (law firm) in a conservative market (DC). Nobody has ever said a word to me about it and I don't believe my overall evaluations have suffered in the slightest (I even wore a black suit to my last annual review, which was quite favorable). In my opinion, this idea that black suits are somehow "inappropriate for business" (whatever that means) is ridiculous and without any reasonable basis; if there is a reason, it has never been adequately explained to me. It makes absolutely no sense for a dark charcoal only a few shades from black to be considered appropriate, but for black itself to be forbidden. As has been stated before on this board, as long as you are well put-together and not wearing anything wildly inappropriate, 95% of people (at least in America) won't pay any attention to what you're wearing. I doubt most of the attorneys at my firm have ever even noticed when I am wearing a black suit. All that said, I think wearing a plain white shirt with a black suit looks a little severe. I usually wear light blue shirts or a shirt with some type of stripe or pattern to tone down the effect of the suit. I also probably wouldn't wear one to an interview, since that is the one time I prefer to err on the side of being conservative. Finally, it also strikes me that many of the people who speak out against black suits are the same people who espouse the "American Trad" ethic of dressing. Take that as you will.
post #9 of 1038
Quote:
OK, I'm going to breathe deeply and try to stay calm, but this is a topic that really gets under my skin.  It's also been discussed many times before if you search the archives. I wear black suits to work quite often, and I work in a conservative business environment (law firm) in a conservative market (DC).  Nobody has ever said a word to me about it and I don't believe my overall evaluations have suffered in the slightest (I even wore a black suit to my last annual review, which was quite favorable). In my opinion, this idea that black suits are somehow "inappropriate for business" (whatever that means) is ridiculous and without any reasonable basis; if there is a reason, it has never been adequately explained to me.  It makes absolutely no sense for a dark charcoal only a few shades from black to be considered appropriate, but for black itself to be forbidden. As has been stated before on this board, as long as you are well put-together and not wearing anything wildly inappropriate, 95% of people (at least in America) won't pay any attention to what you're wearing.  I doubt most of the attorneys at my firm have ever even noticed when I am wearing a black suit. All that said, I think wearing a plain white shirt with a black suit looks a little severe.  I usually wear light blue shirts or a shirt with some type of stripe or pattern to tone down the effect of the suit.  I also probably wouldn't wear one to an interview, since that is the one time I prefer to err on the side of being conservative. Finally, it also strikes me that many of the people who speak out against black suits are the same people who espouse the "American Trad" ethic of dressing.  Take that as you will.
One thing I will add: in the fluorescent lighting of an office setting, a courtroom, or anyplace else I normally "do business," it is usually very difficult to tell the difference between dark charcoal, very dark blue, or black. I actually don't own a black suit currently, but when I go to court I'd rather be the guy in the well-fitted black suit with a good pair of shined shoes, than the guy in the poorly-fitted gray suit and a scuffed pair of Eccos.
post #10 of 1038
Quote:
I read somewhere long ago that black suit is not an acceptable business attire unless you are a matre'd or funeral home director. What's your opinion?
Also if you are in the fashion industry, are the curator of a museum, or an architect. Magazine editor, or writer. Maybe some other creative field.
post #11 of 1038
bryce330, I work in pharma and completely agree. I wear my black Armani suit, my black Canali sportcoat, and my black Zegna shirt jacket as much as anything in my closet. Never felt strange about it. Never received anything but compliments. Wouldn't care about disapproving looks either, if any were to be made. I'm too much of an individual to care.
post #12 of 1038
Quote:
In my opinion, this idea that black suits are somehow "inappropriate for business" (whatever that means) is ridiculous and without any reasonable basis; if there is a reason, it has never been adequately explained to me.  It makes absolutely no sense for a dark charcoal only a few shades from black to be considered appropriate, but for black itself to be forbidden.
Well, look.  Whenever someone posts asking a question about the "rules", I tend to answer it if no one else has, because I know what the rules are, I like them, and I generally adhere to them.  I have never claimed, and do not claim now, that the rules are entirely or even mostly rational.  They have evolved over the years in a curious way.  Some rules are just pure tradition and have no claim to a rational origin at all.  Others begin life as rational principles, but as things change, and the original reason is forgotten, they remain simply as "rules".  The canon of rules is thus very largely an ossified and contradictory jumble. Part of what I try to do in my book is not only explain what they rules are, but how they came to be.  The more one delves into this, the more they appear to have no cosmological foundation.  Who would have guessed? By the way, I do explain the reasons behind the rise of black clothing, and its later "promotion" to formal wear only.  But I have to leave something for the book.
Quote:
As has been stated before on this board, as long as you are well put-together and not wearing anything wildly inappropriate
Aha.  The only way to judge whether something is "inappropriate" or not is by reference to the rules.  Which is to say, the same (irrational) principle which places black suits out of bounds also determines what is "appropriate" and what is not. Black for suits does violate the rules of tradtional dress, as codified in London, Milan, Naples and New York over the course of the 20th Century.  Black wool is for formal wear only.  Dark city suits should be blue or gray, or maybe brown.  (The rules have been bent in recent decades to make brown more acceptable for town wear).  This is not my decision.  It just ... is. By all means, wear black suits if you want.  You won't go to jail.   It may not even hurt your career.  I guarantee it will have no effect on your soul.  But it is still against the rules.
Quote:
Finally, it also strikes me that many of the people who speak out against black suits are the same people who espouse the "American Trad" ethic of dressing.
Not me.  Savile Row all the way.
post #13 of 1038
I agree with Manton, here, as well as Bryce. You'll look fine in a black suit, in the office or elsewhere. I just don't think you'd look as good as you would in a charcoal suit, all other things equal. THis may be because of the "rules," or because of the way that fluourescent lights make black look. The black rule is not an American Trad rule. Far from it. I think it comes from people who think black looks BEST in the evening, and thus should be reserved SOLELY for evening. In other words, charcoal and navy look best during the day, so save those for day. I don't wear a black shirt to the office for the same reason I wouldn't wear a black suit. I suppose of any city this might be excepted, it would be NYC or DC.
post #14 of 1038
IIRC, the wearing of black as an evening color was started by a rather morose individual who wished to show his moroseness (an early goth?); it became a trend, and then stuck. This is unrelated to its propriety as a color for business wear. In fact, I don't know why I just typed it in this thread, but since I did, I'll post it.
post #15 of 1038
Besides, doesn't black look best with saturated/bright/high-contrast colors that are seldom considered conservative business attire?  Yeah, the black suit looks great with the Etro shirt, but who wears that to the office?  Charcoal and navy look much better with the pale blues and whites of the business attire palette?  And black suits don't work so well with brown shoes and who wants to wear a black shoe all the time (or any non-formal time for that matter)? dan
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