When it comes to color pairings in menswear, perhaps few have been so commonly utilized by presidents, businessmen, Hollywood stars, and the common man alike as gray and red. The two hues play especially well off of each other, as the neutral gray provides a solid base, and the slightly bolder primary color, red, can draw a bit more attention. Read on for our top tips!
Red and gray present a striking and authoritative mixture that goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages, where architects would use these two colors in concert with one another to build places of worship and other buildings of significance. In a modern clothing context, not only do grey and red work well together in formal settings but they can also allow the wearer to stand out a bit if desired in casual settings.
Smart Outfit Ideas with Gray & Red
1. Suit & Tie
Perhaps the easiest way to pair these two colors together is via the use of a suit and tie. We’ll start here with the example of a charcoal gray suit paired with a red tie. As we’ve gone over numerous times before, charcoal is both a formal color for suiting but also especially versatile and when paired with the bolder pop of a red tie which can draw a bit more attention to the face, the pairing works well.
Given that studies show red is a color that helps to evoke both excitement and trustworthiness, wearing a shade of red in your tie might be an effective choice for a presentation. Of course, you’ve got a wide variety of options when it comes to red ties both in shades ranging from bolder truer red down to burgundy and in what the tie looks like, whether it’s got a small pattern like a geometric print or perhaps paisley; whether it’s a knit tie and so on.
Working within the same basic outfit mold as the last but going slightly less formal, you could exchange the charcoal gray suit for one in medium or even light gray and if you’d like to add an extra element of style, you could even consider a suit that incorporates both colors. For example, a glen check suit that features a red overplaid. This would be further accented by wearing the red tie for a lower contrast outfit and especially good for grey suits that have cooler tones, you could also consider a patterned red tie that incorporates some blue.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, gray suits can be paired easily with a wide variety of different ties and indeed shirt colors, which is discussed further in our guide on How to Pair Shirts & Ties with Gray Suits. And for an additional and especially unique touch, you could consider adding a contrasting or odd waistcoat to the outfit, something in maroon or burgundy red would stay within the established color palette but also look quite smart and again, unique.
2. Sport Coat & Odd Trousers
Let’s move now from suits into slightly more casual combinations of sport coats and odd trousers. A prime example here that would be particularly good for the colder fall and winter seasons would be a burgundy sport coat paired with gray flannel pants. A burgundy sport coat is always going to be somewhat eye-catching of course, though certainly less so than a bolder true red color but again, the gray flannel trousers will help to ground and neutralize the outfit somewhat so it won’t look too bold overall.
So long as you’re already working within a more business casual to smart casual dress code, you might consider incorporating some pattern into your shirt perhaps in a grey color with gingham or a small stripe. To translate this fall and winter look into a more spring and summer feel, you could instead go with a brighter perhaps more pastel linen jacket in red and then pair with either grey trousers or a grey polo shirt and contrasting trousers in another color that still works within the outfit.
Whether wearing a suit or a combination featuring a sport coat and odd trousers, you can of course, further enhance the color pairing by use of your accessories and your footwear. Consider perhaps oxblood shoes and red accessories like a carnation boutonniere and a pocket square with some red color tones. And if you’re feeling especially bold, something like a Winchester shirt featuring red and white stripes would fit the bill for these types of outfits.
3. Sweater & Odd Trousers
Returning to fall and winter outfits for a moment, but going even more casual, you could substitute the sport coat for a sweater or cardigan in red. You’ll most likely be able to find slightly brighter color options here than just maroons or burgundies, and you could also consider different styles such as a tennis sweater or shawl-collared cardigan. Other options would include a v-neck sweater, again, paired with a red tie or changing up the colors in the different elements, and going with a gray sweater with red trousers or a gray sweater with a red patterned shirt and neutral trousers.
Red trouser options to pair with a grey sweater would include things like chino pants or even corduroys. Depending on the boldness of the red color, you could verge into the territory of go to hell pants if you so chose. Further driving home, the color pairing with an overall casual feel would be adding something like grey suede shoes to the mix here.
4. Dress Shirt & Chinos
If you’re looking for something even more casual and a bit more Americana-inspired, you could go with gray chino pants paired with a red gingham pattern shirt or perhaps even a burgundy corduroy shirt for something especially rustic.
Think of pairing with things like leather jackets here for something that’s more rugged but still within the overall umbrella of classic menswear.
Grey & Red Pairing Do’s and Don’ts
1. Don’t Wear Maroon Dress Shirts
A mistake that many men make when first getting into menswear is to buy solid colored dress shirts in dark jewel tones including maroon, often in an especially shiny satin finish. Not only will the contrast be a bit too overwhelming in a formal outfit, but it will also cheapen the ensemble overall if you are to wear a shirt like this. It would of course be more commonly seen in settings like a high school prom or perhaps a Scarface Halloween costume and those definitely aren’t the associations you’ll want to go for.
This, of course, is especially true when paired with a necktie of the same color. Overall, we would generally recommend keeping your shirts lighter than the colors of your jackets and or full suits to keep the outfit looking harmonious and to flatter your silhouette.
2. Do Focus More on Gray for Formal Outfits
Our next tip is that the more formal you want your outfit to be, the more it should focus on gray and less so on red. As mentioned previously, gray is a neutral color that helps to ground an outfit and is a staple of formal wear, whereas red is naturally bolder and should really best be used for accent pieces and accessories, especially to draw attention toward the face. Having one to three red accessories at least near the face is probably as much as you’re going to want and again, the darker the red the more formal it will become.
As we mention in our guide to Pairing Gray and Blue, you can almost equally wear ensembles featuring gray suits and blue shirts as well as blue suits with gray shirts. However, the same really isn’t true when discussing gray and red. While you can certainly wear suits in different shades of grey with shirts that incorporate red, wearing a red suit with a gray shirt isn’t a look we’d recommend.
The bottom line here is that a red suit is really just going to fall outside the parameters of truly classic menswear; more commonly seen on figures like The Joker or a bold peacock at the Pitti Uomo event in Italy. It can be pulled off in showy situations like this, but in day-to-day life for most men, you’re probably going to feel safer and, frankly, look better sticking to more classic combinations like a grey suit and a shirt with tones of red.
3. Do Keep Statement Pieces to a Minimum
We alluded to this tip a moment ago but again, it’s important to reinforce that you shouldn’t wear too many statement pieces simultaneously in an outfit of this nature. Red is a naturally bold and eye-catching color, so having too many accessories or outfit elements at once will probably make the outfit look overwhelmed. You could consider capping off one of these outfits with something like a maroon fedora, red driving gloves, or again a red carnation boutonniere, but don’t wear all three of these together so you won’t come across as looking like a Dick Tracy villain.
4. Do Choose Pieces That Feature Both Grey & Red
As a final overall tip here another point we alluded to previously: try to find pieces that contain both colors as they’ll work especially well in outfits where you’re pairing them together elsewhere. For example, you could find ties featuring repp stripes in gray and red or perhaps a gray micro pattern on a red ground. And again, finding a suit in a shade of grey with an overcheck or perhaps a subtle stripe in a red tone will look especially smart in outfits featuring this color pairing.
Gray & Red Outfits for Cooler Months
1. Overcoat & Scarf
Let’s return to a few more outfit examples, putting on more layers for colder seasons. Perhaps the easiest way to incorporate this color pairing into the realm of outerwear is to start with an overcoat in grey and then adding a red-toned scarf.
While you could also consider incorporating headwear featuring red tones like a fedora or newsboy cap, these won’t be quite as commonly found and they might again look a little bit flashy if others aren’t accustomed to seeing you in these kinds of color pairings.
2. Tweed Sport Coat with Sweater
While we mentioned outfits featuring sport coats or sweaters before, you could of course pair them together for an outfit that will feature another layer to keep you warm. Something like a grey tweed sport coat with a red-toned sweater underneath would of course look especially smart.
3. Red Overcoat
If you would like to go for an especially bold option here, you could consider a red overcoat. Something like this isn’t going to be an especially versatile choice for outerwear of course, but it could work as a statement piece and since you won’t be wearing it all day like you would be with a red suit but instead taking it off once you get indoors, the overall effect won’t be quite so jarring.
Footwear for Gray & Red Outfits
To finish things up today one final area of the outfit to discuss when considering this gray and red color pairing would, of course, be footwear. The most traditional choice here would likely be an oxford shoe in an oxblood or dark red color made from Cordovan leather.
There are many other options for red-toned footwear whether in the style of shoe, including a Derby or even a loafer, or perhaps even boots and in the color not only going with the dark red or burgundy tones but also a more bold true red. Of course, you don’t have to go with the more expensive and somewhat more temperamental Cordovan leather, you could just go with standard calfskin as well.
While grey leather shoes are somewhat rare and not especially versatile, a grey suede shoe could work well in casual and even some business casual settings. Grey leather sneakers could be worn in casual ensembles for a more fashion-forward style and of course, you can change up the look of almost any shoe by incorporating colored shoelaces, so red would be a natural choice here.
Moving from shoes to socks, matching the tone of your socks to that of your trousers is of course the most conservative choice but you could go for bolder options incorporating more red if you so chose. And again, wearing a sock that features both gray and red tones such as a pair of shadow striped socks would be another smart choice.
Overall, the neutral and grounding gray paired with the slightly bolder red makes for a smart combination that’s going to work during different seasons and at various levels of the formality scale.