Royal Blue vs Navy Blue: How to Wear Blue

Patterns and colors change with the season, hems lengthen or shorten, and silhouettes widen or go thinner, but throughout every trend, there’s always one notion with some degree of truth: Whether it's royal or navy, you can’t ever go wrong with blue.

Light blue button-down on the job? Whether it’s with chinos, flat-front pants, or even nice jeans, your look’s dress-code approved. For that client meeting, a navy suit will never do you wrong – even if your button-up has a print. In between that, royal blue makes its mark as a casual shade — and easily does double-duty for a wedding.

But, as you can see from these examples, blue’s application is never uniform. Darker versions suit some situations better than others, but for lighter occasions, on the other hand, navy’s a tad too dour – unless paired with the right print and accessories.

As a guide, we’ve put together a few key points for understanding how to truly wear blue.

How to Wear Blue: A Guide for Men

Popular Blues in Mens Fashion

Royal Blue

Royal, also referred to as the Queen’s blue and in modern times “Pitti blue” in reference to the fashion event, sits closer to sapphire and comes with purple to almost reddish undertones. In short, it’s a brighter, brilliant shade that frequently steps off the line into statement territory. As the name implies, too, more than a hint of regal-ness runs through its veins. Through a historical context, it’s closely associated with Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg, who once held a dress competition; the result featured the shade now referred to as “royal” blue.

Navy Blue

At perhaps the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s navy – oozing with military history and its strict, uniform implications like authority, order, and stability. Hence, we view it primarily as a dress shade that’s infinitely preferable to the funeral-leaning air of black.

Even today, the color’s associated with the British Royal Navy’s uniforms – once white but updated to navy in 1748. Other countries adopted this color – even until recently, the U.S. Navy’s camouflage pattern was navy based. Added to this, from a strictly American perspective, it’s still intertwined with the Union Army during the Civil War; the Confederates, by contrast, sported gray.

Indigo Blue

In between these two seeming but not entirely disparate extremes, you have indigo – practically a synonym for denim and one of the shades added to the LGBT pride flag. Initially based on natural dyes, indigo strictly as a color leans lighter than navy but doesn’t have the intensity and reddish undertones of royal.

When & Where to Wear Navy Blue vs Royal Blue

Royal Blue for Warmer-Weather Suiting

Whether it’s for a wedding, a party, or even just a night out clubbing in the city, a royal blue casual suit is the way to go when the temperatures warm up – whether as a full-on suit or even just an accent blazer. The color’s seeming sparkle matches the season without treading over to where red and orange just look “extra.” As such, it says “statement” and “sophistication” without a ton of “look at me” vibes.

Navy Blue: Always Well-Suited for the Office

No matter the season – and, let’s be honest, whether it’s cold or sweltering hot out, your office’s AC will be on full blast – navy projects the right amount of maturity for the office, any after-work networking events, and client meetings where you’re driving over to win that account. As detailed above, it’s formal but not stodgily so, it’s professional without seeming dated, and it’s ageless. There’s a chance that, down the line, your father and even your grandfather donned a navy suit – albeit with a significantly different cut – to make a similar impression. In short, you’re modern yet timeless, and your style’s on point without being too trendy.

Royal Blue for a Color Pop in Accessories

They’re what gives your outfit its pop. Too much goes overboard, but without a pocket square, jewelry, watch, or even statement socks, your suiting or even blazer-and-chinos combo lacks any swagger and, frankly, just plays it too safe.

So, with accessories essentially serving as accent pieces, go with royal for the most mileage. What’s the point of, say, a collar chain or pocket square when it’s just going to sit in the background? For drawing attention, anything with even warm undertones adds an automatic highlight.

Everything but Navy for Streetwear 

Really, in 2018, anything’s up for grabs. But, think about the last group of streetwear lookbooks you browsed through. That’s right – navy was pretty much absent, with only a dab added to a pattern. These days, streetwear and demure don’t intersect on the same Venn diagram, so leave the navy to your menswear digs, and play around with everything else – royal, Cerulean, sapphire, indigo, and robin’s egg – when you kick it casual.

Colors and Pairings for Navy and Royal Blue

Do you color-block or let a shade shine? Or, are you mired in dusty pastels and linen? To prevent an eyesore or unnecessary clashing, keep the following in mind:

Colors to Wear with Navy Blue

Navy’s basically black with a softer edge, so factor in the same rules. As such, it lets warm colors stand on their own, smoothly pairs with cooler greens and light blues, and lets patterns take center stage. At the same time, it adds depth to anything light – think pastels and white – and counterbalances yellow.

Colors to Wear with Royal Blue

Royal blue and indigo, by contrast, aren’t true neutrals. As such, they’re an equal match whenever you color-block and, similarly, create a blocky, broken-up look when you match them with white. Yet, because of this character, they don’t bring out the best in prints – rather, you have two statement pieces vying for the spotlight. However, they’re not so brilliant that you can’t match them with yellow, red, or even orange.

When you’re looking to accent a texture, such as velvet, tweed, or linen, a neutral hue like navy emphasizes the weave. With royal, however, the fabric ends up looking too busy.

For monochrome, unless you’re attempting to look like a highlighter or bottle of paint, navy works better as a head-to-toe combo. Royal and indigo, rather, play off neutrals better. As a tip, look toward Pitti Uomo’s street shots: A dash of tan and some white create a stable base for these colors to emerge.