• SumoMe

Three rules: contrast, contrast, contrast.

So far we’ve learned when to wear a suit, and what kind of suit to wear in those situations where one is recommended. Now, we will investigate which shirt you should wear under your jacket.

To start, there are three general rules you should remember: contrast, contrast, and contrast. The key to looking sharp in a suit is always how well the shirt and jacket contrast. It is for this reason that the most prevalent dress shirt is the pure white shirt. Not only does this always match any suit (unless you’re wearing a white suit, in which case you are too cool to care about shirt contrast) but it is by far the most versatile piece of clothing in any man’s wardrobe. Look at how well a white shirt matches a black suit, a dark grey suit, a light grey suit, a navy suit, and if you are way cool… a white suit. White shirts with a white shirt is dangerous territory, so be careful.

However, we can’t always wear a white shirt every day with a suit. In fact, you are going to get away with having one suit and multiple shirts easier than multiple suits and only a white shirt. Changing the shirt color in a suit is an easy way to make your wardrobe appear more complex and thorough.

Personally, I prefer blue shirts under my suits because blue is such a versatile color. I tend to stray away from blue shirts with my black suits, but it can definitely look alright. As I said before, the key here is contrast, and a lot of that comes with the color tie (if any) you wear with your suit (which is another lesson). Because the possibilities are pretty much endless as to what looks good, perhaps it’s easier to give some examples of shirt matching gone wrong.

To begin with, pinstripe suits are extremely hard to match with any sort of patterned suit. The problem with the linked photo is that the suit’s stripes, while decent on their own, do not match the size of the checkerboard pattern on the shirt. As such, the entire suit composition is thrown off and overall distracting. You want others to see you in a suit and think “BAM!” not “what?”

Secondly, this is what happens when you don’t contrast (and also this). Personally, I can’t stand black shirts with a black suit… and a black tie?! This is absolutely absurd in any context outside evil magicians bent on taking over the world. If you really want to wear a black suit, just wear a lighter suit–close. The problem there is tie-related, and is easily fixed, or just ditch the tie and don’t worry about it. However, a judge once told me that whenever an attorney comes in her courtroom in a black shirt, regardless of the suit/tie color, she thinks he disappears with his words and impressions. Granted, that’s one person out of 6 billion (or whatever the population is up to these days) who voiced one opinion, but I thought it was interesting. As a side note, I also think solid red shirts have the same effect as black shirts.

My general opinion is always go light with your undershirt because it will both make your suit stand out, and it will give you more options for your tie selection. It’s better to go too light than too dark.

In closing, if you take away and play with these points, you will do fine:

  1. Contrast, contrast, contrast,
  2. If your suit is patterned, use a solid shirt.
  3. Keep your shirt lighter than your suit.
When in doubt, ask yourself: “What would Daniel Craig do?