How to wear black

The dark side of the Force: How to wear black

We’ve been repeating it for a while now, black is an over-rated color in a guy’s wardrobe.

It’s a color that should even be avoided for a while load of reasons. The problem is that black, when it comes to clothing, looks really good in the black and white photos found in the lookbooks of certain brands:

Dior Slimane era

Dior Slimane era

Sandro

Sandro

Nom de Guerre

Nom de Guerre

Thanks to this, you think that black is classy, that black is sexy, that black is seductive, that black goes with everything, that black is masculine.

In fact, black is apparently almost a magic color that should be used often. However, I’m going to go right ahead and repeat once more what I think about this bloody color:

‘Black is an OVER-estimated color!’

You don’t believe me. What follows is for you.

Why I never wear black

  • From a strictly sartorial standpoint, black is reserved only for very formal occasions (ceremonies, marriages, funerals…) or for waiters. Purists of the sartorial art think that a black suit for work is demonstrative of bad taste, something that has no place there…or, at best, reserved only for the top management of a business because black can represent power.
  • Black is a color that does not work with cheap material i.e it will age very badly if the material isn’t good quality…and especially in the case of bad maintenance. A black shirt will fade in some places, black jeans fall out with you after a few washes. And black leather ages badly if it isn’t of good quality. To be clear: if you really really want to go for black, you’re better off buying a really beautiful material.
  • Black worn in a casual outfit is frankly too serious and austere. I think it even makes some people too sad.
  • Black is a boring color, especially when there are tons of other more interesting colors.
  • Black is far from suiting everyone, especially those who are a bit tired. This color highlights tired features and baggy eyes. Without mentioning that for certain hair colors, such as blonds, it’s an epic fail. And don’t bother asking what kind of skin/hair works with black because the aim of this article is to get you looking at more interesting colors!!
  • An outfit that’s totally black is weird, full stop. And even if the majority of humorists dress fully in black for their shows, you don’t have to do the same…
  • It’s difficult to mix and match well. Unlike a blue or white shirt, you’ll never really be truly satisfied with the results with a black shirt. You’ll always have the impression that there’s something wrong if you wear a jacket or sweater with it…

One last thing…
If there’s something that always surprises me about black, it’s the reaction of some of my girlfriends when they see a guy in black. According to my little sample test talking to the ladies, black is a color that guys should banish. Here are some of the comments I heard:

  • Honestly, a guy wearing a black shirt is really showing bad taste.
  • It’s the easy way out, a black shirt, don’t you think…
  • A black shirt makes you look like the Saturday night flirt
  • But it’s crap to wear a black shirt for a night out!

I thought I was being really harsh on black shirts but that was nothing compared to these ladies who were simply intransigent! If there are some ladies reading this blog and article, I’d love to hear your views (note: surprisingly, there are more and more of you!)

Yeah but I get the basics: so how can I wear black?

There are a few exceptions for wearing black all the same…

The only nice looks I’ve seen with black items ALL had two things in common:

  • An impeccable material: a nice black leather, a really beautiful cotton, a leather that’s been treated very carefully.

Black LeatherWhen a black leather is well-worked, it immediately becomes much more interesting (Christian Caroll Poell bag)

  • Contrasts of material. I’m starting to see some in some of the outfits worn by reader of our book. Well you should know that contrasts of material are the key to giving a bit of consistency to an outfit made entirely in shades of black.

Contrasts of material.

A mix of textures that adds depth to a totally black outfit. This is what you should do if you really must wear black!

  • But also, and especially, a nice design: nickel cut, nice details, nice lines.

nice designer pieceA nice designer piece with a design that’s really been worked on.

William Rast leather worn really wellWilliam Rast leather worn really well. You’ll see the perfecto is executed brilliantly. The jacket is simple and gets straight to the point! Photo: Skinny Suits

Problem: such items often cost a ridiculous amount because you need really noble materials and a design that’s been researched more than the average…I’m telling you, you’ll make no savings if you insist on wearing black!

If I don’t wear black, what do I wear?

Well…all the other colors! More seriously, it’s very simple:

  • Grey is really the color that suits everyone (avoid totally grey outfits, though…)
  • Marine blue, dark blue are excellent alternatives! It’s easy to pull off and very elegant.
  • Dark brown can also be a good solution when it comes to a jacket if it works with the color of your hair.

As a reminder, we’ve already explained in how to mix and match colors and what colors to wear in men’s fashion… I assure you it’s no more complicated than that.

I remind you that you should avoid layers of the kind ‘light color over dark color’ and you should do exactly the opposite. If not, the overall result isn’t very harmonious (try wearing a dark shirt under a lighter jacket and you’ll see that it doesn’t work)

The case of black leather

For leather, the color is less ‘problematic’ because it’s easier to pull off. The material reflects some of the light (unlike wool or cotton) and the final result, in terms of shade, isn’t all that dark. It’s matte black materials in particular that will cause you the most problems in terms of mixing and matching.

As usual, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment!

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  • Do you have a lot of black items in your closet?

  • Avid reader in USA

    I do have a good amount of black clothes because I have been told that I look good in black. For people with a medium brown complexion and black hair black clothes can work well. The information on the internet about which colors to wear for brown skin tone are all over the place, so black seems like a good default if it has worked in the past. If you have any extensive information on what colors work for medium brown skin tone, I’m all ears. I’ve read the kinowear blog posts but it focuses more on understanding contrast rather than picking the right colors for a skin tone (it has some info but far from enough to build a wardrobe “feel free to experiment” isn’t enough).

  • Hi,

    I think the best post we have on that matter is thi one: http://www.kinowear.com/how-to-wear-colors-2

    But it seem ile you’ve read it already…

  • Hi Sebastian,

    Thanks a lot for this interesting comment. In my opinion leather is a bit of an exception, black looks way better in leather than any other fabric. Yet I still l find it a way too strong and sad color that doesn’t make a good job to create nice lively outfits.

    Of course black formal business shoes are a classic, but in many case you can easily exchange them for very dark brown ones.

    I’m quoting : “So I think as long as black doesn’t dominate the outfit, it can actually be quite cool.”
    Sounds perfectly right to me.

    Have a good day, Nicolas.

  • All right, seems like a cool outfit. What are you thoughts on this post, then?

  • Hi xlx,

    I’m happy you agreed to say no to “black suits”. Yet I still firmly believe that all the pieces mentionned above (apart from pea coat) shouldn’t be black.

  • Ivan

    This is an excellent article that addresses one of the fundamental problems of men’s style. I do often wear black Chippewa service boots, a black leather belt of the same texture, and a black wool coat when heading into town, but I add contrast.

  • Thanks Ivan!

  • Monco

    I wanted to wear stretch material black semi-slim cut jeans, black v neck full sleeves tee, black bomber/biker jacket with black chelsea boots. Eyewear – Black Ray Ban 3030 Outdoorsman. What do you say about this outfit ?

  • Well, if you can carry the look, then go for it. 🙂

  • Monco

    Thanks a lot for the reply. Good to know, I wouldn’t commit any blunder. Btw, you guys will be glad to know that I pulled it off pretty comfortably. And being a wristwatch person. Also to keep things on the slightly fun side, I wore my Timex Weekender Indiglo Analog White Dial watch. Thanks a lot again. Keep up the good work. ! 😀

  • Good for you! 🙂 Keep it up, Monco!