grey suit with bright tie

I’m in New York and spring is in the air. To be fair, spring was in the air last week in London too. Suddenly everyone seems that little bit more optimistic, as they stand on the street with their upturned faces bathed in sunshine.

Sartorially there are many ways to celebrate this change of the seasons. Brighter light means brighter clothes or lighter clothes.

I tend towards the lighter colours in my wardrobe. Out come the biscuit-coloured linen jackets, the pale ties and the white trousers. For a precious day or so (or less than that, this is England after all) I can pretend I live in Naples and am sipping espresso or wandering boulevards in the sun.

But a colleague recently reminded me of the power of brighter, rather than lighter colours. Strong, fruity shades of orange, pink and green are pretty much impossible to wear in any other weather. They stick out like a sore (glowing) thumb.

Bright colours require careful handling though. The key to wearing them well is grey.

Grey is the most versatile and kind of colours. That’s why a mid-grey suit will flatter more skin tones than navy (the two standard base colours for men’s suits). Navy looks smarter, is perhaps more slimming and is usually the default choice; but grey flatters more people.

The contrast is lower. Those with pale skin are less likely to look washed out. It makes pasty skin and tanned skin alike look darker and healthier.

So a mid-grey or light-grey suit is the best accompaniment for bright colours. It provides a neutral background for the bright oranges and greens to hammer against. In fact, the Express website (where the images pictured are taken from) automatically suggests mid-grey or light-grey worsted trousers as the ideal match for its bright shirts. So someone there has obviously got their head screwed on when it comes to combinations.

The addition of a white handkerchief or a dark, striped tie enhance the effect, containing and controlling the vibrancy.

When I do wear bright colours, I tend to do so in a handkerchief or a tie. I have always been a big fan of green or orange ties, for example, worn with a Bengal-stripe blue-and-white shirt. Or a bright paisley pocket square brightening up an otherwise conservative grey suit/white shirt combination.

But if bright shirts are your thing (and you’re part of a long, distinguished history of men on Jermyn Street) then grey is the background you’re looking for.

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Two of the most expensive and defining items a man can own are his watch and his car. They are as public a display of expression as the clothes he wears. However, how often do we seek to match the two, or three, together? A chunky sports type watch with formal wear… shabby jeans/trainers with a vintage sportscar…or tweeds with a battered city runabout… all examples that spring to mind. Should men pay more attention to matching their complete public ensemble in this respect and if so, what guidelines would you suggest?



Simon- If you haven’t already check out Borrelli on 60th between 5th and Lexington Ave. Bright gingham checks (and I mean bright) in blue, green and yellow.

Wright's Words

Dear Mr. Crompton,
First off, I ought to thank you for the entry about wearing grey with bright shirts; I finally have charcoal trousers! I just wish that those vibrant photos of the shirts were still in the entry. Yours has become one of my must-read web journals!
The main reason why I’m contacting you again is to pose an addendum on my last question. I found a handsome high-quality suit at Macy’s, it was charcoal, but I neither like pleats, nor a notched lapel. I look fine in them, but I prefer broad, peaked lapels (they deemphasize my skinniness) and flat-front trousers. I was reminded again that my aesthetics err toward the U.S. East Coast and then into Europe: England and Italy – Versace makes this. But the suit would be at least 60% off from $725! What would you do?

james knight

I was interested in your article on shirts. I love to wear bright shirts and have colours such as purple,red and orange. I usually wear a three piece grey suit with grey tie which you say works well with bright colours. I also have a black suit – do you think black works with bright shirts? I have seen more men being adventurous with colours recently. Do other readers like brighter colours or stick to lighter ones?