When it comes to the basic building blocks of menswear in terms of color, brown definitely takes a spot on the list (alongside shades of blue and shades of gray, as well as black and white). However, while blues and grays have been staples of business wear for centuries, brown historically wasn’t quite at this same level of formality. So, today, we’ll discuss six stylish outfit ideas for a slightly more unique wardrobe choice–a brown patterned suit.
Why Is Brown So Underrated?
The reasons why brown isn’t seen much in the world of business wear are numerous and varied, but we think it’s the most underrated color in the world of menswear. Suffice it to say though, that gray and blue were considered business wear for the 19th and early 20th century while brown was considered more appropriate for country wear.
As evidence of this, we need to look no further than that old-fashioned dictum “no brown in town.” However, we think this is one of Men’s Style “Rules” To Ignore. This old chestnut has been falling away more and more with the increased casualization of wardrobes over the last 50 years or so. And in this case, we’d say so much the better.
We think that brown suits are a stylish addition to any man’s wardrobe and that they can be worn in a wide variety of settings. So to prove this point, we’ve rounded up six different outfits indeed not just for brown suits but for brown patterned suits. Of course, any of these ideas could just as easily apply to a plain brown suit with minor modification. But, we thought that by taking the least commonly worn out of the base menswear colors, adding the further complication of patterns, and still getting six varied outfits out of it, we could cement the point that you can get a lot of mileage out of a brown suit.
Style Theories Involving Brown
Before we get to the individual looks, let’s tackle a bit of style theory as to why brown works. In the broad strokes, brown can now be worn relatively easily across a broad spectrum of formalities with the exception of Black Tie and White Tie. This is because brown fundamentally works to ground an outfit complementing various other colors and counterbalancing any bright hues you might be wearing elsewhere in your ensembles.
It pairs well with other foundational colors
In particular, brown pairs especially nicely with one of the other base hues of menswear–blue. Our guide to combining blue and brown covers a more detailed analysis of why blue and brown go so well together but in the broad strokes, it’s because blue and orange are opposite each other on the color wheel acting as complementary colors and because brown often contains orange tones, it pairs similarly well with blue. Secondly, because both blue and brown come in a wide variety of shades, it should be easy to find hues of both that work well for you.
Similarly to how brown pairs well with blue, it can also be paired well with grey, which is another base hue. While this pairing is a bit less conventional, so long as you’re working to match the formality and seasonality of the garments, you can pair brown and gray easily and be good to go. As an example, some gray flannel trousers paired with a tweed jacket featuring brown tones would fit nicely into the smart-casual category for fall or winter.
Again, another style rule to ignore is wearing brown and black, which are similar hues, in a single outfit. You can even wear brown and black together well so long as they’re harmonizing in terms of formality and intensity.
One more color with which brown plays especially well is green. This is likely because of how often these two colors are seen together in nature.
Matching the shade with your skin tone
An additional point here: it is a good idea to make sure that the shades of brown along with whatever other colors you’re wearing, be it blue, gray, or something else, harmonize well with your skin tone. For example, lighter skin tones might go well with lighter or paler shades of brown, whereas darker skin tones could go well with a dark charcoal brown and a white shirt for a strong contrast. Medium skin tones could also benefit from some contrast though maybe not quite to the same degree.
These rules aren’t ironclad, of course, and indeed some of the looks we’ll be featuring today don’t follow them. You can think of these suggestions as guard rails or ways to play it safe when pairing colors together. We still suggest taking a look at the best colors for your skin tone.
6 Ways To Wear a Brown Patterned Suit
Outfit #1: A Formal Office Look
As we mentioned earlier, the old rule about “no brown in town” is now going to be untrue in all but the most formal of workplace environments. In most scenarios, wearing a full suit, even in brown, is still going to be comparatively formal to what many others are wearing. Still, a suit that’s both brown and patterned will always be at least somewhat informal.
If you work in an especially strictly formal environment like a law firm, for example, where charcoal and navy suits abound, a dark charcoal brown suit with a subtle pattern is likely the least formal you’d want to go. In these cases, though, the outfit can be further formalized by your other elements. You’re probably going to want to go with a white shirt for strong contrast, preferably with French cuffs, a conservative tie, dark shoes, and tasteful accessories.
A three-piece suit would likely be the most formal and conservative option here, followed by a double-breasted suit and then a two-piece single-breasted one.
This outfit here is a good example of this highly formal look. It’s augmented slightly by wearing an off-white shirt to better harmonize with the brown color palette overall but the tie pattern is still relatively conservative in Macclesfield neats, on conservative cufflinks, and a slightly more playful boutonniere. The socks and pocket square also ultimately work within the color family, and the shoes are darker brown cap-toe oxfords, which are also fairly conservative.
Outfit #2: A Less Formal Office Look
Moving down a step in formality, if suits are worn only occasionally in your office or intermingled with combinations of odd jackets and trousers, you can still wear the same suit we just discussed but make it slightly less formal with the addition of more color.
For instance, a blue shirt or one in another pastel shade, perhaps, even with a micro pattern could be a good choice, too. The same would also be true of bolder accessories in terms of color, pattern, texture, and so on. Now might also be the time to experiment with bolder shoes as well. Furthermore, this is also the time at which you could experiment with not only wearing a dark brown patterned suit but also something with a lighter base color.
Outfit #3: Adding A Contrasting Waistcoat or Sweater
Our third look today continues along with this theme of adding progressively more color into your outfits and here, this is accomplished by wearing either a contrasting odd waistcoat or a sweater. This can be done easily with both a two-piece suit where the odd waistcoat or sweater is simply added underneath the jacket or with a three-piece suit where the waistcoat or sweater substitutes for the original matching waistcoat.
A sweater in a contrasting but harmonious color might be a bit easier to get your hands on than a contrasting or odd waistcoat but if you are going the sweater route, this could be accomplished with a cardigan, a v-neck, or perhaps even a sweater vest.
The one type of suit we wouldn’t recommend for this look would be a double-breasted suit as the under layer of the contrasting waistcoat or sweater would be largely obscured by the double-breasted jacket, given that it should be buttoned at all times.
Outfit #4: Pairing Your Suit With A Turtleneck
Continuing the topic of wearing suits with sweaters, an even more casual option and one that would be particularly good for fall or winter would be pairing your brown patterned suit with a turtleneck sweater. In this circumstance, you’ll be foregoing a collared shirt, tie, and many other accessories, though not all, so your main points of customization are going to come from two sources.
The first of these will be the relative boldness of the outfit determined largely by the pattern of the suit and the color of the turtleneck. You could go with louder patterns and/or richer colors or you could lean into the inherent minimalism in this look with neutral tones.
Outfit #5: Pairing the Suit Jacket with Odd Trousers
For our remaining two looks, we’re going to start breaking up the suit itself. Perhaps, the easiest way to do this would be by wearing the suit jacket with a pair of odd trousers. Remember that because the suits we’re discussing today are patterned, the jacket will look more appropriate on its own paired with a contrasting pair of trousers than a plain suit jacket would in the same circumstance.
Plain suit jackets worn on their own often have a tendency to look orphaned somewhat because of their largely nondescript character. Whereas odd jackets like blazers and sport coats usually have multiple elements of visual interest to them that make them look better when worn with contrasting and plain trousers.
The reverse of this technique then, which is wearing a pair of patterned suit trousers with a plain odd jacket, is a bit more bold and unorthodox. Trousers, more often than not, serve to ground an outfit while the jacket will incorporate the majority of the pattern but this isn’t always the case. After all, you can look at morning dress or formal day wear for an example of a plain jacket paired with patterned trousers.
With this said, though, we wouldn’t recommend taking your patterned suit jacket or trousers and pairing them together with an odd garment that also has its own pattern. While it might work in some rare cases, this is probably going to result in an outfit with too many clashing patterns, which would look jarring to the eye.
Outfit #6: Using The Italian Spezzato Technique
Our final look today is something of an advanced form of the previous look. This is the Italian technique known as spezzato where elements of two suits are combined together. You could wear the jacket and waistcoat of a three-piece brown patterned suit with contrasting trousers. Conversely, you could wear the trousers and waistcoat of a three-piece suit with a contrasting jacket.
As you can tell from those examples, it will help to reinforce your intent with this look if one or both of the suits that you’re meshing together has three pieces. This way, the waistcoat provides a bridging element that will help the two suits blend together across the body.
We hope that these outfit ideas have provided you with some general style inspiration as well as convinced you that a brown suit, whether patterned or indeed plain, should have a spot in your wardrobe.