Next to your blue suit, a grey suit is an absolute men’s wardrobe staple. Why? More than just a good business suit, it can be paired with all sorts of shirt colors and ties, putting it on top of the versatility scale.
Blue and grey, in general, are fantastic suit colors because they come in many different shades. A darker color (navy and charcoal) may be better for winter and more formal occasions, while a lighter color (medium blue and silver grey) may be great for summer and less formal occasions. So, let’s touch on the greys for a moment.
First on the list is the most formal shade, the so-called charcoal grey. It’s dark enough that you can wear it in most functions where you otherwise would think of a black suit, such as a funeral, a play, or a business event.
A general rule, not just with grey but with all suiting colors, is this: the lighter the shade, the less formal the suit. Therefore, while a medium grey suit is perfect for the office and most other functions (with the exception of funerals), it has a slightly more casual vibe. This is a good thing; it means that when you pair shirts and ties together, you can go with slightly less formal options.
Along these lines, the light grey suit is even more casual. This shade works particularly well in the summer; it will have a light breezy feel, and can be worn with even more summery colors. Of course, any of these grey shades can come in either a striped version, a solid version, or in other small patterns such as a glen plaid, tic weave or birdseye, for example.
The classic staple is the white dress shirt. For a charcoal suit, you probably want something that is very formal; a white dress shirt with a medium-spread collar, no breast pocket, and French cuffs. (A white shirt works with any shade of (blue or) grey suit, no matter if it’s really dark, medium, or light. It works so well because it provides a strong contrast, which appeals to most men.)
In the case of a medium grey or a lighter gray suit, you can skip the French cuffs, maybe go with a slightly more textured fabric, and perhaps try a more relaxed collar style.
If you go with a solid gray suit and a solid white shirt, it would be best to add some color with your tie, pocket square, socks, and/or other accessories. A classic combination is to add a red or burgundy tie. If you are not a fan of red and you want to “cool down” your outfit otherwise, you can go with a navy or blue tie, maybe something in forest green, plum, or even in bronze/orange. Basically, any dark-toned tie with a white shirt and a grey suit would be appropriate for cocktail attire, and if it’s a charcoal suit, you can even wear it for black tie optional events. Meanwhile, lighter colored ties will work better with medium and lighter grey suits.
The next biggest staple after white is blue. Blue shirts can be combined with any kind of grey suit, but look particularly nice with medium and lighter grey suits. Of course, blue comes in, oh say, 200+ different shades, and there are many patterns and textures! Simply pick ones that you like and that provide a contrast to your suit. If you wear a light blue shirt with a medium or light grey suit, consider barrel cuffs instead of French cuffs.
In terms of ties, a solid navy tie is formal when paired with a blue shirt and a gray suit–but it can be a bit boring. Other than the usual suspects of red, green, or plum, you could also experiment with another complementary color to blue, which is orange.
Pastel pinks can be a great change to the monotony of white and light blue shirts, and they work particularly well with (blue and) grey. This is because there’s a subtle contrast, yet the pink works to warm up the grey color. (Probably for that reason, pairing charcoal suits with pink shirts was a favorite look of Fred Astaire, who was always very well-dressed.)
Following the staples of white, blue, and pink dress shirts, basically, any other type of pastel color can work really well with a grey suit. It could be something like a light yellow, or a pastel orange. If you opt to wear a colored shirt, a safe choice is always to wear a tie in a darker shade from the same color family. So if you have a light orange or creamy shirt then consider an orange tie.
This brings us to our final point: shirts don’t have to be solids. You can have patterned shirts as well, and stripes are the most classic ones. Of course, you can also incorporate checked shirts into your outfits–they’re a bit more casual than striped ones so they work better with light grey suits.
Shirts with smaller and more traditional patterns such as stripes or checks will work better with (blue and) grey suits. In general, the lighter the shade of your grey suit, the more texture you can add.
At the end of the day, pretty much any shirt or tie color can work with a grey suit as long as you understand basic color theory…and choose to emphasize your individual style.