Feeling Black & Blue

I’ve never been one for sartorial dogma for the sake of it.

I particularly find it cereal-spittingly funny when sartorialists debate with each other the merits of colour combinations, the dos, donts, whys and wherefores, as if discussing the sentencing of young offenders.

“Brown and pink is acceptable; brown and purple is not. You will be marked as a Frenchman.”

“I think I read somewhere that you should never wear light grey with mid-blue.”

“The one thing you should NEVER do is wear green with blue. It’s one of the oldest rules.”

Leave them to it, I say. They’re happy in their anchorage. Rules make some people very happy indeed, and that is perfectly fine.

I find them largely pointless, particularly rules on colour. Why not green and blue? Is nature wrong, then, to unite them so frequently? After all, the sea and sky embrace the green shores of our planet; the juxtaposition of the two tones is one of the most expected combinations in our history.

And why, for heaven’s sake, is it ‘not acceptable’ to pair black with blue?

“Oh it is if it’s a lighter blue” they respond “but anything mid-blue and darker should never be paired with black.”

My view is that this rule is aesthetically misguided.

It is arguable that it’s origins, in forbidding navy with black, are well-founded. An old, dark navy is so close to black in low light that it comes off as a case of mistaken dressing when it is examined closely. I believe that contrast has a minimum threshold and it must be clear, in most levels of light, that if two colours are worn together that they are distinct.

However, there is a different between this aesthetic judgment and a blanket-ban on combining blue with black.

One of my favourite combinations is wearing a mid-blue three-piece suit, a light blue striped shirt and a black tie with a golden yellow pattern. The dullness of the black succeeds, like no other colour can, in bringing forth the electricity and life of the blue.

Another combination I enjoy wearing in the evening is a pair of mid-blue fine wool trousers with a black velvet blazer, white shirt and black Oxfords. There is something rather boudoir-esque about that dash of blue against an otherwise monotone ensemble that provides a jewel like sparkle – where grey would simply be ‘smart.’

I find the combination works particularly well when different textures are at play; the velvet with fine wool is an example, and silk with flannel is another. I find the test of whether something contrasts aesthetically is dressing in lamplight; not overhead-100-watt light, but shaded lamplight. You’ll soon see if your blue has enough energy in it to conquer the dullness of black.

The other surefire way to avoid it looking ‘mistaken’ is to wear the combination throughout an ensemble; like wearing black shoes in addition to a black jacket or a black waistcoat in addition to a black patterned tie.

Try it, I guarantee you’ll be feeling black and blue in no time.


  1. WE1 said:

    I totally agree. Black and blue can go well together and shouldn’t be overlooked as part of an ensemble.

    February 27, 2014
  2. LAStyleGuy said:

    While we’re on the subject of “nevers,” never spell “its” incorrectly, as in the above use before the word “origins”: “It is arguable that it’s origins…”–in this case, “it’s” should be “its”, since it is not being used as a contraction of “it” and “is.” Otherwise, a great post!

    February 27, 2014
  3. S said:

    Green and blue were Odd Limits? I had no idea. I guess you don’t have to know the rules to break them. 🙂

    The Frenchman quip was the stone cold nuts, btw.

    February 27, 2014
  4. Steve Hunter said:

    For what it’s worth, I endorse blue shirts with anything, except, perhaps perfectly matching blue slacks and jacket. (You’d look like a fairy!) Yes, for the most utterly solemn of occasions, white is mandatory, but how many of those occur in a life time? Blue goes with everything, and I have a serious Jones for the Yale archive blue that Gant has recently brought back to the market place. The nubbier the oxford cloth the better. I’ve felt this way for 60 odd years now and wish to go to the ash-maker in my blue Gant BD, under a red foulard tie from J. Press and a heather-riot chunk of wool from somewhere north of the river Tweed.

    March 8, 2014

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