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!
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.
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.
“A NEW COLOR BECOMING TO ALL MEN
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.
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?
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, mytailor.com 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?