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The Presidential Gray

  • Najib Benouar

No, we’re not talking about Obama’s hair color.

We’re talking about suits. So far we’ve seen a lot of navy on the campaign trail this election season, but the equally “safe” suit color of gray has been totally avoided on stage. It was once a White House favorite (see President Truman and his gray-swathed Cabinet above). But politicians have been afraid of the gray debate suit ever since an ill-fated Nixon showed up to the first televised debates in a light charcoal suit that looked so much like the stage backdrop on black-and-white television, the producers quickly repainted it minutes before airtime (the paint was still wet, and Nixon still faded away).

But we think today, with the debate stage backdrop usually some form of dark blue (and you know, color TV), showing up in a gray suit would have the opposite effect—leaving the candidate in the navy suit to fade into the background. (Perhaps a Reagan-esque brown suit could be even more impactful.)

Though you’ll still have to choose your tie color wisely.

Owning the Presidential Gray

Much has been made of Obama’s graying hair this year. Seth Meyers likened the president to "Louis Gossett Senior." Gawker hinted at a dye job cover-up. Even the first lady chimed in on the matter, admitting she finds Barack’s salt way sexier than his pepper.

Once again, we’re with Michelle: the natural evolution of a gentleman’s hair color is to be embraced at any age, regardless of profession—particularly given how disastrous failed attempts at masquerading the inevitable can be.

Embracing the gray: Exhibits A through E...»

Incidental Style


We’re not sure how planned out this particular scene is, but we will say that this gentleman from Phnom Penh is by far the most stylish Cambodian metal-worker we’ve ever seen...and we’ve seen quite a few.

Most surprising of all, the occasional silver polish smudge only makes it work better. Of course, this kind of stylish dishevelment takes years to master—especially that frayed pant leg—but starting off with a rugged gray cloth certainly doesn’t hurt.

There’s a lot to learn from the chap, but our takeaways were as follows: 1) sternum-level buttons work a lot better than you’d think, and 2) match your suit to whatever’s likeliest to stain it. (Time to order that Burgundy three-piece.)



The club collar has been having quite the resurgence lately, so it’s nice to see one that’s still on the rack—and without the usual banker-style color contrast.

This faded gray oxford from Patrik Ervell sums up the appeal pretty well. It’s not flashy, but the rounded collar gives it a subtle nineteenth century feeling that’s hard to get without looking like you’re in costume. The subtle gray is just unusual enough to be remarkable, even under the standard issue black suit.

Get ready to see a lot more of these.

Dyed in the Wool


The gray wool pant doesn’t get much credit as a wardrobe staple, but it’s every bit as versatile as those cords. It may give off a bit of a Ward Cleaver vibe at times…but now that we think about it, Ward was a pretty stylish guy.

This pair comes from Wings + Horns and boasts a subtly tapered leg and an almost invisible blue thread in the fabric. An entire suit of it might be too formal, too busy, or just too warm…but a pair of trousers is just about right.

Provided you aren't afraid of showing a little sock.

Get Severe


Men.Style just posted another of their ridiculously influential trend reports. This time around it’s titled “The New Severity,” and while it’s all new enough, we’re not buying the severity part.

As usual, the slideshow tries to trace the common threads between this season’s runway shows, items, and architectural projects, but when it comes time to tie the whole thing together, they come up short. Everyone who’s looked at a stock ticker recently is feeling severe, but all the Condé crowd can come up with on the runways is that there are a few more acute angles going around, and there’s an awful lot of gray and black. But…isn’t there always?

And if this Duckie Brown jacket projects anything but Old Vegas opulence, we’re certainly missing it.

Oh Yoko


Yoko Devereaux has always been more concerned with forward-thinking style than wearability, so there are more than a few items in the latest batch that would look out of place on the sidewalk. But if you’re looking for the sweet spot between futuristic moon suits and the everyday staples, we suggest the gray jacket in the middle, or the high-cut blazer on the right. (We’re seeing a lot more of those lately…)

And we can always use more high-cropped pants.



Veja has been around a while, but the fair trade sneaker company (and favorite of Josh Spear) has finally graduated from Adidas knockoffs and produced something worth buying for non-charitable reasons.

Behold the Grid. The color is “moonrock” and the look is decidedly spaceman-inspired. It's simple, stripped-down, and just offbeat enough to warrant a second look from whoever you happen to be meeting. And, naturally, it blends perfectly with the rest of your monochromatic ensemble.

And just because it’s French doesn’t mean you’ll have to pay shipping charges. Click through for a list of stateside locations»