How To

The Art of the Brown Suit

From deep chocolate brown worsteds to textured tweeds, the brown suit is a classic look that also happens to be having a serious moment. And it’s easier to pull off than you might think, provide you follow a few simple rules…

A man who knew what brown could do.

Conventional wisdom dictates that the first two suits a man should own are navy and charcoal. (And this is one case where the conventional wisdom is right.) So what about suits three, four, five, and beyond? Make one of those brown—especially this season, which is brimming with sharp examples of the classic tailored style, from textured tweeds to deep, chocolate-hued worsteds and everything in between. But before you pull the trigger (as brown suit poster boy Ronald Reagan might put it), a few words of advice…

The Fit
What’s true for gray or blue is doubly so for brown. A brown suit that fits to a T will banish any hint of “used car salesman” that the style may otherwise carry.

The Shoes
Think contrast. A lighter brown suit calls for a darker brown shoe. And if you’re wearing a dark brown suit, grab a pair of cognac laceups, or — for a truly modern move — suede chukkas or loafers in medium brown. And while we usually advise against wearing brown shoes with a black suit, feel free to rock a pair of black kicks with brown. Play up the contrast as you would a pair of brown shoes and you’ll look dapper and daring, rather than clueless.

The Shirt
Brown is more versatile than you might think. It looks great with white, and just about any shade of blue — for a great evening look, pair a brown suit with a slim-fitting navy shirt. Or, for an even more advanced move, try a pale pink. The one color we’d avoid is green (though we suppose we’ll make an exception if you’re attending your annual Arbor Day Foundation gala.)

The Pattern
More so than navy or black, brown suits tend to come in patterns. Don’t be shy about mixing things up with a striped shirt and a knit or chunky wool tie, which, rather than overcomplicating your look, will help bring out the subtleties of your suit’s check or stripe.

The Accessories
Don’t be stingy here: grab a colorful silk pocket square; knot up a plaid wool tie that plays off your windowpane suit; and don’t shy away from a colorful pair of socks. Wearing a brown suit shouldn’t really be considered that bold of a move, but it is. You might as well embrace it.

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