Touch of Grey

Men's style - Wearing gray instead of white looks cool not starchy
Want to look crisp and cool, but not too starchy? Swap gray for white, for a cool and composed look. Or try a gray shirt with a bolder-than-usual tie. Shown here from Richard Grace’s Look Book: Olive herringbone jacket: 40’s vintage. Shirt: Alfani Spectrum. Tie ($15) and tie bar ($15): The Tie Bar.

We (actually, me, but never mind) at Groovy Man Stuff are big fans of the color gray. It doesn’t work with everything, but it’s a great mix with anything black and white (and even navy!) and an excellent substitute for the boring white Oxford dress shirts that I find myself wearing less and less frequently.

Grey dress shirts are a valuable go-to and mix with many more things then you would think. Many men, if they bother to think about these things at all, just throw a few white button-collar dress shirts in the closet and use them only when they must. This is understandable, because they’re not much fun. There are very fun alternatives. Good places to go for grey shirts of various hues include Jos. A. Bank, Macy’s, and Brooks Brothers. Get fitted if you can and avoid huge baggy shirts. In this vein, avoid places like Burlington Coat Factory, which toss off-brand dress shirts into massive piles and provide no guidance or help whatever, making it impossible to find the right size or cut.

Another tip: Grey is a fantastic substitute for white if you’re in a snappy black suit or blazer and it changes your tie choices not at all. With a grey shirt, you can even use a bolder tie color or pattern, within the range of what would still work with white. You’ll be surprised how much a bold paisley or plaid actually melds into that combination, as you can see in the figure above.

A great pairing for work environments is a clean, well-fitting pair of grey jeans (Levis 513s, 514s or any other brand you favor), a black dress shirt, with a tie you choose to add that splash of color. In a situation like this, almost any tie will work splendidly. Top it off with your black or grey sport coat and you’ll be ready for the day and for the evening, with the jeans adding a judicious informality and avoiding the “I’m going to a job interview during my lunch hour” appearance. It also works extremely well during the summer.

Wild segways - men's style in Silicon Valley.
Wild wacky segways!

Even if, like me, you grossly overdress for the Philistinely casual Gomorrah that is Silicon Valley. The fact is, if you take care of yourself, and you put yourself together this way, you’ll get the looks from the ladies.

As with any color, avoid pairing a gray shirt with grey slacks of similar hue; you’ll wind up looking like an off-color Mr.Genie. Should you pair dark grey slacks with a lighter-shade grey shirt, feel free to use an assertive tie from a different color family, including paisleys or plaids (I love a bold red, wine or plum paisley or solid color tie in this case). And definitely reach for the black sport coat to balance the grey. If it’s a hot day, wear the pale linen jacket to keep the sun off, or don’t bother at all with a jacket.

A maroon shirt with solid grey slacks? One of the few combinations where a red shirt works at all. Pair a grey or charcoal tie with the shirt and avoid bold patterns.

A gray shirt also works well with a lighter off-white palette, although you want to avoid the Miami Vice look that is inevitable with white slacks and a white jacket. Unless you really dig the Travolta look. Unfortunately, no one else does, so you’ll be on an island there, where no one can help you. That’s not rebellion, that’s suicide.

About the author

Richard Grace is a technical writer and long-time denizen of Silicon Valley. He thinks men's style in Silicon Valley could use a bit of improvement. For the latest Groovy Man Stuff, friend him on facebook, "Like" his Groovy Man Stuff page, follow him on Twitter, or plus him on Google+. And since this is Silicon Valley, Richard also has a Linked In profile.