Monochrome and concrete: Styling grey, charcoal and white

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Although I love rich, natural colours (particularly in Autumn) I've always been fascinated by the subtleties of monochrome dressing. 

It has such strong style, and yet there is so little too it. It's striking and unusual, and yet quiet. 

These photos were part of a series in an advertising campaign for Cifonelli, the Parisian bespoke tailor that I've used fairly regularly for the past seven years, and certainly one of the best in the world in terms of fit and finish. 

They were taken by photographer Jamie Ferguson around the National Theatre - one of London's best-known pieces of brutalist architecture.  

The textured greys of the concrete, the metal railings and the shadows under the balconies reflected nicely the greys and charcoal in the jacket, shirt and trousers. 

I find the key to monochrome outfits is to make sure there is enough contrast (in shade, texture or shine) between the tie and shirt or jacket. 

The shirt and jacket can be similar (both perhaps greys in similar tones or textures) but there needs to be some contrast - and the tie is the most effective way to do that. 

Here the tie is a navy grenadine, which I find adds much-needed richness compared to a charcoal or black. But still dark enough to seem part of the tonal whole. 

There must also of course be sufficient contrast between jacket and trouser, and so a charcoal worsted works well below the waist.

In fact these trousers contrast with the pale-grey cashmere herringbone jacket in all three of: tone (dark/light), pattern (herringbone/plain) and texture (smooth/fluffy). 

A white handkerchief also helps with contrast, being particularly stark. 

The alligator shoes meanwhile play a similar role to the tie: dark enough to provide contrast, but being brown rather than black, adding a touch of richness and depth.

Anyway, that's why I like it and I how I think it through. 

Not one for the office, but perhaps for an evening event - such as the theatre, in fact.  

In terms of details on the pieces:

  • The Cifonelli jacket was covered on an old blog post
  • The shirt is from Simone Abbarchi and was covered here
  • The tie is a 9cm big-knot grenadine that I had made to order at Drake's. 
  • The trousers are from Elia Caliendo, in a Loro Piana charcoal worsted twill. 
  • And the alligator shoes are an old pair of Lodgers that Gaziano & Girling kindly re-made on my bespoke last. 

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

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Don Ferrando

Very nice outfit which I like much!

I only would do it oposite you mention: I never would wear it in the evening at the theatre but would so in the office since office attire has become more casual in the last 20 years.
Of course it might be different in London.


Simon, I like the mixture of colours, around the light jacket.
Trying to work in some texture with the length of your beard?


Very striking. Would have stuck to cowhide to maintain sleekness—maybe a pair of chelseas


Why not the office? I can see it working in a office given its grey monotone..perhaps not the shoes but instead, a black suede pair.


Is the striking aspect of the look the light grey jacket contrasted against the charcoal trousers?
Would you share a similar view with a camel-colored blazer? Would you wear that colour to the office?


Might that tie be 9cm instead of 9 inches? A 9 inch tie would put a kipper tie to shame.


I have noticed that your tie knots are, relatively, wide? What are your views on this? For me a smaller knot tends to be a both a bit smarter and a bit more rakish. Now I know you will say it needs to balance etc, but generally you seem to be for a larger knot?


I am not sure about the look of a shirt that is darker than the suit coat. It makes me think of young guys going out on the town in black, navy or red shirts with blazers over the top…


I also agree that this is not for evening. Traditionally, dark tones and non plaids were worn in the evening. Maybe these rules no longer apply?


Hi Simon,

Is it possible for Bespoke makers to relast a shoe on another last? I made a bespoke shoe but was not 100% happy with the last after the first shoe so I requested changes to the last for my second. Could I request the maker to relast my first shoe to the improved last at a later time?


I’d say this is a lovely outfit for an evening out, although I think it would also look lovely with a roll-neck – or perhaps a denim shirt instead of a brushed cotton.

Just a question on the jacket fabric, is it SherryKash cashmere or Harrison’s Moonbeam lambswool/angora mix? Sorry to be pedantic haha, but you said the latter in the comments on the original post and the former on the “a pale-grey jacket with green corduroy” post.

If its moonbeam, would the fact you keep mixing it up with cashmere be a strong recommendation for the cloth – given that I’d presume it is substantially cheaper?


One for black suede? Or too much without the softening of brown shoes?


I’ve come to conclusion that seperates work best when the jacket is darker than the trousers. Not that this here isn’t working. You shared a few outfits over the last few years where it works great. (Your oatmeal-jacket for instance)
But when in doubt I stick to that rule.


I remember reading somewhere, that a certain Parisian claimed he could recognize a Cifonelli shoulder from a hundred metres away.

I dismissed it as mere exaggeration. And now I know I was wrong.

And like most readers in the comment here, I would have absolutely zero hesitation in wearing this to the office, if I had enough spare for a pure cashmere jacket from Cifonelli…


I heard a rumour that Cifonelli are planning to open an outlet in London. Anything in it?

Kev Fidler

I admit I was initially sceptical about this combination having a disinclination toward big contrasts between jacket and trousers but the more I have looked at this the more I like it. The tone of the grey jacket is just dark enough and is balanced by the shirt (grey shirts are so useful, I remember your use of one with the Drakes collaboration). The navy tie as base for the monotone is spot on. The whole outfit gives a very muted feel to it. Any thoughts to an article about mixing very muted tones?

Kev Fidler

Yes essentially but the idea of muted shades and limited colour ranges prompted me to think of previous aside comments in articles – the Escorial jacket, for example. As an idea I wondered if a collation might be interesting.


Unrelated topic Simon,but quite apposite at the moment given the weather conditions in the UK but it would be nice to read what you wear at the weekend when there is snow on the ground.


Pedantic but it’s *monochrome, monotone would be in relation to voice/sound/noise.


Sorry, I have to admit that I do not like the dark trousers with light color jacket!. I prefer the other way around (medium grey jacket with light grey trousers). I think this shade of grey is a difficult color for a jacket, perhaps a light camel or beige trousers would work better with jacket.


The light top and dark bottom is near impossible to pull off. Sadly, this combination is no exception. Thanks for trying though.



I like the idea of darker toned down shirt and tie it draws the eye to a central key point rather than having a primary jumping directly out at you.


Hi Simon,
This is an interesting post on monochrome & style.
Your understanding of it is workable in terms of style as it is soft. But as you know, there is a harder understanding of monochrome displaying no contrast whatsoever. And the hardest proponents of it could even dare going for black as color of the whole outfit: from shoes to tie! Personally, I’ve always doubted that it could work even for evening events.


By the way, could indeed a pair of shoes be remade on a different last as you said about your pair of Lodgers? First time I hear that!



I’m curious on why you’ve never given Cifonelli’s iconic 6×1 DB a go? Looks to be quite striking, and is their signature design.



Hi Simon!

I recently commissioned a doubled breasted charcoal linen suit (4×2). I know that a pair of black loafers will go nicely with it. But the only ones I have are in back calf leather, and somehow it seems a bit off together with the linen. It’s a quite heavy fabric, but still feels very relaxed which also was what I was looking for. It’s a suit intended for summer parties and restaurant visits. I have tried it together with a pair of dark brown unlined suede loafers as well as a pair in brown braided leather. Both of them seem to match the suit better in their level of formality but I’m unsure if wearing brown shoes with a charcoal suit is going too be too much of a clash? Thank you for PS, and for all the guidance and inspiration it has provided over the years.