When it comes to suits, nothing beats the staples. And by staples, we mean black, navy, and grey. Navy and black have always had general popularity for their adaptability, but grey also emerges as a worthy suit color choice. In fact, grey suits have become more prevalent in street style, their versatility especially appealing to the younger market. For something clean, understated, and classic, a grey suit does the trick. However, grey can also be tricky to perfect. Done right, grey reads youthful and modern; done wrong, it will leave you looking outdated and frumpy.
RELATED: What Shirts to Wear with a Grey Suit
Light Grey Suit
Light grey suits are an excellent choice for formal and casual looks. They are youthful, modern, and sharp – but as with all suits, tailoring is essential. Ensure you’re choosing grey suits that do not overwhelm your body and fit your shoulders appropriately. Lighter versions of grey are also an appealing option for the hotter months and provide a summery alternative to the monotony of black and navy. You are also going to want to make sure you keep an eye out for potential dirt marks, as light grey can stain quite easily.
Casual Styling for Light Grey Suit
Wearing light grey suits can be a softer approach to grey tailoring, and they work phenomenally well for casual wear. The key to embracing light grey for casual looks is to go for suits that come in lightweight materials and fabrics such as cotton. Pair a light grey suit with white trainers for a relaxed look inspired by recent street style trends. Alternatively, a brighter trainer will draw emphasis to your outfit and inject a dash of color into your looks. White complements light grey well but does not be afraid to incorporate darker tones like burgundies and navies to ground your looks.
Formal Styling for a Light Grey Suit
To style formal light grey suits, keep in mind that it is all about contrast. With your formal shirts, a crisp white shirt is a failsafe paired with a black tie, but do not fear to experiment with other colors. A muted powder blue complements light grey, and other pastel tones can work well also. Balance out your silhouette with a slimmer tie to modernize your look. Don’t forget that accessories are crucial to pulling together an outfit. Find a unique patterned pocket square and fedora to make your suit pop, and stick to silver watches, tie bars, and cuff links to align with the grey tones of your look.
Charcoal Grey Suit
A charcoal grey suit is also another great option for versatility. Much like a light grey suit, a charcoal tone can be reworked in many ways. Keep an open mind to the different textures you can adapt to this tone of grey. A charcoal grey suit with a textured fabric will stand out and work effectively to change up your look and is flattering when tailored correctly. Ensure your textured grey suits are streamlined and aren’t too big, so you look more youthful as opposed to outdated. Consider charcoal greys as the most corporate-friendly grey suit option. It reads professional and is a refreshing change from the usual black and navy suits we typically reach for. Regarding shoes, mix things up with a burgundy Oxford to complement the dark tones of charcoal.
Casual Styling for Charcoal Grey Suit
Charcoal grey suits will dress up your casual attire, making it easy for your looks to go from day to night. To complement the darkness of deeper grey tones, try out accompanying pieces in other dark classic colors for a more refined approach to casual wear. Navies, burgundies, and emerald greens work nicely, particularly in lightweight sweaters that can be worn under charcoal grey suits. Pair with a rusty brown belt and matching loafers or Oxfords for a traditional approach to this tone. For more of a modern aesthetic, incorporate blacks and bright whites to keep your charcoal greys stark and the focus of your looks simple but visually appealing.
Formal Styling for Charcoal Grey Suit
Charcoal grey suits may have proved popular for the office, but these versions of the typical grey suit have also become a favorite option for weddings which can be a refreshing change from the classic black suit. Remember your fit needs to be perfect and your shoes pristine. Crisp white shirts are the usual favorite for charcoal grey suits, and navy silk or knitted ties are the perfect accompaniment. Also, do not fear ties in other brighter colors, as they can boost the appeal of an ordinary grey suit. Oxblood, browns, and navies are worthy options and will lend a classic vibe to your looks. Add a silver tie bar for an extra bit of polish.
Grey Suit and Shirt Colour Combinations
So we’ve established that grey suits are versatile that work well with a wide number of colors. But which colored shirts are your best bet? Here are the suit and shirt combinations that always look amazing.
Grey Suit / White Shirt
Probably your safest option when it comes to grey suits is white shirts. Given that wearing grey is all about complementing, a white shirt gives you a crisp edge. For a smart casual look, you can opt for a white t-shirt with your suit. Combine it with some fresh-looking white trainers for a winning style. If you’re looking for something a bit more formal than a stark, a white shirt with a black tie is a reliable combination. As always, don’t be afraid to experiment with some colored ties and pocket squares to bring something bolder to the ensemble.
Grey Suit / Blue Shirt
Not all shades of blue will look appropriate with your grey suit. For example, a deep blue shirt may be too much to work with a light grey. For a more casual look, pair a light grey suit with a muted powder blue. It will give your style a summery daytime vibe. Charcoal suits can be paired with deeper blues, making for a more appropriate office color combination. If you’re wearing a tie, a darker shade of blue is a powerful color combination with lighter shades of blue.
Grey Suit / Black Shirt / Turtleneck
For a particularly sleek look, you can pair your grey suit with a black shirt or turtleneck. Given the heavy look of the tones, this pairing will look best on people with darker skin tones. The result of the pairing is a very chic and clean aesthetic that’s perfect for more formal occasions. With black shirts, you should choose a tie that is one or two shades lighter than your shirt. You can even choose a tie in a shade of grey that matches your suit’s tone. If you opt for no tie, you can feature a pocket square in black or light tones.
Grey Suit with Red Shirt
The pairing of grey suits and red shirts is a powerful one, though it can be risky if you happen not to get the right shade of red. Avoid red shirts that are too bright. The grey will make for a juxtaposition that makes the shirt look brighter than it is. Deeper reds and burgundies, however, can be a strong pairing.
What Shoes to Wear with a Grey Suit
When it comes to shoes, it all depends on the tone of grey you are wearing, as well as the formality of the place you are going to visit. For casual wear, you can be more flexible with trainers or sneakers to pair with your grey suit. Feel comfortable making bold choices – grey is, after all, a neutral color and can handle a lot of color. For formal wear, keep things classic with Oxfords and simple lace-ups, as well as loafers. Tan rusty browns, black, and burgundy all work for the different tones of grey. Burgundy is a nice alternative to the classic black and brown because it warms up grey tones, lending a bit more dimension to your looks.
Tips For Wearing a Grey Suit
- The shades of a grey suit sit on a long sliding scale. From the casual lighter greys to the more serious charcoal, there is a time and a place for each different shade of grey. When picking out your grey suit, colour should be your first consideration. Think about when you will most likely be wearing your suit, will it be during the day or night? To what events will you wear it? Is it for the office or for a party on a yacht?
- Your skin tone will also come into play in your decision on suit shade. Lighter grey tones work better for those with fairer skin. While those with darker skin and darker hair will look better in charcoal and darker greys.
- For a versatile shade, you should opt for a grey that sits somewhere in the middle of the scale. Opt for a solid colour, stripes and checks are more likely to age faster. You’ll get more use from a suit in a mid-grey tone both at the office and in more casual situations. Mid-grey is most complementary to other colours, meaning you won’t need to update your whole wardrobe around the suit. To dress your grey suit down to a smart casual look, pair it with a solid colour t-shirt and ditch the socks.
- Wearing so much grey can threaten to send your look into ‘drab’ You can avoid this with smart accessories. Add some colour with a patterned tie and pocket square. Go with accessories that are the same colour as your shirt, but in darker shades. Silver and white gold accessories work well to set off the metallic character of grey. You can incorporate silver tie clips, cuff links and lapel pins for something eye-catching.
- Given that your grey suit is so versatile, you have a few different options when it comes to shoes. The safest option is a pair of lace-up tan or burgundy shoes. The detail of a pair of brogues working particularly well with the grey. Black is a good option too, lending a more formal tone to the aesthetic. The beauty of the grey is its neutral character, meaning that if you want to wear something a little louder you can. For a more casual look you can match your suit with a pair of sneakers or trainers and no socks.
- As is always the case when you buy a suit, the fit can be the difference between dazzling and disappointing. The suit’s jacket will be the focal point of the whole operation, so any bunching or sagging will stand out. If you don’t have the time or money to see a tailor there are a few considerations that you should take into account when buying. When you try on your suit, it needs to look good in your natural stance.
- Look at the shoulders, the seam connecting the sleeves to the jacket should meet where your arm meets your shoulder. The back of your jacket should fall over your behind, while your trousers should sit loosely on your seat without bunching or sagging. When standing, a closed jacket should not pull at the button, it’s a bad look and can result in a strained button hilariously popping across the room after a hearty meal.
- In terms of the suit’s cut, it’s best to opt for a classic style. That means two-button, notch lapel and double-vented. A classic style is less likely to date, meaning you’ll get more years out of your grey suit.
Roger Grinstead is a senior apparel designer for X2U with over 25 years of expertise in the fashion industry. He has expertise in menswear and womenswear trends and product development. When Roger is not designing the latest fashion garments, he enjoys writing about men's fashion, hairstyles, and grooming.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.