Cifonelli navy suit buttonhole shoulder

Hi Simon,

Your blog has been extremely useful as a body of knowledge, thank you for it.

Would you mind commenting on navy and how it is worn? It seems to be over-used, or used in the wrong setting.

I often see men wearing navy jumpers with dark indigo jeans for example, which looks odd. Are navy trousers or shorts that useful? If navy chinos require darker shoes than them, does that not make the outfit quite formal? Is navy always a formal colour?

I’ve struggled with these issues, and as a result have limited navy to indigo jeans I wear in the evening (with dark-brown suede brogues), shorts that I wear with white trainers, and chinos that I wear with black oxfords for work.

Your help and general comments would be extremely useful.

Kind regards


navy polo shirt sartorial

Hi Steve,

This is an interesting question – largely because I had never considered it before.

It’s true that navy is such a menswear staple you can end up having too much of it. It would be my default colour for a new suit, coat, jacket, sweater or even tie. After a while, you realise all your knitwear is navy – which is pretty dull.

One reason navy is so popular is that you can wear more than one piece at a time – like a jacket and a tie, or a jacket and a cardigan. They sit happily alongside each other, even in slightly different tones.

But that’s above the waist. Below the waist things are a little different. I’ve commented elsewhere on the difficulty of navy odd trousers, and while navy chinos and shorts are very useful, they do restrict what you can wear above them – none of that navy knitwear, for instance.

Often a beige or olive-coloured chino/short will be more useful. If I’m travelling and can only take one pair of chinos, they tend to be one of those two colours.

Caliendo Neapolitan hopsack blazer pocket

Finally, navy is a formal colour, yes. It’s formal largely because of its darkness, which creates sharp contrast with a white shirt, for example.

But it’s a lot less formal in a chino or short, to the point where it makes little difference. The more casual the cut and material, the less relevance our discussions of formality have.

Personally I wouldn’t wear black oxfords with navy chinos. The shoe is too smart for the trouser. A dark-brown calf would be the smartest I’d go for (though you’re right – the shoe does need to remain pretty dark).

Oh, and don’t wear navy sweaters with dark jeans. Wear a grey sweater, or wait until the jeans have worn in and lightened sufficiently to create contrast.

Hope that’s helpful


Cifonelli bespoke overcoat milanese buttonhole

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Credit: Permanent Style


  1. Navy chinos with a pair of brown suedes?

  2. Simon Crompton

    Yep, works very nicely – as they do with the denim Steve mentions

  3. Brian Rogers

    Doesn’t this depend on the shade of Navy? Often what we refer to as navy is in effect Midnight.. Some of the pics in this article seem to be different shades

  4. Simon Crompton

    The shades do vary, but I don’t find the lessons are that different, as long as it doesn’t go as far as midnight (which most would think black until looking closer) or as strong as royal blue

  5. Good to see this type of article but more photos of what colour ‘bottom half’ when ‘top half’ is navy would be good.
    In essence navy is considered by many a safe colour and so if it’s a case of , for example, what colour Peacoat to buy or what colour trousers , the default choice is navy.
    This then leads to “what trousers do I wear with a navy cashmere sports jacket ? I can’t wear navy chinos ! But all I have is navy trousers or black trousers and blue jeans!”
    I don’t think shoe type or colour is so much a consideration with navy .

  6. Simon Crompton

    Thanks. I haven’t written about that because the variety is so big: grey of almost every shade, brown, olive, cream, tan/beige of every shade.
    The tricky thing I find is picking the right tie, shoe, shirt etc once you’ve picked navy and then one of those trouser colours.
    (I’d also never wear black trousers – charcoal at most)

  7. Simon, which shade of navy would you recommend for a summer Naples-style blazer? Thinking to have one made up to wear on my yacht next summer

  8. Simon Crompton

    Similar to the hopsack here (itself a Naples blazer). Perhaps a touch lighter than normal navy, but not much

  9. Hi Phil,
    Just change your yacht colour.
    Your current green just makes everything difficult.

  10. Hi Simon, I agree with you that odd navy chinos are difficult wear. It surprises me how popular they are and I would always choose stone, khaki or tan chinos before navy. I prefer them with black suede loafers rather than black leather – as you say, the black leather is too formal. I also wear them on holiday turned/rolled up with a polo shirt and bare feet or sneakers, although this is rarely practical in the UK!

  11. I think they are so popular because a navy chino, whilst difficult to wear with a jacket etc, is much easier to wear without a jacket. I.e just a sweater, shirt, polo shirt etc. Navy chino’s then essentially do the job of jeans, just a little smarter. and Simon the comment “After a while, you realise all your knitwear is navy ” I know what you mean – i was sorting my knitwear out the other day and I realised I have the same Smedley navy colour in, Crew Neck, V neck, LS Shirt, Polo and Cardigan.. I think I need to branch out.

  12. Johnnydevore

    For me its quite easy: No navy trousers. (Except if its part of a suit and worn with the top half of course) No navy chinos. Thats obviously no allways right and there might be exceptions, but most of the time it remains true.

  13. Nick Inkster

    I don’t really see the problem with navy chinos; white or pink shirt, probably OCBD, brown suede loafers, and/or pink/yellow/lime or bottle green sweater, or tan/tobacco jacket, etc etc.

  14. Simon Crompton

    Nothing wrong with that – the point is just that they are not as versatile as navy things above the waist, and as much as you might naturally think

  15. Nick Inkster

    I’m a bit baffled by this to be honest as it has never even occurred to me as being a challenge.

  16. The main problem is that Cotton hold dye very poorly so as they fade, navy chinos tend to look terrible whereas denim tends to fade much more attractively. Worn jeans seem to have character – faded navy chinos tend to look like you urgently need new trousers.

  17. Not if you get Officine Generale’s fisherman chinos.
    They fade like jeans.

  18. I guess, navy is the most versatile colour. In my opinion it can be a nice combination to wear navy jeans with a navy knitwear and maybe a denim shirt. to give a contrast it can be worn with a tan belt and brogues. This is a very casual combination and not in common with above mentioned combination of trousers and shoes.

  19. Simon Crompton

    Thanks Christopher. I wouldn’t wear navy knitwear with navy jeans even with the belt in between I’m afraid. And I’d afraid the double denim of shirt and trouser

  20. I think that combo could, and does work but is one of those scenarios where its is very easy to get it wrong and takes a bit of thought and work to get it right. If you were thinking raw denim with navy sweater and dark denim shirt maybe not but faded denim, with a light chambray and dark navy sweater your getting closer.

  21. Simon Crompton


  22. Great idea for an article. Unrelated perhaps but a question re. your Anderson & Sheppard cream gabardine trousers.. I take it they are wool (vs. cotton)?

  23. Simon Crompton

    Yes, wool

  24. Sorry, another question about cloth; I have a blue serge jacket. However I’m not sure about it – it seems overly formal (it has brass buttons but is well cut). It’s OK with grey flannel but has little versatility. It doesn’t quite have the formality of worsted nor does it have the requisite softness for a casual jacket (i.e. to be worn with jeans). I’d be interested in your feedback on serge; I’ve thought about changing the buttons but feel the material may still be too stiff and formal…?

  25. Simon Crompton

    It’s hard to comment… the formality of the jacket might be down to other things, most obviously the structure. But yes, serge is generally fairly formal, and won’t make a good odd jacket to wear with jeans.

  26. Simon –
    Transitioning to a role and grad school program in the fall where I need to wear a suit or jacket and odd trousers more often so need to invest in some versatile winter outerwear for an NYC winter.
    Given I’m wearing either a navy suit or navy blazer with mid-gray trousers the majority of the time, what color would you recommend to be most useful and versatile for 1) a wool, winter weight overcoat (single or double breasted?) and 2) a lighter weight rain jacket (Mac or trench)? Think these two options could cover me for basics.
    My gut thinks navy for both for simplicity sake, but I’m not sure. Any help appreciated!

  27. Simon Crompton

    Navy for both would be fine, but try other options for the raincoat, like a classic tan or dark green

  28. Hi Simon,
    Absolutely loving the new site. So easy to navigate. I have a navy question….I recently purchased a very dark navy shirt, then realised the conundrum of what colour(s) of tie to wear with it. Was hoping you could assist ? Thanks

  29. Simon Crompton

    Hmm, very hard. I’d recommend going without probably. Only options maybe black or some kind of pale, muted colour

  30. Thanks Simon, appreciate the input. I was thinking black, so your same instinct gives me assurance!

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