How to Spice up your Suit – Part 1

Spice up your Suit! Take one grey suit….(or blue, but not black)... Karen Grace shows how to transform office wear into 'Best Dressed Gent'.

We appreciate that many men will have neither time nor inclination to buy a dedicated suit for the races, and will instead turn to their business suit, which is frequently in a plain grey or navy colour.
So, how to turn that from work wear into a natty racegoing outfit? The answer lies in your accessories.


The crisp white shirt is the epitome of classic and can look suave with a light coloured summer suit and fedora for a day at the races. However, when worn with your business suit, you will look as though you’ve just stepped out of the office. Swap that white for a colour or pattern.

Block Colour

A simple move is to go for a shirt in one block colour, they are more easily adaptable in the choice of a tie. Pale shades such as pastel pink and sky blue will still give off office vibes as these are popular work colours after the classic white. A bolder block colour can make a statement and bring a contemporary twist to the traditional business suit. However you need to consider your own colouring when choosing a strong shade.

The above shirt shows how to create two looks when worn with different ties. Team with a colour block tie in a similar shade for a tone on tone look. The above shade is best for gentlemen with a warm muted colouring. Teamed with a patterned tie using a similar shade but introducing another colour gives a sharper contrasting look. This is best for gentlemen with a warm but brighter colouring.

General Notes on warm colouring characteristics:

Warm colouring has a yellow or golden undertone which complexions ranging from a light peachy to a rich auburn. Hair colour can range from light golden/ strawberry blond to ginger/auburn/warm brown to brunette to very dark warm brown.

Muted appearances with a warm colouring have a softer and more blended look i.e. a low contrast between skin and hair colouring, usually with soft brown/hazel/khaki green eyes 

Brighter colouring for a person with a warm colouring is a brightness in either complexion or hair,  usually with brighter shades of golden brown/blue/green eyes.

Pink is a fun choice for a shirt and goes well with both navy and grey suits.

To move away from the workwear look, opt for a brighter and/or deeper shade to the popular pastel pink. 

The deep bright pink on the left teamed with a light silver tie would bring a high contrast look to your suit. This is best for gentlemen with a cool based and high contrast or bright colouring.

The pink on the right is a softer and more muted mid shade so would be best for the  gentlemen with a cool based muted colouring. Teaming it with a dark red tie does give some contrast but overall it is a softer look. 

General Notes on cool based colouring characteristics:

Cool based colouring has a blue undertone which can give a pinkiness or lack of warmth to the skin and an ash tone to both lighter and darker hair colours. Hair colour can range from silver blond/pale ash blond to mousey brown/dark brown to blue black and to white/silver grey. 

Muted appearance with a cool colouring has a softer and more blended look i.e. low contrast between skin and hair colouring. Eye colour is usually soft hazel/brown or paler shades of blue or green. 

Brighter colouring for a person with a cool colouring is either a high contrast between the complexion and hair colour or can be brightness in the dark complexion/dark hair combination.  Eyes are usually brighter shades of blue, green and hazel or dark brown with the whites of the eyes sparkling white. 

Blue suits most colourings as long as you wear the right shade.

Baby blue shirt with baby pink tie worn with a light/medium grey suit gives enough of a bright contrast without draining the pale complexion and pale hair of a gentlemen with a cool muted appearance. When worn with a navy suit the colour combination becomes more dramatic for the gentleman with a cool high contrast appearance. 

A button down shirt creates a more smart casual look especially when in blue denim. The muted tones of the denim can become sharper when teamed with a contrasting tie but is still soft enough to be worn by both muted and brighter complexions.


A patterned shirt is an ideal way to brightening up the sombre business suit.

Earn Your Stripes

The above striped shirt stands out from its pale blue neighbours and will cheer up a conservative business suit. The two colours allows the wearer to choose a variety of ties and create different looks – red tie for a brighter look or navy tie to tone the volume down a touch. The bold red and blue stripes  would suit a gentlemen with a cool colouring of high contrast such as pale complexion with dark hair or bright colouring such as dark hair and dark complexion with cool blue undertones.

For the gentleman with cool but muted colouring, both of the light blue striped shirts with sky blue ties above would be better options. However the shirt on the left is crisper and has more of a contrast so would also suit most colourings.

Although the striped shirt is also worn in the office, it tends to be narrow (hairline, pinstripe and pencil stripe designs), so choose the wider styles, such as the candy stripe on the left and the track stripe on the right.

Wearing a plain tie with a patterned shirt is an easy choice. Take that sartorial step further and be daring by pairing your patterned shirt with a patterned tie. 

But take heed of a few sartorial rules:

• Mix it up! Do not wear a shirt and tie in the same pattern. 
• Size matters! Patterns worn together need to vary in size i.e. wear a small pattern with a larger pattern.
• Colour Swatch. Take a colour in your shirt and choose a tie which has some of that colour in its pattern. The rest of colours do have to be either complementary or contrasting.

Check Mate!

The windowpane check is the most appropriate attire for the workplace, so any other check will not scream officewear.

Gingham  offers a fresh modern look to a suit.

A multi coloured checked shirt gives the wearer more colour options for his tie. Here the blue from the shirt in the left image has been used for the tie. Notice the stripes of the tie are a mixture of wide and narrow to contrast against the evenly spaced out check. Although this is a busy combination, it is also a soft look and shows how gentlemen with a muted appearance could mix those prints.

The blue and white gingham shirt would suit most men as the overall look could be muted or bright depending on the colour of the tie. When teamed with this hot pink tie it becomes a high contrast combination for the gentlemen with a brighter colouring. Notice that the tie has taken only a  dash of the blue and white from the shirt in its design.

Flower Power

Floral patterns on shirts will magically transform your business suit into a summer outfit. A small ditsy prints is definitely not a scatterbrain choice and is the safest bet of the floral prints.

A suit worn with a floral shirt can look sartorially complete with or without a tie. Plus they also look fabulous with a bow tie!


Add flair to your outfit with a dashing pocket square –

Golden rule – the pocket square should complement your outfit but never match exactly, it is there to give the final dapper touch.

Block colours – never wear a tie and pocket square in the same block colour, save that for the ushers at a wedding. Do ensure the colours complement each other. When wearing a block colour pocket square with a patterned tie, don’t always choose the main colour of the tie. Choosing the least dominant colour will actually bring a sharper look.

Patterns – the pattern of the tie, shirt and pocket square should never be the same. Mix them up. The above left image mixes three patterns: gingham, stripes and floral. The above right image also sports three patterns: stripes, houndstooth and abstract.


You can also use the pocket square’s pattern to introduce a bold contrasting colour – this will make your navy or grey suit pop.

Lapel Pin

Adorn your business suit with a lapel pin or a small boutonniere.

This will lift and spice up your business suit with a splash of colour or bling.


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