How To Wear All Black: 7 Timeless & Sophisticated Outfits

In an ever-evolving menswear landscape, which colours are in and which are out alternates with dizzying frequency. However, peel back all the fleeting trends – the Hawaiian prints, safety orange, 1970s-inspired earth tones – and one constant will reveal itself: black.

Black is eternal. It’s elegant. It’s moody and mysterious. It’s immune to seasonal trends and the overall passing of time, and, most importantly of all, anyone can wear it. Irrespective of age, body shape or skin tone, black has a way of complementing the frame, accentuating contrasting garments and lending the wearer a sense of effortless cool.

Yet in spite of all its plus points, styling an all-black – or even just a mostly black – outfit can be tricky. Get it right and you’re the best-dressed man in the room. Get it wrong and you’re post-heyday Robert Smith.

The trick lies in having a number of foolproof looks in your arsenal. Here are seven of our favourite ways to wear black, along with some pointers on how to make them work for you.

Updated Eveningwear

Atelier Munro

As long as the invitation doesn’t explicitly state “black tie“, there’s no reason a classic tux can’t be given a few tweaks.

Going all-out monochrome is a simple tailoring move that can yield monumental results. Replacing the pop of white from a dress shirt with another layer of black in the form of some fine-gauge knitwear is a refined way to dress down eveningwear, should the occasion allow it.

The best garment to achieve this is a roll-neck jumper; the informality of a crew neck will jar when teamed with something as dressy as a dinner jacket. During the warmer months, the same effect could be achieved with a black knitted polo.

To pull this look off from head to toe, the cut of the tailoring should be slim, but never skinny. Trousers should break just a little above the top of the shoe and use of accessories should adhere to the overall minimalist feel of the outfit. Footwear wise, a black patent-leather Oxford is the classic choice.

Statement Outerwear


For those who tend to shy away from patterns and colour due to a lack of styling knowledge, offsetting one lively garment against an all-black backdrop is a simple but effective trick to master.

A statement jacket is something every man should have in his wardrobe. Whether it’s realised in a bold block colour, or a subtle print, this is a piece that can be deployed to spice up even the most basic of outfits. Suddenly, a straightforward all-black ensemble becomes interesting and personal.

Think of the black part of this look as a blank canvas upon which your outerwear will paint a picture. As such, the items that make it up should be subtle and free from excessive detail. Clean, well-fitting dress trousers, a plain roll-neck jumper and classic leather Derby shoes, for example. In terms of the jacket, think eye-catching but never garish. That means a big thumbs up to subtle checks and a big thumbs down to all-over unicorn prints… but you knew that already.

Less Is More

Ralph Lauren Purple Label

Often it’s the simplest outfits that pack the most punch. Mastering minimalism is up there with the most transformative style moves a man can make. It makes dressing easier, it always looks sharp and getting it right couldn’t be more straightforward.

Dressing head-to-toe in black is a tried-and-tested way to approach minimalist dressing. Key to nailing the look is ensuring garments are pared-back and subtle – they should flow into one another with fluidity, unpunctuated by detail or embellishment. With that in mind, start by ditching the accessories: lose the belt, get rid of the jewellery and if you must have something on your wrist, let it be a simple, elegant dress watch with a black or white face.

A slim-fitting, roll-neck jumper is again a solid go-to when it comes to setting an all-black ensemble off. Opt for a thin, form flattering fabric and wear it tucked into a pair of matching tailored trousers for a sleek and streamlined finish. If you want something a little more casual leaning, a plain black T-shirt works just as well here. As far as footwear goes, loafers are a minimalist staple: clean, streamlined and completely timeless.


Ralph Lauren Purple Label

Combining sportswear with casual staples has become common practise in modern menswear. It’s a look we’re big fans of due to its laid-back nature, practicality and the relative ease with which it can be pulled off.

But that’s not to say it can’t come across sloppy if not executed with due care and attention. Employing plenty of black pieces is a reliable way to ensure things stay looking slick and sophisticated.

This aesthetic is all about blurring the lines between high and low. Think athletic and streetwear staples, but filtered through a premium lens: loopback cotton sweatshirts, luxury leather sneakers, cashmere/merino hoodies, tailored jogging bottoms and the like.

Mix and match these elevated core pieces to create comfortable yet refined off-duty looks. Finish with an outer layer that references the ensemble’s sporting heritage, such as a baseball jacket, blouson or technical windbreaker.

Weekend Casual


When you’ve spent the last five days working hard, anything that can make your two days of relaxation a little more, well, relaxing is a valuable asset.

Having a few go-to black garments in your wardrobe can make deciding what to wear at the weekend just that little bit easier. You can pull any combination of them out safe in the knowledge that they’ll work as a cohesive outfit.

A high-quality, well-fitting black tee should be hanging in every stylish gent’s wardrobe. Combine it with your trusty black jeans and layer over some lightweight outerwear, such as an overshirt or coach jacket, then anchor with a pair of lace-up boots. Simple but effective.

Winter Layers

Massimo Dutti

Layering is one of the pillars of good dressing, but it can be a confusing concept to master. This is largely down to getting your colour pairings right, but with an all-black look it ceases to be a concern.

This type of outfit is great for both the working week and the two days of respite from it. It’s smart, but not too smart, and the garments that it’s composed of are highly versatile and can be worn separately from one another.

Start off with the outerwear. This is your top layer so it should be the biggest and heaviest. Go for a wool overcoat if you like the idea of texture, or a gabardine trench coat for something a little more breathable. Beneath this, a light down vest makes a great option – its armless design allows for a better range of motion while still keeping your torso warm. Slot a merino roll neck or crew-neck sweater underneath and finish things off with slim-fitting trousers and a pair of winter-ready black leather boots.

Rock ‘n’ Roll DNA


It’s impossible to talk about black clothing without mentioning the leather jacket. This essential piece of outerwear is a must for every man and has a way of lending even the most mild-mannered gents an air of rock ‘n’ roll attitude.

While you could justifiably wear a leather jacket as part of an all-black look, we like the idea of making it pop with a patterned shirt. It’s a good way of adding a playful aspect to an otherwise moody getup. Go for a dark floral or similar to keep the overall aesthetic congruent.

Black jeans are every true rebel’s legwear of choice. Just stay away from drainpipe cuts and you can’t go wrong. To seal the deal, complete the outfit with a pair of motorbike-friendly boots. A commando-soled Chelsea or a rugged biker boot should do the trick nicely.

Paddy Maddison

Paddy Maddison is Ape's Style Editor. His work has been published in Esquire, Men’s Health, ShortList, The Independent and more. An outerwear and sneaker fanatic, his finger is firmly on the pulse for the latest trends, while always maintaining an interest in classic style.