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1 Piece, 5 Ways: Black Flannel Suit

March 14th, 2024
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Don’t underestimate the power of a black flannel suit.

A black flannel suit may seem like a rather specific garment with not much utility. And particularly given our penchant here at HSS for versatility, you this post may seem like a bit of a surprise. A black suit is the suit you wear to a funeral or wedding or if you happen to be a member of an orchestra (pit or symphony, take your pick), right?

Well, that’s not all a black suit is capable of and for those looking to do more with a black suit, a black flannel suit offers myriad possibilities.

To be completely honest and likely defy many assumptions, my black flannel suit was my absolute go-to suit this season. I was as surprised as you probably are. I just found it to be the perfect garment for so many different occasions.

And to put my money where my mouth is, here are five ways that I’ve been wearing it.

01

The Classic One

This is perhaps the easiest and most “classic” way to style a black flannel suit. Crisp white dress shirt. Charcoal flannel tie. Black Oxfords. Simple white pocket square. It’s tonal and no-nonsense. It’s also the most formal of the looks that I’ll be showcasing here and most appropriate for an evening event, wedding (groom or guest), or serious business.

02

Splash Of Color

A simple way to get more out of a black flannel suit and help shed its formal baggage is to pair it with some splashes of color. Your first instinct may be to reach for a classic baby blue poplin dress shirt. Although that would technically work, it would still imbue the look with a bit of formality because of blue’s cooler tones. I very much like the idea of using pink and burgundy as I’ve done here with the shirt and tie. It’s a fresh and unexpected take on styling a black suit.

03

Jacket Separate

One of the trickiest things about a black suit from a styling perspective is that, by nature, it looks and feels quite formal. That sense of formality is so ingrained in our minds when we consider what to wear with it, that it can seem impossible to style it any other way. In fact, I would say that a black suit’s simplicity and general ease of styling is one of its most attractive qualities. While it’s rather simple to wear a pair of black flannel pants as a separate — see look number five in this post — styling the jacket alone takes just a touch of ingenuity.

The biggest issue you run into when working with a black flannel sport coat and trying to do something different from a formality perspective is considering what colors to pair with it. How do you dress it down and affect a more casual vibe? A white shirt will create a very high contrast and, thus, an air of formality. All-black, as shown in look number four, also feels quite severe. And going with a bolder color such as cobalt or navy blue has a tendency to come off as kind of cheap and lame.

The solution is to find a color palette somewhere in the middle that is a combination between pale and rich earth tones.

Here, I’m wearing our cream brushed Oxford cloth button-down. The cream still creates a nice bit of contrast, but much softer — both literally and figuratively. And the dark hunter green corduroys provide a bridge between the shirt and jacket. Some tan socks pull in the color of the shirt and the black loafers create a cohesive anchor for the entire look.

04

Sartorial Villain

Never forget the monochromatic option. Far from looking overly formal, when done right, an all-black outfit is a great way to convey power, strength, seriousness, and confidence. Wearing all black is also effortless, slimming, and an easy way to elevate a look.

If you go for a look like this, just keep these three things in mind. First, vary your textures and fabrics. This will help to create contrast and add dimension to the look. Second, choose a statement piece. A bolder item, like the wool and cashmere greatcoat I’m wearing, focuses your attention and elevates the look. And finally, consider the silhouette, or shape, of your outfit as a whole. Once again, the greatcoat checks that box for my outfit here.

05

Pants Separate

When you own a black flannel suit, you also own an incredible pair of black flannel trousers as well. I’ve honestly been surprised about how much use I’ve gotten out of them. They are the perfect pair of trousers for cocktail attire, date nights, or any other evening occasion when you want to look smart but not go overboard.

This particular outfit has been one of my go-to’s all season. A black cashmere turtleneck paired with black flannel trousers looks incredibly sophisticated with a touch of casual elegance. And a classic black and white herringbone sport coat adds a wonderful contrast and as well as texture to the complete look.

The Bottom Line

Far from being a one-trick pony, a black flannel suit is surprisingly versatile. From the expected to the unexpected, there are so many ways to style it. Whether you’re dressing for a formal event, adding a splash of color, or using the pieces as separates, the black flannel suit’s adaptability is truly remarkable. It can communicate power, elegance, and sophistication, or be dressed down for a more casual vibe. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles, colors, and accessories to make this versatile piece work for you in any setting.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa

Brian Sacawa is the Founder of He Spoke Style and one of the original men’s style influencers. Since 2013, his goal has remained the same: to provide men the advice and inspiration they need to dress well, develop their personal style, and gain more confidence. Brian’s interest and passion for men’s style and luxury watches has led to his writing for The Robb Report, The Rake, and Sotheby’s and he has been quoted on menswear in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Today.com, Brides Magazine, and the Huffington Post. He lives in the woods north of Baltimore with his wife, Robin, kitties Nick and Nora, and German Shepherd/Collie mix Charlie.

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Edited by Rachel Butler

Photography by Rob McIver

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