- Brown suits are back.
- The iconic piece of 70s tailoring has been ushered back into the folds of haute couture by style icons like Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and David Beckham.
- INSIDER spoke to some tailors about the trend and they told us that every man should have one in his wardrobe as a subtle statement piece.
- There are some conditions, though, as not all brown suits are born equal.
- You can read all of INSIDER’s men’s fashion coverage here.
Ryan Gosling, one of INSIDER’s best-dressed men of 2018, loves brown suits.
He’s not alone, either.
Gosling is among a growing number of stylish male celebrities including Bradley Cooper, David Beckham, and Tom Hiddleston who are opting for chocolatey hues on the red carpet and beyond.
Up until recently, brown suits had been in fashion exile, reserved for used car salesmen and clueless prom-goers. They were, in truth, a bit of a joke.
Why now, then, are brown suits launching a resurgence via the upper echelons of men’s fashionistas? INSIDER spoke to some tailors to find out, and they told us exactly why you need a brown suit in your wardrobe.
The revival of 70s style
- Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images
Corduroy, bold prints, silk shirts, air ties, and now brown suits – 70s style is back in a big way.
Colin Hunter, CEO and cofounder of bespoke menswear brand Alton Lane, told us that hit drama series “Mad Men,” which is set in the 60s and 70s is, in large part, responsible for the revival of the brown suit.
He adds that changing attitudes towards style have liberated men in recent years, meaning they’re leaning towards bolder colours, patterns, and fabrics.
“There’s a desire to step out a bit from the norm,” Hunter says.
“You’ll see it with either more colourful shirts or we’ve seen a huge shift in lighter, richer shades of blue [suits] that you probably wouldn’t have seen 10 years ago.
“Guys are used to the navies and the charcoals, now they feel a little bit more comfortable branching out a bit.”
Meanwhile, Jack Stammers and Will Davison, London tailors and owners of Jack Davison Bespoke, say they’ve been fans of brown for some time: “We like to suggest it to our clients as a nice alternative to grey and navy.
“It’s one of the easiest colours to wear and just pushes the boundaries a little without being over the top.”
It’s all about the shade
You can’t just throw on any old shade of brown, though, the experts warn. “I always try to steer our clients either side of the bell curve,” Hunter says.
“Either go much lighter like an oatmeal or towards my favourite end, which would be like a deep espresso; a rich brown that maybe across the room is hard to tell if it’s just a dark suit.”
There is one shade you should be extremely wary of, Hunter says, and that’s the middle of the spectrum, like a milk chocolate colour: “that kind of lighter, very orangey brown.”
“There are some celebrities that have done that and honestly, they can probably get away with it because they’re celebrities but if the average guy walked into the office in a suit like that, it’d probably be the last time he wore it,” Hunter adds.
Stammers and Davison also lean towards the darker end of the spectrum, but stipulate that there is more scope to go lighter with your blazer in order to create contrasts with your bottom half.
- Jeff Spicer / BFC / Getty Images for BFC
The cut is even more important than your staple suits
A brown suit is a statement suit, not a staple like your average navy, grey, or black. As such, it’s important that your fit aligns with your style choice.
“The lighter the suit fabric, or the more you’re trying to make a statement, the more fit is important,” Hunter says.
With your everyday navy suit, you can get away with a slightly more traditional cut, but if you’re making a statement with something like a brown, a light grey, or a windowpane, then it’s important that your suit is tailored as, naturally, eyes will be drawn to your outfit.
“If a custom suit is inaccessible to you, pay the extra money to get your off-the-rack suit taken in and fit perfectly to your body as it will pay dividends,” says Hunter.
What to wear with a brown suit
If your suit is the statement, does that mean you should leave your accessories behind? No, say our experts, but you should certainly keep them toned down.
“It’s not uncommon to see a slither of a white pocket square,” Hunter says. “That’s probably what I would go with. I wouldn’t do a big colourful silk pocket square.”
Stammers and Davison say you can pull colours out of your suit and/or tie for your pocket square. They recommend a light, powder blue shirt with a navy tie, while Hunter says the darker the brown of the suit, the more optionality you have to play around with different shirt colours.
“When I’ve styled shoots, I will do a white shirt and a navy tie because what you’re really making a statement with is the suit, not the accessories, so let that be the statement,” Hunter says.
He adds that you should stay away from ties in orange, red, or purple, which will clash with your suit.
You can even wear brown to a wedding
Brown is not a traditional wedding colour, but that doesn’t mean it can’t and shouldn’t be done. Hunter says these days around 50% of his clients are asking for suits over tuxedos for their weddings, which means there’s a lot more room for variation.
Like many things in fashion, though, the right outfit is all about timing.
“I would never recommend a brown suit for a summer wedding,” Hunter says, “but a winter wedding or an autumn wedding, particularly if it’s outside and those earth tones are all around you, then a dark brown suit could definitely be a good look.”
Meanwhile, Stammers has just ordered a brown suit for an upcoming wedding himself – what more encouragement do you need?
- Alton Lane
It will make blue eyes stand out – but so will a lot of things
Back in 2017, GQ published an article where the author wrote, “orange-leaning shades of brown like terracotta and bronze” will make blue eyes stand out. Is this true? Yes, but there’s a catch, says Hunter.
“Respectfully to GQ, a bright yellow suit would also make blue eyes stand out,” Hunter points out.
“Just because it would make the eyes stand out does not mean that it would be a great choice.”
For instance, the terracotta and bronze shades that GQ advocates are going to be hard for the average guy to pull off. Just because it works for Bradley Cooper doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Sorry.
As an alternative, Hunter suggests a light grey suit, which will also make blue eyes stand out, but is a much safer choice and will go with more shirts, shoes, and ties.
Stammers and Davison are with GQ, though: “Just look at someone with blue eyes when they have a suntan.”
“On that note, a brown tobacco-coloured linen suit looks very good for the summer.”
As if you needed another reason to wish it was July already.