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How to Ware Black and Be Bold

By Ryan Sullivan

Black must be the most beloved wardrobe color ever. Just look around at your next large-ish attorney gathering and bear witness to the devotion to black. But beware: Wearing black can either be badass or blah. Here are some tips to ensure your black isn’t lost in the crowd.

How to Wear Black

Never fade away.

That black suit, or shirt or skirt, looked awesome in the store. But after a few trips to the dry cleaner or washing machine, your favorite piece is a sad shade of charcoal and has lost its oomph. Cotton fabrics are particularly vulnerable to fading, while black polyester stays strong forever — long live polyester! The dim lighting in your closet or bedroom may lead you to believe your black is still alive, but don’t be fooled — always check the true color in daylight. Once the life has been sucked out of your black, just get rid of it.

Don’t blend in black. 

Wear your black on purpose, never by default! At a recent legal conference, I noticed a trend. Too many lawyers were wearing their black as if they were hiding from something … or had simply given up. Dark, shapeless cardigans. Lonely black basics. Boring black suits. Otherwise dynamic attorneys were sending the message that they didn’t even want to make eye contact. Be purposeful with your black and jazz it up! Black is the most versatile neutral, so you can get away with textures and cuts that otherwise might be too extreme. Men can choose a slimmer suit style and pair it with a brighter tie or shirt. Women can pair black with an unusual belt, patterned shirt or brightly colored shoes. Use accessories and accents to transform your black from a bench warmer into a star player and you can’t go wrong.

Beware the hair.

Everyone loves their pets, but don’t show your love by wearing 100 Golden Retriever hairs stuck to the back of your black jacket. Black is also a magnet for miscellaneous fuzzies and after-lunch napkin lint, as well as dust and salt from brushing too close to the outside of your car. To keep your black parasite-free, keep a lint roller at home, another in your office and a third in your car so you can swipe up the offending particles whenever you notice them. And do take a moment to notice, because if you don’t someone else will. You don’t want that someone else to be a client or opposing counsel.

5 Take-A-Ways From Street Style Stars on Wearing Back

From Street Style Stars:

  1. Keep things classic.
    Choose ultra-classic pieces to elevate the look. Anybody can throw on a black ensemble anchored by a trendy coat or footwear that’s au courant. Like a peacoat, slim pants, and chelsea boots.
  2. Add a contrasting accessory.
    Another foolproof way to jazz up a monochromatic outfit? Add an accessory that provides a bit of contrast.
  3. Pump up the volume.
    A sure way to take a black outfit from blah to statement-making is to choose a voluminous piece to add drama. In the winter, the easiest way to do that is to go with an oversized coat.
  4. Go vintage to add drama.
    It’s no secret black is a great color for formalwear. But if you want to add drama to an everyday look, just try a vintage look. Like a vintage handbag.
  5. Hide a pattern.
    Committed to wearing all black? That sounds like a great plan. Just remember, you don’t have to wear solid black pieces from head to toe.


Categories: Professionalism, You At Work
Originally published May 5, 2014
Last updated June 5, 2021
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Ryan Sullivan

Ryan Sullivan has been a trial lawyer for almost 14 years, practicing exclusively indigent criminal defense. A speaker, writer and trainer, Ryan believes a sense of humor and the ability to frame events positively, combined with solid professional skills, leads directly to career and business success. Her experience working and training others in challenging careers has given her the skills to manage the toughest customers, speak and present persuasively, and shine under stressful circumstances. Ryan and her husband have three children, three dogs and a home suspended in a perpetual state of DIY remodeling.

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