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Are there any guidelines for pairing dark sport shirts with lighter sport coats or suits?

jdgershbein

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Through the years, I've acquired a modest collection of very high-end dark-colored button-down sport shirts (on a deep navy blue, charcoal, or dark brown ground) from brands such as Etro, Eton, Zegna, and Stenstroms. They are all quite gorgeous and fit me beautifully. The patterns include florals, geometrics, stripes, and checks.

As stand-alone pieces, these shirts work great when paired with jeans, chinos, or dress pants. I know the convention is to go from light to dark (from the closest to the outermost garment) for layering. Still, I wonder how you gents might approach introducing these intense, deep-hued shirts to sport coats, blazers, shackets, knits, or suits to build high-interest ensembles. Everything I see out there shows light shirts underneath darker clothing.
 

dieworkwear

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I think it's difficult to wear dark-colored shirts well in a classic men's style outfit. Not that it can't be done, but it requires some skill.

I've been reading Pierre Bourdieu, who wrote about the sociological origins of "legitimate taste." Note, this is different from having "good taste." Kant believed that "good taste" (or "good aesthetics") can be derived independently if we just thought about these things hard enough. Bourdieu noted that "good taste" is just a mask for how dominant social classes assert themselves. In other words, "good taste" -- or "legitimate taste" -- is sociological.

Long ago, a member on this forum named Manton started a thread called "whnay's good taste," which had nothing to do with whnay (another forum member), but was instead just his effort to pull the forum back to notions of good taste. Manton wrote this in one of his posts:

it is hard, in matters of aesthetics, to disentangle things that look good according to some inherent principle and things that look good owing to tradition, because our brains and eyes have been accustomed to certain patterns. There are some who deny the former principle even exists, but I think there is evidence that it does. For instance the “golden rectangle” and the imperfect but general consensus regarding ranking the great artists. Mill famously said “poetry is as good a pushpin” (a game like Tiddlywinks) and for anyone who believes that, the discussion is over. It’s all relative, you have nothing left to learn, wear absolutely whatever you want. (Allan Bloom expressed the same thought with the comparison of Raphael—the artist not the tailor—and a pre-school finger-painter.)

With clothing it is even harder because clothes are so wrapped in convention. I would not go so far as to say that no inherent aesthetic principles apply—I would in fact be the first to dispute that—but I would say that it’s very hard to find the line where convention ends and intrinsic-ness begins in determining what looks good.

So, sticking with convention for the moment, in the canon of western dress shirts have always been light and jackets mostly dark, and nearly always darker than shirts. A dark shirt (we’re talking about coats and ties here, not shirts for clubbing) has always been considered both in bad taste and the mark of the lower, and even criminal, classes. The minds of people interested in dress are conditioned to that, which is one reason why all of us who care and know anything immediately look askance when we see it.

Convention on the other hand has long upheld the combination of same tone socks and trousers. No one gags when he sees it (well, no one but one). It’s been part of our expectation set for decades. It may be boring, but boring is not the same as incorrect or ugly and it is the opposite of jarring.
I've linked a fuller excerpt of his post, although the whole post is worth reading (you can visit it by clicking the up arrow in my quoted excerpt). I've also highlighted the relevant bit, as it pertains to dark shirts. Manton later did a sleight of hand -- moving from Bourdieu's recognition of the sociological origins of taste to Kant's view that taste can be inferred on some disinterested ground. But that's slightly off-topic.

Simply put: darker shirts are generally considered in "poor taste." However, I think they can be worn well if your tailoring is beautiful and you wear them in ways that communicate other aesthetics. For example, I think this looks good:


tumblr_m5e2hduvMO1rynjwuo1_1280.jpeg



This outfit is not necessarily playing into notions of "good taste." So long as you recognize that, I think the shirt can be worn well in other contexts. In this specific instance, a dark brown shirt with a tan suit is very monochromatic and can be elegant on different terms.


tumblr_mbkqgac8m71rynjwuo1_1280.jpg



I think this idea can be done in other combinations, such as a long-sleeved polo in charcoal worn with a navy suit and black tassel loafers. This isn't something you'd wear to work, but instead something you might wear to a restaurant at night. The combo can look swanky.

The photo above isn't exactly this combination, but the closest I can find to approximate what I'm talking about.

5327154f806d6cd482844a0e9da0747c--tie-and-pocket-square-pocket-squares.jpeg



There was also once another thread on here about how to wear black dress shirts. The thread was heated for good reasons: black dress shirts -- as Manton warned -- are typically considered in poor taste. You can see this as the example above. Even if the outfit is monochromatic, the tailoring, tie, matching pocket square, and black shirt all communicate "bad taste."


61076681_414767812708136_6373517788084091562_n.jpeg



Yet, I also think it can be worn well, but you really have to thread the needle. Here, the tailoring is better. The wearer also wears jewelry and leans into the notion of bad taste. Somehow, it just works.

You can read the thread on black dress shirts here:



Personally, I think it's always easy to play into "good taste" (or "legitimate taste"). This means wearing shirts in white or light blues, sometimes as striped combinations of those two colors. People will give reasons in this disinterested Kantian way -- a light shirt paired with a dark tie and dark jacket help create that v-shaped section that makes the upper half of your outfit the focal point. This is true. But those colors are also safe because they are congruent with notions of "good taste" (or again, in Bourdieu's sociological terms, "legitimate taste").

I think once you stray from that, you have to think more about what message your outfit sends. Dark shirts and busy shirts are often considered in poor taste. But I think they can be worn well if you're sensitive to the messages your clothes send.

As a starter, I would keep non-traditional shirts simple: don't wear overly saturated colors, don't wear overly busy patterns. If you want to do this, I think dark-colored polos are easier than dark-colored shirts, such as long-sleeved knitted polos in navy or charcoal. As always, it's easier to get away with these things if everything else is on point, such as the quality of your tailoring.
 

ValidusLA

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Short response to a long post above from @dieworkwear .

I think if you are trying to do a non-CM look, you might find a place for dark shirts. I think its damn hard to do it well in a truly CM ensemble. I would posit impossible w/ a tie.

The last pic above, w/ the brown jacket and black shirt, I think looks good on the wearer. But he's clearly leaning into, the best way I can describe it, would be "sleaze". I don't mean that pejoratively. The black shirt, the giant ring on pointer finger, the necklace, the low buttoning point, slouchy textured fabric, heavy rimmed glasses, and a cigar to boot.

I think if thats the style you are trying to pull off, then go for it. But thats not usually what most men here are trying to do.
 

Hellbent

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Channel your inner Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
52158337-9506-40A4-99A7-35521B6DA80F.jpeg

58C7396F-6831-4640-B71E-3D1EEDD1FD7A.jpeg

B8D54628-6D27-4776-A89D-36C262946ABE.jpeg


This type of look was maybe more common in the 30s. I usually hold Douglas to be one of, if not the best dressers of the golden age.
 

jdgershbein

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I think it's difficult to wear dark-colored shirts well in a classic men's style outfit. Not that it can't be done, but it requires some skill.

I've been reading Pierre Bourdieu, who wrote about the sociological origins of "legitimate taste." Note, this is different from having "good taste." Kant believed that "good taste" (or "good aesthetics") can be derived independently if we just thought about these things hard enough. Bourdieu noted that "good taste" is just a mask for how dominant social classes assert themselves. In other words, "good taste" -- or "legitimate taste" -- is sociological.

Long ago, a member on this forum named Manton started a thread called "whnay's good taste," which had nothing to do with whnay (another forum member), but was instead just his effort to pull the forum back to notions of good taste. Manton wrote this in one of his posts:



I've linked a fuller excerpt of his post, although the whole post is worth reading (you can visit it by clicking the up arrow in my quoted excerpt). I've also highlighted the relevant bit, as it pertains to dark shirts. Manton later did a sleight of hand -- moving from Bourdieu's recognition of the sociological origins of taste to Kant's view that taste can be inferred on some disinterested ground. But that's slightly off-topic.

Simply put: darker shirts are generally considered in "poor taste." However, I think they can be worn well if your tailoring is beautiful and you wear them in ways that communicate other aesthetics. For example, I think this looks good:


View attachment 1675633


This outfit is not necessarily playing into notions of "good taste." So long as you recognize that, I think the shirt can be worn well in other contexts. In this specific instance, a dark brown shirt with a tan suit is very monochromatic and can be elegant on different terms.


View attachment 1675645


I think this idea can be done in other combinations, such as a long-sleeved polo in charcoal worn with a navy suit and black tassel loafers. This isn't something you'd wear to work, but instead something you might wear to a restaurant at night. The combo can look swanky.

The photo above isn't exactly this combination, but the closest I can find to approximate what I'm talking about.

View attachment 1675648


There was also once another thread on here about how to wear black dress shirts. The thread was heated for good reasons: black dress shirts -- as Manton warned -- are typically considered in poor taste. You can see this as the example above. Even if the outfit is monochromatic, the tailoring, tie, matching pocket square, and black shirt all communicate "bad taste."


View attachment 1675649


Yet, I also think it can be worn well, but you really have to thread the needle. Here, the tailoring is better. The wearer also wears jewelry and leans into the notion of bad taste. Somehow, it just works.

You can read the thread on black dress shirts here:



Personally, I think it's always easy to play into "good taste" (or "legitimate taste"). This means wearing shirts in white or light blues, sometimes as striped combinations of those two colors. People will give reasons in this disinterested Kantian way -- a light shirt paired with a dark tie and dark jacket help create that v-shaped section that makes the upper half of your outfit the focal point. This is true. But those colors are also safe because they are congruent with notions of "good taste" (or again, in Bourdieu's sociological terms, "legitimate taste").

I think once you stray from that, you have to think more about what message your outfit sends. Dark shirts and busy shirts are often considered in poor taste. But I think they can be worn well if you're sensitive to the messages your clothes send.

As a starter, I would keep non-traditional shirts simple: don't wear overly saturated colors, don't wear overly busy patterns. If you want to do this, I think dark-colored polos are easier than dark-colored shirts, such as long-sleeved knitted polos in navy or charcoal. As always, it's easier to get away with these things if everything else is on point, such as the quality of your tailoring.
Thank you for this scholarly treatment -- a most compelling read. I just wanted to re-emphasize that my shirts in question are casual (far from CM consideration) and I would never merge them into sartorial options. I am interested in layering options under a sport coat, fine knit, or shacket.
 

dieworkwear

Mahatma Jawndi
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Thank you for this scholarly treatment -- a most compelling read. I just wanted to re-emphasize that my shirts in question are casual (far from CM consideration) and I would never merge them into sartorial options. I am interested in layering options under a sport coat, fine knit, or shacket.
For a sport coat, I would do this: mid blue sport coat in this dusty shade, dark blue long-sleeved polo, grey trousers, and black tassel loafers. No tie (don't recommend wearing a tie with dark shirts)


t5slikxvqd5v9kios4wp.jpeg




Would channel this type of energy. Not the collar leaves over the jacket, but this sort of vibe



For a suit, I would wear this navy DB suit with either a mid-gray or charcoal long-sleeve polo. Black tassel loafers

5134866153543.jpeg




Or this suit with a charcoal long-sleeved polo. Again, black tassel loafers. This suit is made from mohair, so it'll have a bit of sheen. Combo is good for night, but not day.


yjc0b4ldw0p2cwq3ivor.jpeg
 

jdgershbein

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Great lessons, dieworkwear. To your point(s), the dark polo casualizes the outfit even more. I wear the navy under a medium blue and have a dark brown that pairs well with taupe and tan clothing. A pocket square elevates the look.
 

apShepard

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How do you know what is good taste? Are chambray shirts good taste?
 

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