Black tops and tonal combinations under

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In many ways, today's outfit is a natural extension of things we’ve been talking about recently. 

There was, back on August 12, our discussion about wearing all black, which has some bearing here. The outfit is not all black, of course, but it is almost monochrome and features black more prominently than as a shoe or accessory, as we had discussed more often in the past. 

I think it’s worth restating than I have not, and am not, advocating black as a replacement for more classic-menswear colours like grey or navy. Those will always be easier to wear, more subtle, and flatter more men most of the time. 

The aim is to help drag black out of obscurity, and show how it can be an enjoyable alternative to those standards. 

You may want that alternative out of a desire to appear less corporate, to be more individual, or to just to evoke some of black’s connotations around fashion and music. Whatever the motivation, these are ways I like to do it. 

See also black polos here, black jackets here, black leather jackets here, and black shoes to wear with brown trousers here

The other reason this outfit is a natural extension of previous discussions is its tonality. 

The T-shirt (knitted cotton from Thom Sweeney) is white and the trousers (linen from Ambrosi) are off-white. You could call the latter a pale beige, perhaps even biscuity. I wouldn’t call it stone because there’s no grey. 

But it does its job, which is to keep the whole tonal while not being the same as the T-shirt. White and white would be bolder, perhaps in some ways less sophisticated; beige and white has a little something more to it. Something that draws you in rather than pushing you away. 

Of course, such outfits are slightly impractical, in that they look very pale if you take the outer layer off. But that’s more a problem when people do that look with an overcoat - similarly toned knitwear and trousers under a bold coat, for example. 

Here, the linen overshirt feels so much like a shirt, rather than outerwear, that it’s unlikely I would ever take it off. Certainly, on the two days when I did wear it in Italy recently I didn’t feel any need to do so, despite the heat. 

With the sleeves rolled back, and the front open whenever needed, it was always cool enough. And it had the practicality of five different pockets available to hold phone, wallet, keys and so on. 

Rather nicely, Milad and I received a couple of compliments from shop owners on what we were wearing - and not menswear shops either, regular shopping shops. 

With me in this overshirt, and Milad in a Bryceland’s towelling shirt, we were hardly smart. But it was remarked that it was nice to see people a little more dressed up compared to all the tourists in Rome at the time. 

I don’t think it was a coincidence that both times this happened in nice shops - a perfumery, a jewellery store - that clearly gave thought to their own appearance. The place, the packaging and the staff were all very tastefully done. It’s often in shops like this that flip-flops can look a little out of place.

Now, I’m always aware here that there is a risk of being judgmental, and I really strive to avoid that, no matter what my opinions. 

But I do think there’s a place for making these points in a way that isn’t personal or censorious. Complimenting someone else on being well dressed, as those staff did to us, is for example a positive rather than a negative way of doing it. 

And the most positive is to simply dress well - elegantly but relevantly - and inspire others by doing so. 

I saw a young guy walking down the street last week in a loose cotton suit, and the same evening, a female presenter at a talk in a tan suit and western boots. Both inspired me to wear a suit the next day, rather than jacket and jeans. It affects to us all. 

This linen overshirt is a prototype for a new colour of the PS Overshirt, for next Spring. As ever your thoughts on it are welcome. The shoes are black-suede classic Sagans from Baudoin & Lange. 

I wrote a separate post, this past Monday, on the main outfit I wore to Rome, which was smarter and led by my Caraceni double-breasted jacket. Today’s outfit was the alternative - worn for part of the travelling, for the less important of the three days, and for something to change into the evening if that felt like a relaxing thing to do. 

On a short trip like this I often bring just two outfits - one being worn, the other in the suitcase - that will cover most eventualities and be alternated. Then things to swap when the outfits are worn a second time (another white tee, another linen shirt) and perhaps something in case the weather turns (a sweater, an undershirt, a hat). But that’s all: it’s an easy formula. 

Photography: Milad Abedi

I should also have said that this outfit could fit into the category of Casual Chic - which I have personally and somewhat arbitrarily defined as dressing elegantly without a tailored jacket. More on that here and vintage inspiration for it here

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Petronio

The shop in the picture is the glorious Schostal ?

Darryl

Is it actually black or a very dark shade of blue? Of course the limitations of digital reproduction often misrepresent colour. It seems unlikely to me that any dyed product would be without other colour in it and if that were the case would that change our colour perception in relation to the colours warn with it? Perhaps a bit too technical but my mind does wander.

J. Vantaa

Hi Simon,

This article got me thinking that I, and maybe others, might be interested to read your views on use of contrasting or accentuating colours as an almost opposing article to this take on black.
As most of us, I’d imagine, have dabbled with black, but at least in my home turf most will tread very lightly in the world of more eye catching colours, and some are even completely repelled by them.

J. Vantaa

At least brighter or stronger in comparison. Let’s say for an example ruby red corduroys against black/dark grey jacket and boots and colour sticks out, whereas same coloured knit under earth tone tweed would blend in more.

Maybe this is a wrong outlet for advocating neons, so I guess we could forget about those in this instance.

Rob

Do I like the black overshirt? Yes I do and would probably buy one if you released it in 2023. I do, though, think the best alternative colour would be a very dark plum/aubergine. A bit like an Alden Colour 8.

William

I would be interested in a black one too! I think the black makes it look more like a “modern fashion” piece, while still retaining its menswear identity.

Gary

My wife won’t let me wear black or grey. She says that the latter is too bland and dulls my complexion. Black absorbs heat and is too hot to wear in high temperatures. Linen feels itchy to me and crumples too quickly. I feel coolest in lightweight cotton, e.g. a genuine Madras shirt with wide legged trousers and a pair of brown loafers. In Andalucia, the locals dress in a similar way when dining out in tapas and sherry bars.

Markus

Hi Simon,
I like the overshirt (and the colour black as well). I usually combine black with grey, but your beige/cream/bone trousers gave me the impetus to try something new.
Maybe in 2-3 years, you will also give up your adversion against the black suit, the negative connotations to which seem to me a rather English (Anglo-American?) thing.
Kr Markus

Mark

A huge yes on the black overshirt. Hopefully you release that next year.

Rob P

Fascinating insights as always even if black isn’t quite my style (despite being told it pairs well with my jet black hair).
Philosophical question for you Simon: how relevant is it think in terms of “looking less corporate” in an age when vanishingly few corporate jobs (or occasions in general) require the “conservative business dress” of dark worsted suits, white/blue shirts, dark neckties, and black shoes/dark brown shoes? Can this perspective be stated more in terms of wanting to look less formal or, dare I say it, more fashion-forward?
I, and I imagine others too, would love to get your thoughts on what “business attire” even means in the age of hybrid work, zoom shirts, and non-existent dress codes. I know you’ve touched on “business attire” previously, e.g., your legendary “which office are you” posts, but a post-pandemic/”new work” perspective on the topic could be great.
In any case, always look forward to the new content!

MBB355

Definitely support doing the next PS Linen Overshirt in black.

MBB355

Just to explain why: Like you’ve said before, Simon, there’s something inherently appealing about black. It’s cool, chic, dashing. But, given those connotations, there is a risk that (thinking of your “Flash v. Fuddy” piece) black might look too “flash,” too try-hard. The best way to neutralize that risk is by using black in items that aren’t so inherently dashing. A linen overshirt, with its rumply and utilitarian overtones, fits that bill perfectly. Indeed, I think a linen overshirt is the perfect way to incorporate black into a spring/summer wardrobe. The ideal fall/winter alternative is a cardigan. Here I’m reminded of your black cardigan, white shirt, and dark brown officer chinos outfit (which was killer). Like a linen overshirt, a cardigan is not meant to be dashing. It’s conservative, collegiate, and, if anything, a tad “fuddy.” The use of black pulls the cardigan back into harmony. Finally, a black linen overshirt (or cardigan in winter) beats something like a black crewneck or a black linen shirt because it allows you to layer it over something that’s not black, thereby toning down the black a little bit. It helps to have some white t-shirt showing beneath the black overshirt, or to have a white oxford shirt peeking beneath the black cardigan.

PeterHall

Recently acquired a black cashmere knit and looking forward to matching it with dark green or burgundy trousers and use for evening wear.. I still have that night time association with black.
However, it will,possibly, make an appearance at my informal office.

CK

Lovely Simon, I can see why yourself and Milad were receiving compliments, particularly enhanced by the backdrop of Rome, you look wicked. Full support for black as the next overshirt colour. There’s just something about black linen.

Just thinking to myself… Would a slightly more casual alternative to this outfit be, black overshirt, white tee, stone/beige workwear chinos and black desert boots? I could comfortably wear something like that everyday in the late spring/summer.

CK

Certainly the colours are easier with something a little smarter given the contrast but I think you might be pleasantly surprised Simon. Black linen and a casual black suede, lovely stuff.

Rabster

Hi Simon ,

On the subject of Chore Jackets / Overshirt do you know if Simone Abbarchi makes then ?

I understand he’s in London very soon and have tried asking him by email but I think there’s some “lost in translation” going on .

Georgios

Very interesting article and just about the time i was thinking of making a total black mini wardrobe since im planing to split my job between Berlin and NRW. Have you ever thought of that ? How many capsule pieces would you choose to pull it through ? I make theese thoughts since i read your total black article. Its a very theoretic discusion though since something like that needs pieces that all look good with each other..

Scott

This overshirt idea is growing on me as a way of dressing a bit more elegantly without wearing a tailored jacket. The favorable comments that you and Milad received about your outfits was enlightening. Certainly I understand your concern about appearing judgmental, but may I point out that when you call attention to men’s poor dressing habits that you’re actually doing them a favor. Perhaps poorly dressed men won’t like it, but it really will help to change their ways and the women in their lives will be grateful.

Scott

Of course you’re not in the weight loss business, but you are in the improving one’s appearance business. So in that context, it would perfectly appropriate for you to point out that everyone looks better in their clothing when at a normal weight vs overweight. That’s not insulting, but simply a factual statement. The same rationale applies when mentioning that we all need to pay attention to how our clothing fits, if we have appropriate style etc.

Tommy Mack

As you say Simon, one of the best, if not the best way of encouraging other men to dress better is to dress well yourself: exemplifying casual chic and hoping that others take inspiration (conscious or unconscious) from it (especially if you’re receiving compliments from people)

Certainly many of the pieces I wear most often, I’ve added after seeing well-dressed men wearing them around town, seeing how good they looked and thinking whether the pieces would work in my wardrobe.

TM

I’d be curious to see or hear your take on swapping the trousers for a similarly colored Jean or chino

Kevin

What du you think about pairing black with read as a stark contrast and a way to soften the black?

Dan

I do sometimes wear this combination, with a vintage knit polo I found in Mexico, swaggering wide collar included.
However, it is not even remotely a soft look, instead it rather stands out, with many people commenting, so far all in favor.
Also, it has a slight late-90s Tony Soprano feeling to it, which one certainly has to embrace to make it work.

First comment on here, long-time reader. Thank you for the great articles!

BTW: looking forward to the piece on Schostal. Shirley is a gem!

Ant

I’m really enjoying the ‘black series’ of late; I seemingly binned everything I had that was black a few years ago, but thanks to your recent articles and outfits I now find myself trying to rebuild it.

I understand the next Dartmoor will be black, but I must admit, I’m torn on whether I personally might prefer the finest polo in black. Are you trialling this, bullying any chance?

And as ifnyou hadn’t guessed by now, I certainly endorse the release of the overshirt in black in 2023.

Thanks as always for the inspiration.

Ant

Thanks, Simon

I can imagine the charcoal – looking forward to that.

A quick follow-up Q if I may? You’re wearing your black Sagans (generally the Grands, I think?) a lot in this black series – I’ve got a pair of EG Belgravias in black suede, and a number of Sagans, but not in black suede.

I appreciate the price difference, but if you could only have one pair – would you pick the classic Belgravias, or the Sagans? I’m thinking more so for versatility to cross the smart and casual divide, ie to be able to competently work with both.

Interested in your thoughts on this one….

John

Hi Simon, perhaps a strange question, but I was wondering what bag you usually carry when you go on these visits? Especially for more casual outfits like this. Perhaps your Frank Clegg leather tote? Thanks

Tommy Mack

Is this cut slightly shorter than the current PS overshirt? It looks so in some of the photos but maybe not all so perhaps it’s just the way you’re standing.

J Crewless

I see that shirt working with boots and a pair of jeans but the combo in the pictures don’t do that shirt any justice

Henry

Hi Simon,

I’ve really been enjoying your recent articles in the ‘Black series’.
I would say that I can most resonate with your thoughts on cultural/historical connotations of wearing Black.

To me at least, there is a huge difference between wearing this overshirt in Navy or in Black, in terms of what springs to my mind about the person wearing it.

The two overshirts, being high quality and in linen, have an automatic ‘luxury look’.
The big difference is that I think the Black version looks very NYC liberal elite,
whereas the Navy version looks more classic European chic.

Both are understated, but carry big differences in terms of cultural messaging I find.

Personally, I prefer Navy but I like both.

All the best
Henry

Paul

This article raises two style points that I am fundamentally conflicted about: black as a stylish colour and the idea of an overshirt dressing up a look. Hopefully nobody will object to me sharing my thoughts in the interest of diversity – I respect everyone’s viewpoint equally and celebrate all differences of style, opinion, outlook etc. This is just how I think and feel and is not intended to diminish anyone else’s stance or enjoyment of a certain look in any way.
First, black. I used to wear an awful lot of it. Black jeans, black t-shirt, black and white converse, and a soft tailored jacket in grey or navy on top. I think it looked good as a combination, but I grew out of it in my late thirties. I now get far more pleasure from a broader range of more subtle colours – cream, olive and so on. Black for me still works as a polo neck sweater, especially when worn with a jacket or top coat with black in the weave (tweed, glen check) and grey flannels. It works for me as a knitted tie and shoe combination with a charcoal suit if I need to be super smart. And it works for me as a dinner jacket. But I don’t feel the need for it anywhere else – not even sunglasses – and that’s because I have come to see it as a fundamentally very harsh colour.
Second, overshirts. It must just be me, but I cannot see the appeal. And believe me, I have tried. In fact, I have been very close to buying one several times, including the PS offering. The things that always hold me back are (a) the fussy complication they seem to present compared with just a shirt and jacket – especially the shirt over a shirt look – and (b) not being able to escape the feeling that they lack elegance, particularly when worn open over a t-shirt. Something always gives me flashbacks to the grunge days of my youth, when a padded lumberjack shirt over a band t-shirt was the default. Don’t get me wrong, Simon, you are an incredibly stylish and sophisticated person, and there are pictures of you in overshirts on this site that look great (that Navy Drake’s number, for instance), so this is a very personal take. And I would never say never as our personal styles are always evolving, but I think I need more persuading and I would not start with black! Maybe a new entry in your series on levels of formality focused on overshirts would help to lever open my mind?
I sincerely hope this is not seen as negative and taken simply as an honest externalisation of my current thought process.

Josh

Hey, Simon, loving the content as always. I internalised your early ambivalence to black coloured pieces, and remain agnostic for certain pieces, but this looks more chic than I might have thought, though not versatile enough for me personally. I was wondering about the Sweeney tee; I have vague memories of your covering their RTW recently but I couldn’t find any record of it when I clicked on the brand, and I may be confusing it with another. How do these knitted tees rank with the others you’ve tried over the years? The collar line looks really nice (by which I mean high, of course!)

Josh

Fair enough, thanks for the insight. Maybe hard to justify the price point then. It strikes me that this could be a great niche for a PS product?

David

I like the black overshirt in this outfit, but cannot help thinking that a dark brown or olive green would be an even better choice. Interested to get your opinion Simon, do you present this colour as the most suitable for the situation or simply a less common option for people to consider?

Pietro

Hi Simon
In England we are going through the gentle transition to autumn. I find myself always struggling to know what fabrics and layers work in these situations. Do you have a rule of thumb around when you wear wool jackets compared to linen/cotton? When you start to wear fine sweaters?

Eric Michel

Next step will be a nice black jacket, which I personally wear a lot. Sometimes all black (but only with black jeans) but most of the time with dark denim. No black suit, but a black jacket, yes, black shirt too, and black jeans. Anytime.

SteveB

A very good example Simon of wearing black by toning it away from ‘flash’ by the subtle use of white & beige/e rue etc. I’m glad that black is making a return in your recent articles.
And what’s your thoughts on brown suede shoes, this presumably relaxes the look further but less elegant.
Regarding your PS linen overshirt a few questions; will it have small side vents (a nice addition if casual, open & hands in pockets); five pockets ( one chest inside & hopefully buttoned – hidden by outer pocket ); any buttoning on lower pockets ( possibly too safari for desired overshirt ); weight of black linen?

Marc

A black linen PS overshirt… suddenly I know what I want for my birthday next year.
I could also imagine this outfit in the same colors but the trousers having a drawstring waist and on the feet, let’s say, espadrilles?