Building a well-rounded, functional wardrobe is something we talk about every day with our clients in Philadelphia. For those of us who still wear suits with any regularity, dark grey and dark blue tend to rule the day, but variety is the spice of life. Many men are missing out on the world of brown suits and in this blog; we will touch on how to style a brown suit, what a brown suit can do for your image, and who should consider a brown suit.
Brown Suits & Your Wardrobe
The all-important capsule wardrobe is the best starting point for a business’s professional dress code. For suits, it involves dark grey and navy blue. These colors are not just conservative enough to wear for nearly any purpose. They also complement each other if you want to switch up your jacket and trousers, giving you more looks per garment.
Brown suits – think deep chocolate or espresso, not tan or khaki – are just as useful. It’s unfortunate that they’ve largely fallen out of fashion since the 1980s, but as we always say, looking good is about permanent style, not fleeting fashion.
At the end of the day, a brown suit is what it’s always been: a handsome, slightly toned-down substitute for charcoal. Embrace it!
How To Wear Brown Suits
Brown is arguably the most versatile color that exists. Many people are raised to think that when you combine all the colors on the spectrum, you get black. As it happens, this is false. Black is simply the absence of light. Brown is the result of combining all the colors.
With this logic, brown plays nicely with just about any color. As with all things in life, though, this is a matter of degree. Brown is an archetypical example of an “earth tone” – a color that occurs in nature. Earth tones pair well with other earth tones, so pair a brown suit with colors like blue, green, ecru, khaki, and muted shades of yellow or orange.
It is highly advisable to wear brown shoes with brown suits, not black ones. If the shade of shoe is darker than that of the pant, all the better.
Brown & Your Image
From a color psychology perspective, brown is powerful. It presents you as someone who’s, well, down to Earth. Brown indicates warmth, friendliness, and approachability. This knowledge can be immensely helpful depending on who your audience is and the message you’re trying to convey.
One man who managed this to great effect was President Ronald Reagan. Nicknamed “The Great Communicator,” he was known for his engaging speeches and for speaking directly “to” the American people. In American politics, his influence is such that many conservative politicians still market themselves as “Reagan Republicans” more than thirty years after his presidency ended.
An ingredient in his recipe for impactful communication was, of course, what he wore (see “The ABC’s of Image” for more on this). He was the last man of note to publicly wear brown suits to any effect. Opting for a color that allowed voters to feel more connected to him meant that his physical appearance was in sync with what he said in his speeches.
If you want to be seen as the best-dressed and friendliest guy in the room, opt for brown.
Who Should Wear Brown Suits
So, should you wear a brown suit? We certainly think so, but you’ll shine in a brown suit if you have the following physical attributes:
- Red hair. Redheads tend to look fantastic in brown.
- Freckles. These tend to go hand-in-hand with being a redhead, we know. Being brown themselves, freckles offer instant color harmonization with brown garments. There’s no better way to make your face come alive!
- Brown, green, or hazel eyes. Nothing can bring your eyes out quite like complementing their color right underneath your face. Men with green, hazel, or brown eyes would do well to have a brown suit in their rotation.
- Warm complexions. If the undertones in your skin have a gold/peach/yellow-ish tint to them, you likely have a “warm” complexion. For reference, if your undertones are ruddy or pink, you have a “cool” complexion. Brown can look good on men with cool complexions, of course, but it will stand out (in a good way) on a warm complexion.
A Note For Black and Brown-Skinned Gentlemen
Brown can be a tricky color for darker-skinned men. Brown wool against brown skin is harmonious, yes, but there’s barely any contrast. If you’re going for a muted look, that’s just fine. If not, make it a point to wear a shirt that’s much lighter than the brown in the suit, and you’ll be free and clear. Any of the shirt colors we mention above will work.
It’s worth noting that a subtle yellow tends to look outstanding on brown skin, especially if you’re of a warmer complexion.