Clothes color matching: black and navy

Is it generally accepted that you don’t mix black and navy? Does it extend to black and all dark blues? That’s what I’ve often heard anyway.
Why is that? What’s wrong with, say, a navy suit and black tie?

Why is black considered to clash with navy but charcoal (which can get quite close to black) can be mixed with it without problems? Or have i go it wrong and charcoal and navy can’t be mixed either?

There seems to be an exception for shoes, belts and gloves such that wearing a navy suit with black shoes, a black belt and black gloves is ok. Why is that?

The problem with mixing navy and black is that many times it makes you look like you got dressed in the dark. If you wear a lighter or brighter navy, IMO, it’s okay to mix with black because the contrast is greater and therefore looks deliberate.

I think the shoe exception is because it can be difficult to find navy shoes in the first place. I don’t know about the men’s shoe situation, but I know I’ve had the experience of looking for navy shoes and having no luck whatsoever in stores and very little selection online.

I thought men were supposed to wear cordovan shoes/belt with navy? Not black.

I remember someone (I think it was our Eve) saying wearing black and blue was like wearing a bruise.


Cordovan goes with most things pretty well, navy included. Black shoes/belt are also traditionally acceptable, and I find (though am not entirely sure of the “rules” about) brown shades to work well also.

There are times you can wear black and navy. Nobody would bat an eye about a black tee shirt worn with dark jeans, for example.

But black and navy dress clothes together recall the look of a cheap uniform. It looks like police and salesmen.

Honestly, neither black nor navy are great “mixing” colors. Black is sophisticated because you can wear more black with it, and lots of black looks cool. Navy looks sophisticated because you can wear all those great rich leathery browns and burgundies with it. Navy is basically a showcase for browns.

But with black and navy together are the worst of both worlds. The black looks cheap and unbalanced, as it usually does when mixed with darker colors. And the navy look bland, as it usually does without the colorful accessories you would normally offset it with.

Some say you can away with black shoes and belt, but I think that’s just laziness by people who don’t want to buy two pairs of dress shoes. Black shoes with a navy suit are going to make you look like a plainclothes cop. Why do that when there are so many beautiful leather goods in rich browns?

Black and navy together affect me like fingernails scraping on a blackboard. It’s a combination that actually makes me wince (not that I go around all day wincing at other people’s clothing choices, just that the wince means it would not be mine). The people who make declarations about fashion no doubt have an even greater colour sensitivity than I (or they wouldn’t be much good at their jobs). You, on the other hand, Mr Mouse, are not so affected, so whether you pay attention to them depends on whether you are bothered what they think.

I always go with “don’t look like you were trying to match and failed.” Black and navy are too close to each other, though a black t-shirt with jeans would clearly not be a problem, while jeans with a matching denim shirt is a bit horrifying.

Black matches with everything. Except black. Being that navy is essentially black, it doesn’t look good. Dark brown is another shade of black.

In fact matching any color to itself is hideous, especially if they are different shades. Socks matching a tie is an exception, but you need to be goood to make it work.

That’s going too far, tdn. By your definition, one should never wear a suit, since that’s matching jacket and pants. And what about a multi-colored pattern? Every color in the pattern is off-limits for the other garments you are wearing? The classic solid shirt with a patterned tie shouldn’t be a color from the pattern?
No black pants with black shoes or black socks, and you consider navy and dark brown to be “black”? That doesn’t leave you many dress shoe or sock options.
Given the rules you describe, black pants, purple jacket, yellow shirt, green socks, orange tie, and blue shoes would be a viable choice of outfit. Please tell me you don’t dress this way!

I was just talking about slacks and solid shirts. When we get into patterns it does get a bit more complicated.

Black shoes, socks, and belts always work, unless we’re talking very casual. And shoes should always match the belt. Black/black or brown/brown.

As far as ties go, I like to go with two very complimentary solids, or one color in the tie picking up the color of the shirt.


Only if the pants are purple. And in this case only green hair, white face, and a lapel flower that squirts acid go with it.

If you’ve got the skin tone for it.


Not with a yellow shirt. I’m thinking that nothing adjacent on the color wheel works. Yellow shirt, blue tie. Or red. Or this is where you can wear some purple.

Black shoes.

One great piece of advice that I got about ties: It shouldn’t have a picture of anything I can name.

It really matters what shade of navy…which brings up the question, what are the names of different navies?

Navy plus black is such a depressing combination. I’m not a fan of navy, but sometimes I can rock a navy outfit OK. I’m a big fan of black, though, and nothing beats solid black black. If you want to add a color accent to a black outfit, if it’s a small accessory like a scarf I think it would work best in a bold, bright color. Navy on black falls kinds of flat, like an airplane that almost got off the ground but failed.

Red with black is inherently a dynamic combination that always makes a statement. But a picture of my one heavy metal friend singing in concert, arrayed in charcoal and wine leather (a wine leather corset accessorized with charcoal leather vambraces on her forearms), made me think that the only color combination badasser than red and black is that little tweak to it: wine and charcoal. By wine I mean midway between red and purple and of a deep hue, and by charcoal I mean darkest gray, the next closest gray to black, or you could say off-black. The pic I linked to has a slightly lighter gray.

just IM(individual)HO

I take the point about black and navy being close enough to be insintctively compared yet different enough that they’re clearly not the same. Black leather and navy cloth seem to go ok together because cloth and leather have very different texture which doesn’t result in the eye instinctively trying to see how well they match.

But I still wonder why, say, charcoal and dark blue don’t similarly clash. Is black and navy clash, why not charcoal and dark blue?

I see how that goes well together. One of my favorite outfits is a black suit, black shoes, white shirt and either burgundy or bright red tie.

I can see how charcoal and burgundy/wine could go well together, too, especially with burgundy shoes and belt. I’m not sure a lot of men’s clothing will be wine (as in red with purple). Not a lot of purple in men’s clothing I guess.

A burgundy shirt or tie with a charcoal suit? Why not? I think it would look dashing.

I think it’s two things. One, if a color is light enough to be called “charcoal”, then it’s usually light enough to create a contrast with navy. Charcoal and black can be worn together as well for the same reason. Personally, I wouldn’t say that black and navy clash; to me, that connotes very bold opposing colors. The problem with black and navy is they’re too similar. It’s almost that they don’t clash enough. It’s like playing two adjacent notes together. They’re too close to create harmony. But as others have said, this is really only if you’re talking about “true” navy, the color you typically see in men’s suits. I suppose you could call this color navy, but you can see it’s light enough that it’s very distinct from the black.

Secondly, charcoal is often a “heather” color, meaning it has a mottled appearance with a mix of lighter and darker threads. For instance, here’s heather red versus solid red. This creates a visual texture that also helps the colors look distinct. But look what happens when we pair a lighter navy heather with a charcoal heather. Same heather texture, very similar depth of color. Even though these two colors are much more distinct from each other than true navy and black, it starts to create the same dissonance. For me, looking at that shirt feels a bit like looking at an optical illusion. My brain keeps trying to “make sense” of the color.

Oh, and re: burgundy/wine: yes, there’s a ton of men’s clothing in those shades. I actually see it more often in menswear than in women’s.

But the bottom line is, if it appeals to you visually, go for it. There will always be someone, somewhere, who hates it, so don’t stress about the rules too much. As long as you don’t do this, you should be fine.

I love that analogy!

That could apply to certain articles of clothing clashing because they’re in different keys. Or different tempos. Or different genres.

That’s why red and pink at the same time are traditionally disapproved of. I think that would apply to big wide solid color blocks of both. An off-white or beige-backgrounded floral print, say, with small red and pink designs could work, though.

When did they pass a law against purple for men? I just heard my son saying that in the past couple years. Was it because that “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple” poem permanently tagged the color purple with the girl-cooties? Actually, the point of that poem was that purple was once disapproved for women too, and that old women can feel freer to flout silly social conventions like that. But now it’s shifted to marked femininity? Did I miss something?

I remember in the late 1970s, when I lived in St. Louis, the only people I *ever *saw in purple were African-American women, and they wore purple a lot. Never found an explanation for that phenomenon, except I always thought it goes well with dark skin tones.

Catch me up on this; so far pink and purple are the two colors forbidden to men? What’s next to go? Keep narrowing the circle and you guys’ll wind up with nothing but black or gray.

It’s especially dumb because up until the 1940s (cite), pink was a boy’s color. Not to mention all the current cultures all over the world (including the US, thinking of several Native American tribes) who see pink as masculine.

All those ridiculous biotruth just-so stories about how women are naturally attracted to the color pink because cave women picked pink berries are nothing but bullshit.

I don’t know, but my pink and purple shirts (and matching ties) are among my most beloved and most complimented. My massage therapist, who used to be a fashion consultant, loves loves loves how the purple shirt looks on me.

And by pink, I mean fuschia.