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Wearing all black

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Wearing all black


Wearing all black

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I’ve been playing around with black so much in recent years (note, this is classic menswear – it’s years/decades, not weeks/months) that I thought I’d try out wearing nothing but black. 

This was during Pitti at Florence, on a relatively informal evening. Just dinner with friends.

That said, events like these are also a nice place to try out looks. Pretty much anything goes, and in fact if there are any expectations, they’re that friends will be wearing something interesting – worth talking about.

The outfit comprised a black Anfa polo shirt from Casatlantic, which I’ve discussed a little here already, black Irish-linen trousers from Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, and black-suede Sagans from Baudoin & Lange. 

We talked a little bit about black trousers before as well, in the article on a silk dupioni jacket.

Those were black cords, and it was raised in the comments how I felt about black-flannel trousers. Black linen, I feel, falls into a similar category as flannels. 

That category is: pieces that are not at all versatile, and therefore probably a bad choice for anyone just building up a wardrobe; but at the same time very satisfying for someone further along the journey, because they’re unusual without being loud.

Black trousers are hard to wear. They don’t go with a big range of jackets, or give you many options for shoes. But they are striking and, dare I say it, quite sexy for it.

Bringing up that contentious topic reminds me of the closing thought in André’s piece on sex appeal – which was for me the best point too: that it’s often a combination of confidence and vulnerability. 

The Casatlantic knit has a deeper opening on the chest than any other polo I own. Its depth is equivalent to undoing one more button on a shirt, on a hot day. And there’s no going back there – there are no buttons to do back up again! 

It is also short, with short arms. So even though the shape can be rather flattering – helped by a large fit in the chest – you do feel quite exposed. This is the vulnerability to it, of opening up and feeling more on display. 

There’s a lot of psychology and sociology in this area, and I feel a female writer would also be better placed to discuss it, as it’s more of an issue in womenswear. But I think it’s a dynamic worth raising in men’s minds too.

Nothing need be said about the Sagans, as we’ve talked about them consistently. 

Equally, it should seem obvious that I wore a small dress watch with a black strap, here my JLC gold Reverso.

But how about the overall combination of black on black? What did I, and do I now, think about that?

I loved it that evening, but perhaps a little like exposing more skin, it can also easily tip into looking cheap. 

The reason black suits are traditionally frowned upon in classic menswear is that black can easily look cheap. 

It quickly looks old and dusty, without the richness or lustre of a deep, dark navy. When it is made in a fine wool, it can also look too shiny, like elbows or thighs of any heavily worn suit.

These things are often exaggerated under artificial lighting, which is where the tradition of wearing midnight blue rather than black for a dinner jacket comes from – it looks blacker than black because of its depth and richness. 

However, as always it depends what you’re aiming for. Black makes for a poor business suit, because the ideal there is something that looks rich and luxurious, serious and professional. Someone who wears a black fashion suit is not interested that – they want matte and even edgy, not the manifestly successful look of the chairman of the board. 

If I had a black suit it would be in a material that was clearly also different from that corporate image, such as corduroy.

Black on black can look cheap – but there’s rather less danger in something like a polo shirt and loafers, rather than a suit.

It also helps if you play with textures – suede and leather, knitted and woven – and if elements suggest the elegant or luxurious, such as a very sharp crease in the trouser, or that texture of the suede. 

Others that do this well, such as Kenji at Bryceland’s, also seem to reference a Western tradition of cowboys wearing black. Though how much that goes beyond Hollywood villains and Hopalong Cassidy I don’t know. 

Anyway, those are my thoughts on wearing all black. Not for everyone, and not for anyone all of the time, but certainly striking when done well. 

Thanks to Jamie, as ever, for giving that impression on me.