How to Pair Shirts & Ties with Gray Suits – A Guide to Wearing Grey


Next to the navy suit, a gray suit is an absolute men’s wardrobe staple. Why? More than just a good business suit, it can be paired with all sorts of shirt colors and ties, putting it on top of the versatility scale.

Gray, in general, is a fantastic suit color because it comes in many different shades. A darker color may be better for winter, a really light color is great for summer.
Three Must-Have Gray Suits Gianni Agnelli in charcoal grey flannel Charcoal Gray
First on the list is the most formal shade, the so-called charcoal gray. It’s dark enough that you can wear it in most functions where you otherwise would think of a black suit, such as a funeral, a play, or a business event. A charcoal suit is similarly dark to most navy suits; yet, while a navy suit usually makes a younger man look even younger, a charcoal suit makes you look more mature. In our opinion, the first charcoal suit you should add to your wardrobe is a charcoal flannel suit. The charcoal flannel suit was popularized by Gianni Agnelli,and you can still get the exact fabric he preferred from Vitale Barberis Canonico today.
Preston Schlueter in a medium gray suit Medium Gray
A general rule, not just with gray but with all suiting colors, is this: the lighter the shade, the less formal the suit. Therefore, while a medium gray suit is still appropriate for the office and most other functions mentioned earlier (with the exception of funerals), it has a slightly more casual vibe. This is not a bad thing at all; it just means that when you pair shirts and ties together, you can go with slightly less formal options. 
Sven Raphael Schneider in a light gray suit Light Gray
Following the above rule, the light gray suit is even more casual, yet it’s certainly still a suit. This shade works particularly well as a fresco fabric in the summer, whereby it will have a light breezy feel, and can be worn with even bolder and more summery colors. Of course, any of those gray shades can come in either a striped version, a solid version, or in other small patterns such as a Glen check or houndstooth, for example. Sometimes, the fabric texture can also be different such as a fresco, a worsted, or a flannel. 

Here’s another general rule: the more texture your suit has and the larger the pattern, the more casual it is. On the flip side, a solid worsted suit is the most formal one, followed maybe by a flannel or a faintly striped suit in gray. Now, it should go without saying that choosing the right color is just one aspect of finding the perfect suit. 
Shirt & Tie Combinations A deep charcoal suit, white shirt, and muted accessories provide an especially formal look. White Dress Shirt
The classic staple is the white dress shirt. For a charcoal suit, you probably want something that is very formal; we’d suggest a white dress shirt with a medium-spread collar, no breast pocket, and French cuffs or double cuffs that are worn with cufflinks. Honestly, a white shirt works with any shade of gray suit, no matter if it’s really dark, medium, or light. It works so well because it provides a strong contrast which suits most men.

In the case of a medium grey or a lighter gray suit, you can skip the French cuffs, maybe go with a slightly more textured fabric, and perhaps try an even more relaxed collar style, such as a button-down collar or an unlined collar–something that’s a bit more casual than a fixed, fused collar. 
This striped grey suit benefits from a more casual knit tie in navy and a pocket square with colorful edging.
If you go with a solid gray suit and a solid white shirt, it would be best to add some color with your tie, pocket square, socks, or other accessories. A Very classic combination is to add a red tie, maybe a shade of burgundy. If you are not a fan of red and you want to cool down your outfit otherwise, you can go with a navy or blue tie, maybe something in forest green, plum, or even in bronze orange. Basically, any dark-toned tie with a white shirt and a gray suit would be appropriate for cocktail attire, and if it’s a charcoal suit, you can even wear it for black tie optional events.

Meanwhile, lighter colored ties will work better with medium and lighter gray suits. Also, in terms of a tie pattern, keep in mind that the smaller the pattern, the more formal it is; since bigger patterns are always less formal, they’re better with lighter shades of gray. 
Chris Hemsworth wearing a black dress shirt with gray suit. Darker Colored Dress Shirts – A Classic Style “Don’t”
Now, let’s quickly talk about a very fashion-forward look: pairing a gray suit with a black shirt. Now, chances are there are a lot of Instagrammers and influencers trying to tell you that wearing a black shirt is hip, trendy and fashionable. This may be so, but in classic menswear, black dress shirts have never been a viable option. If you want to wear black shirts with a gray suit, go for it–but we believe that a lighter shirt color that provides a bit more contrast is always more complimentary to your outfit and look.
Ruby red dress shirt – not something we would recommend for a classic ensemble
The same is true for any kind of bold, darker colored shirts in hues like red, turquoise, blue, green, or orange. Typically, these are shirts worn by guys who haven’t yet learned much about menswear; they’re just too bold, and make you look like you got your outfit from a very cheap rental place.
A selection of light blue dress shirts in different shades Light Blue Dress Shirt
Turning back to smarter options, the next biggest staple after white is light blue. Light blue shirts can be combined with any kind of gray suit, but look particularly nice with medium and lighter grey suits. Of course, light blue comes in maybe 200 different shades, and there are many patterns and textures. Simply pick one that you like and that provides a contrast to your suit. If you wear a light blue shirt with a medium or light grey suit, we suggest you go with barrel cuffs instead of French cuffs and maybe a slightly more casual collar, but try to forgo the chest pocket for a more streamlined appearance. It looks nice overall because it’s a bit more casual, and therefore the whole outfit flows together.
A denim shirt can be a good option for casual grey ensembles
The sole exception to our advice about darker shirts above is that wearing a denim shirt with a less formal grey suit can work. These have been quite popular lately, and can add a bit of interest to an outfit because of the slight color variance provided by the wash. Overall, though, we would suggest that you try to wear a shirt that is lighter in color than your suit, as this is the color balance that’s most natural and complementary to the eye. 

In terms of ties, a solid navy tie is of course a formal staple when paired with a blue shirt and a gray suit–but it can be also a little boring. Other than the usual suspects of red, green, or plum, you could also experiment with the complementary color to blue, which is orange.
A pink shirt pairs especially well with a charcoal gray suit. Pink Dress Shirts
Pastel pinks can be a great change to the monotony of white and light blue shirts, and they work particularly well with gray. This is because there’s a subtle contrast, yet the pink works to warm up the gray color. Probably for that reason, pairing charcoal suits with pink shirts was a favorite look of Fred Astaire, who was always very well-dressed. Adding a navy tie, or one in purple (violet) to your pink shirt and your gray suit will create an interesting combination that is still harmonious. Of course, a burgundy tie would work too, but we’d recommend that you usually stay clear of a brighter red, since it will likely be too much next to the pink background.
Pastel-Colored Dress Shirts
Following the staples of white, blue, and pink dress shirts, basically, any other type of pastel color can work really well with a grey suit. It could be something like a light green, maybe a light yellow, or a pastel orange. If you opt to wear a colored shirt, a safe choice is always to wear a tie in a darker shade from the same color family. So if I have a light orange or creamy shirt then maybe an orange tie would work. If there is some green in my shirt, a green tie works. 
A textured tie in burnt orange is a natural complement to a white shirt with orange stripes. Patterned Dress Shirts
This brings us to our next point: shirts don’t have to be solids. You can have patterned shirts as well, and stripes are the most classic ones. Keep in mind that larger stripes are more casual, and therefore better suited to lighter shades of gray. Of course, you can also incorporate checked shirts into your outfits–they’re a bit more casual than striped ones so they work better with light grey suits. 

In general, shirts with smaller and more traditional patterns such as stripes or checks will work better with gray suits than very bold flowery prints. If you want to pair a patterned gray suit with a patterned shirt and a patterned tie, you can maybe pull it off; just make sure that the relative “densities” or spacings of the patterns are all different. Your suit, for example, could feature a pinpoint or something that’s very close to a solid, your shirt could be striped, and your tie could feature a micropattern. In this case, everything would be harmonious and not just the same width and scale. Disregarding these theories on pattern density will likely end up looking confusing to the viewer.
The Importance Of Textures
A solid silk tie is more formal than a knitted tie in the exact same color. Let’s say you have a gray suit with a striped shirt–rather than getting a plain solid tie, we’d suggest going with a grenadine tie, or maybe a knit tie If you want to have even more texture.
Sean Connery in “Dr. No” wearing a Garza Grossa grenadine tie and gray suit
In general, the lighter the shade of gray is for your suit, the more texture you can add. At the same time, if you have a charcoal flannel suit which is quite dark, a knitted tie can still work well, because they’re both somewhat casual in texture and so it’s a harmonious look. At the end of the day, pretty much any shirt or tie color can work with a gray suit as long as you understand basic color theory.
How do you put together a gray ensemble? Share with us in the comments below! #Ties #Outfits #ColorWheel #HowTo #GraySuit
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