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I’ve had a bit of an obsession with wearing black clothing since moving to NYC, and I’m not completely sure why.
On the sunny West Coast, I never wore black. I owned one pair of black chinos which rarely saw the outside of my closet. I only recently bought a pair of black lace-ups for formal occasions.
Even though I’ve written many times about not defaulting to black, there’s something about the city that inspires you to wear it. Maybe it’s that gritty, concrete jungle vibe, or perhaps it’s the onset of winter.
Either way, I’ve been experimenting, and in case you want to as well, here are some pointers.
You can click the photo above to enlarge it (opens in a new window).
From left to right, top to bottom:
- Denim from Levi’s
- Outfit 1: T-shirt, jacket, Converse sneakers
- Outfit 2: Chambray, chesterfield coat, Nike sneakers
- Outfit 3: Striped tee, gray sweater, black boots
- Outfit 4: White OCBD, gray sweater, black loafers
- Outfit 5: Light blue OCBD, burgundy sweater, brown loafers
- Shoes: white sneakers, brown loafers, tan chukkas, black sneakers, black loafers, black boots
Fit is always the first thing you must think about. If you’re buying your first piece of black clothing, whether it be a pair of denim or a T-shirt, make sure the fit is spot on.
Start With One Item
If you’re not sure how to incorporate black into your wardrobe, start with one item, like a T-shirt, polo, or pair of denim. For the sake of simplicity, the above example is focused on a pair of black jeans.
If you look around (both online and in real life) you’ll be able to find a pair that fits you great. Here are just a few options:
Just like with other elements of your Lean Wardrobe, don’t feel like you have to pick up multiple items at once. Take your time and buy only what’s necessary.
Don’t Wear Head-To-Toe Black
Though sleek, chic, and really easy to match, it’s a bit unimaginative. Unless you’re a club bouncer, an undertaker, a priest, or Kanye West on tour, mix in a bit of color in your day to day.
Wear Head-To-Toe Black
Do it even if the above point says not to, because it’s sleek, chic, and not to mention, really easy to match. Plus, in some places like New York, and (I imagine) Paris, it just works.
Even if you’re not living in either of these cities and you still like the sleek all-black look, by all means, try it out.
Let’s say you don’t want to go the “all black everything” route. A great alternative would be to wear varying shades.
With black denim as your base, for example, try charcoal, heather gray, or white up top and on your feet. It’s hard to go wrong in this instance, so feel free to experiment.
Black + Navy, Black + Brown
I’m not sure where or how the rule started that you can’t wear brown or navy blue with black. You can successfully pull this off, and I do it all the time.
If you regularly wear dark, raw denim, it’s easy to make the transition to black. But if you’re still having a hard time, try a white OCBD or a bold navy stripe shirt with your black jeans as a segue. Simple.
When it comes to wearing brown with black, the trick is in finding the right shade of brown. So with leather shoes, consider lighter shades, such as tan, cognac, or natural. Even a medium brown would work well with black.
Bringing in other warm colors makes it easier to pull off brown with black. For example, a burgundy sweater would pair nicely with black pants and tan loafers.
What About Shoes?
Treat black like white, in that it goes with practically anything and everything.
Black is your most obvious choice.
You can also go with gray or white, as well as any combination of the three. There’s also the aforementioned cognac (or tan) leather.
It may help to find black shoes that aren’t just black.
Maybe they have a natural sole, or contrast stitching.
If you’re wearing black formally — anything from black slacks to a full tuxedo — it’s best to stick with an all black shoe.
How do you wear black?
Hopefully this helps you incorporate black into your wardrobe more easily.
If you’re like me and have mostly stayed away from black, I’d start with a pair of black denim; that way, you already have a starting point using the diagram above.
If you have any questions about wearing black, or have picked up a few tips along the way, I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below.