The Charcoal Brown Suit

The Charcoal Brown Suit

One of the most underutilized suit colors in this day in age is certainly brown. Men who wear suits to work often go for navy, charcoal, grey or anything in between, but brown is not really on their radar unless they wear sport coats. Just like blue or grey, brown comes in a infinite number of shades, and considering the different weaves, patterns, checks and stripes available it should be no problem at all to find a suitable shade of brown for every hair color and complexion. As you may know, I am personally a huge fan of brown suits and I own many of them. So far, I have shared the brown flannel glen check suit as well as the brown blue check 3 piece suit. Today, I would like to discuss a very special shade of brown, the “charcoal brown”, because it is hugely underrated yet perfectly suited for business suits and casual wear alike. On top of that, this color is so versatile that you can wear it all year long!

Charcoal Brown in 1938

Charcoal Brown in 1938

Short History of Charcoal Brown Suits

In the 19th century, common suiting colors available were all dark and ranged from black to charcoal and sometimes blue. Brown was also available, though it was not popular. Towards the turn of the 20th century, brown became a little more utilized and in the 1930’s brown suits, overcoats and accessories were heavily advertised as the latest trend, because it helped to sell more garments but also because it was simply a color that suited many gentlemen. Just think about the brown suits with white pin stripes, or a brown flannel suits with off white chalk stripes from the 1930’s when you picture characters like Al Capone or most recently the characters in Boardwalk Empire. At that time, brown in darker shades had been firmly established as a wardrobe staple.

Al Capone & Boardwalk Empire

Al Capone & Boardwalk Empire

What Exactly is Charcoal Brown?

Now you probably know charcoal but you wonder what charcoal brown is – the answer was given in an ad from 1938.

Charcoal Brown Fabric with Nailhead Pattern

Charcoal Brown Fabric with Nailhead Pattern

Charcoal Brown fabric is a blend of charcoal and brown yarn

Charcoal Brown fabric is a blend of charcoal and brown yarn


Today there’s a new color becoming to all men. Its base is brown, its shade is dark. So often we’ve heard you say, ” But I can’t wear brown.” But these are modern days and here is the middle course of modern color blending. With this blackish-brown, every dark accessory goes perfectly for conservative appearance, yet equally well do more colorful hose, neckwear, shirts and hats combine.

Charcoal brown is a new lease on life for all “grey and blue” adherents. We have it in suits, coats and many accessories.”

Although it looks brown from a few feet away, you can see that it is woven of black or charcoal yarn as well as dark brown yarn resulting in a very dark brown. Of course, it would also be possible to to have just one simple solid color of charcoal brown, but the combined yarns give the fabric more depth and sophistication.

How to Combine Charcoal Brown?

As outlined in the ad, brown goes well with almost anything. Personally, I find green and orange tones work extremely well, but also blue, red, salmon, pink, yellow, lavender… all look splendid with it. If you have a high contrast between your hair color and skin color, or if you are very tan or African American, I suggest, you go for high contrast looks and pair it with a white or light pastel colors. On the other hand, if you have pale skin and grey, white, blonde or red hair, try to keep the contrast low and combine the charcoal brown suit with earth tones. When it comes to shoes, you can either go with black or shades or brown or tan. I suggest you have a bit of contrast for your shoes, so they are noticeably different from the suit color.

If you want to combine a hat, I would shy away from black but brown, green, tan, silverbelly or olive will work well. For overcoats, I suggest tan, khaki or green outer garment in worsted, tweed or a simple trench coat, and our charcoal brown gloves with crocheting are the perfect companion for a charcoal brown suit.

Charcoal Brown Suit from 1938 with Winchester Shirt, white linen pocket square and dark red carnation boutonniere.

Charcoal Brown Suit from 1938 with Winchester Shirt, white linen pocket square and dark red carnation boutonniere.

The gentleman above wears a single breasted three button suit from 1938 with a winchester shirt and mustard yellow stripes, dark tie with hints of teal, a dark red carnation boutonniere, a white linen pocket square and a dark green olive overcoat with fur collar, chamois yellow gloves and a dark brown bowler hat. Exquisite, isn’t it?

Charcoal Brown Suit combination with ties and shirts

Charcoal Brown Suit combination with ties and shirts

Peccary Gloves in Dark Chocolate Brown with contrast stitching & crochet with snap button by Fort Belvedere

Peccary Gloves in Dark Chocolate Brown with contrast stitching & crochet with snap button by Fort Belvedere

Where to Buy Charcoal Brown Suits?

If you are interested in a charcoal brown suit or any other shade of brown for that matter, you will probably have a harder time finding them off the rack. Southwick offers an OTR suit for $995, but for less you can actually get a MTM suit which allows you to pick the exact fabric you like. For example, has a huge selection of brown fabrics for suits and prices start under $1,000. Personally, I would suggest to go that route, because you can truly get a style and fabric you want and the fit will be noticeably better in most cases.

How many brown suits do you own? How many in Charcoal Brown? How do you combine them?

The Charcoal Brown Suit
Article Name
The Charcoal Brown Suit
Learn all about charcoal brown suits, a rare suiting color that is created by weaving blackish charcoal yarns with brown yarns for a superb look.
12 replies
  1. Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Excellent article, one I wish I’d contributed.
    I’m a huge fan of brown suits / jackets and don’t much agree with restricting it’s lovely manifestations to country wear only.
    My brown suits, one chocolate and the other a charcoal brown suit; both striped, both medium weight and both Pal Zileri.
    Besides that a Brown linen DB, a mid-weight brown blazer with gilt buttons and one rich autumnal brown flannel jacket

  2. Thomas says:

    Ronald Reagan often wore Brown suits, ranging in shades from Tan to Charcoal Brown. He brought a level of sophistication and elegance to the color and varied his shirt and tie combinations often working off a different palette. I have 4 brown suits ranging from a dark brown nail’s head to a very sprezzatura feel, lighter brown with a soft turquoise and cranberry pinstripe woven into a chevron weave. I often get more compliments wearing these suits than the traditional blues and grays in my closet. I often wear shell cordovan shoes instead of the the expected brown shades.

  3. Mark E. Seitelman says:

    Charcoal brown is an excellent change from the usual menu of dark grays and blues.

    I would say that it is should be a limited part of one wardrobe so as to add some spice. I would not recommend it as a daily suit.

    The beauty of charcoal brown is that you can wear black shoes with it. Otherwise, brown shoes usually look too light. If you wear brown shoes, then you must wear your darkest pair.

    I have three charcoal brown suits, two by Alan Flusser (the Saks Fifth Avenue years) and one by Davies & Son. All are striped. They are perfect for city business wear. I wore one in a successful trial.

    Alan Flusser is a fan of the color, and he has had at least one dark brown cloth in each year’s collection.

    Mark E. Seitelman

  4. Frank says:

    Brown is a wonderful color to work with when someone gets their wardrobe built up.

    I remember an ad for Oxxford Clothes back in 1998, that featured a single breasted peak lapelled suit in a brown shade with multi white stripes. The shirt was a white and light blue bengal stripe, with a blue and white dotted or squared tie. I said to myself, “Brown and blue can look good on you.” 🙂

    I have far more brown shoes than I do black shoes, and with the variouse shades of them to choose from, you’ll have no problem putting together a nice ensemble.

    However, I need to build my wardrobe up with brown suits to fill the gap. I do have a nice six on two DB, that is charcoal with light tan pinstripes. I can balance black and brown shoes very well with that suit. 🙂

  5. Frank says:

    If you’re like me, you have more brown shoes than black shoes.

    With so many shades of brown you can put together a nice ensemble with them.

    I enjoying mixing brown with blue. As I remember an Oxxford Clothes ad from 1998, in which the suit was brown with white stripes, paired with a light blue bengal striped shirt, and blue tie with white dots or sqaures.

    I said to myself, “Brown and blue can look good on you.” 🙂

  6. Robert W. Ashin says:

    Could you write a column from time to time on mature mens fashion. Hints for how the over 50 set can look good without trying to look like the 20 year olds. Thanks for a great newsletter.

  7. Nik Ismail almurtadza says:

    Very good introduction on shades of brown.On this side (where I am from)to us brown is brown.I would like to get hold a suit lenght of this ‘Charcoal Brown’.It is unique ,in away.


  8. Jack K says:

    When it comes to brown, all I got are my herringbone-ish sport jacket and my Dr. Martens. However, I got one grey glen check coat and a grey shawl-collar cardigans….

    Now, I’m trying to buy a pair of gloves that goes along with them… what should I choose? Navy blue, tan brown or dove grey? Maybe even chamois?

  9. Fabian says:

    My favourite suit is actually a brown one, however a much lighter brown than the charcoal ones shown in this article. I absolutely love brown since it goes so well with almost anything from blue to yellow/gold to red.

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