wear a charcoal tie

Conservative accessories are a great thing to master. First, because the acquisition of unusual clothing – such as cord suits or purple jackets – requires something effective to balance it. And second, because dressing extremely conservatively – but with variation in texture, perhaps – is sometimes the most stylish statement of all.

The most versatile for this purpose is navy. Twill, grenadine, cashmere, knit: each has its use and place. Second is black – particularly a black silk knit or a grenadine. Third place, for me, goes to charcoal. Not the mid-grey of Macclesfields or flecked cashmeres, but dark charcoal.

Charcoal is softer than either navy or black. It softens the appearance, and is therefore particularly good in an outfit that already contains a lot of contrast. But it is darker and less noticeable than grey. It is likely to sink, unnoticed, into the background. It will not be given a second thought. And thus its work is done.  

Pictured above: a charcoal wool tie from Viola Milano brings Chittleborough & Morgan tailoring down to earth. Worn with a pale-blue shirt from Satriano Cinque and a deep-gold pocket square, in the Corthay atelier, Paris.

how to wear a wool tie

Photos: Luke Carby

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Sublime indeed. After excessive colour experimentation recently, I have come more and more to embrace extreme conservatism. Beautiful photo.



Just a question about Satriano shirts: what size are the double cuffs? Reason i am asking is that i currently use turnbull and asser shirts which have very small double cuffs, and my cuffs of my jackets have been adapted accordingly. Thus bigger cuffs won’t work. I am considering giving satriano a try, so would be nice to know.



Could you do a piece on cuffs? Double vs single, links or cuttons, french cuffs. what is more formal, suitable for various occassions etc etc


This would be very useful, double cuffs are presumably smarter but there is something on that that at times makes me feel too much like a pink shirt, brown suede loafer wearing insurance broker/estate agent

Paul Weide

My first thought, upon seeing your necktie in the photo was, “He’s spending entirely too much time with those guys at The Armoury.” (I tried leaving the inside blade unanchored, but appear to not possess the necessary whimsy.)


I have a solid navy tie where the label that also serves as the blade keeper came lose. So I wore it unanchored and quite liked it.

I’ve come to especially like doing this with solid colour knit ties as they aren’t very wide and it gives some nice width.

Can’t bring myself to do this with a patterned tie though. There seems to be a limit to my whimsy!


Double cuffs are ghastly though one is obliged to wear them for black tie and white tie events.

Matt Spaiser

Gus, are you American? Double cuffs are necessary for black tie, but single link cuffs are proper for white tie.


What do other users think about not having double cuffs for work wear? Some in banking etc seem to look down upon the single cuff, they hate buttons


Hi Simon, I enjoy reading PS immensely and was wondering if you could let me know the following:
When you write about your new shirt/coat/shoes are these items you have personally purchased or are they made for you with the compliments of the makers?
I hope that you understand that this is not meant to be rude in any way, but will help me contextualise your recommendations and advice. If you have previously answered this question, please could you point me in the right direction of your archive.

Mark Bailey

Let me know when you are off-loading them on to ebay – privately, off course – and please let me know the deliberate mispellings so that I won’t have any competition!


Thank you Simon, that is extremely helpful and the two reasons you give are well made and appreciated.


I was wondering this as well, fair!


Yes please let us know if you ever want to get rid of any of your clothes or accessories, there will be an eager market!


Write a post with an inventory of things to sell.


It would be great to see an inventory of your wardrobe to understand what a discerning gentleman needs.


Following up on your second comment to Dominic:would you please list your top five brands at present.


Your answer is quite helpful . In terms of craftsmanship and design, you’ve mentioned these brands before as being top notch in all areas. Could you expand a bit on your choice of Stefano Bemer and William Abraham. It’s interesting that you didn’t include Charvet,but rather Satriano.


I actually have a pair of Stefano Bemer shoes that I purchased several years ago when he was still alive. I’ve always received comments on them,but haven’t worn them in a while. I’ve gravitated to John Lobb which I consider one of the top three shoemakers in terms of consistent quality workmanship and materials, design,and fit. Of course I could be wrong on my assessment of Lobb and would appreciate your view on the Lobb shoe compared to the Bemer shoe.


That’s great information about Bemer shoes,thank you. Currently, what are your two other favorite shoemakers?


Are there two other shoe makers who stand out to you in terms of consistent top notch craftsmanship and modern model design?


I see your point. From a construction perspective then, do you believe that goodyear is superior to blake? Concerning fit;do which brands have given you consistently the best fit? Lastly, are there two or three companies that consistently provide the best quality leather?


Hello Simon,

How much wear does your purple Liverano get?


Hi Simon,

Is this the right place to ask an unrelated question?

I am a student and have recently been made the university beagle pack’s hunt secretary for next season. One of the privileges of being master or secretary is being allowed to wear hunt evening tails, which are similar to normal evening tails, except they are green. Unfortunately there aren’t any available second hand. Most people have recommended Dege & Skinner to me, what would be the cost of having a tailcoat made? Are there any alternative, cheaper tailors who would know about beagling tails?




Perfect, thanks very much!


Certainly! Looking at the jacket now – through the link above – it appears to be a three roll two SB, a nice choice. Do you think a DB deep purple jacket is a conservative choice, or overly bold?


What style of collar are you wearing in the photo? Is it the ‘Belli’ or possibly the ‘Luca’? I have tried both and really like the softness compared to English shirts, which creates that beautiful roll of the collar I’ve struggled to find elsewhere.


No on the deep purple DB?

I hate to offer press for a film that likely should not have been created, but in Robocop, Samuel L. Jackson appears in the exact jacket. Is this a bold item: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multimedia/archive/00514/RoboCop_-_trailer_514894a.jpg

Thomas Fuller

Simon no matter what you are wearing you manage to look like a squirrel. What’s your secret?


I’d consider a charcoal tie, yes, but it had to be wool, or even better cashmere (for day wear at least, even in town, summer time excluded).


Hi Simon,
What would you make of a dark charcoal herringbone tie in cashmere worn with a conservative navy worsted suit for an everyday London business look?
I can see such a tie being considered too casual for a roadshow or board meeting etc but cannot decide if it is perhaps too casual altogether?


Thank you Simon

Bertie Wooster

Simon are these guys Viola Milano running properly and decent at customer service? Their bespoke section no longer seems to be working on the website and has been the case for a while. And they have not responded to two emails. Not something Drakes would ever do

Jack Green

Dear Simon,
I have found your website an invaluable source of common sense advice on almost every aspect of gentlemens’ clothing, from the fundamentals to the seemingly trivial, so I wonder if you can help me with a problem I have, which is finding a standard “office” shirt that can be worn stylishly with an open collar – which sadly seems to be de rigueur in business meetings nowadays. Perhaps it is something about my pencil neck or the set of my shoulders, but I always look scruffy without a tie unless wearing a button-down collar, but that’s just too casual and doesn’t look right with a nicely tailored suit (Graham Browne have made several excellent ones for me). I thought a collar with concealed buttons might do the job but I have been unable to find any ‘off the shelf’ (being otherwise perfectly well-catered for by a well-known maker in Jermyn Street), and going bespoke seems to be the last resort. Is it? I could ‘man-up’ and carry on wearing a tie but in some circles now that is seen as positively eccentric; I’m sure other readers must find open collars a tyranny too so can you help us?

Jack Green

Thanks Simon; reading your earlier post (which I hadn’t seen) was very helpful. Perhaps I will follow some of your pointers on the ‘smart casual’ look instead. After all, if we really wanted to look the same as everyone else we wouldn’t be reading your posts in the first place!


Hi Simon,

What color suits would go well with a dark charcoal tie?

David lynton

I do feel the monotone outfit you have on is somewhat drab, and some relief would help it . It reminds me of English country style, ie hunting !
However the look can work especially on younger men, but on my generation it can look retirement village ….


I see that you are wearing a Viola Milano tie. I have a large neck and are thinking about having some ties made to order. What is your view of Viola Milano and other producers of MTO ties (Cappelli, Drakes etc). I have a MTO from Drakes but they are much more expensive than the others.


Dear Simon,

an inspiring article! I’ve never thought of charcoal (tie) and navy (suit) combination before.

I have two questions, if I may, one related and one more broader.

I think you’re wearing identical combination (a charcoal tie and a navy suit) here:
There the tie is charcoal cashmere. But here you are refering to not ideal “flecked cashmere”. I’m thinking about buing the charcoal pure cashmere tie from Drake’s – is it, in terms of colour, what you would recommend?

I’ve been recently thinking about a navy suit and a navy tie combination. I’ve discussed it with a friend and he stressed the need of matching hues, i. e. to avoid combination of “warm” and “cold” navy. Do you think this matter is of any importance? I have on my mind the particular combination of a “cold” (and very dark) navy flannel suit and a somewhat “warmer” and lighter navy cashmere tie (the one from Drake’s).

Thank you very much!



Are there other materials you would recommend, other than cashmere, for a charcoal tie? Especially to pair with a sports coat?