What is a Sharkskin Suit?

man wearing Grey sharkskin suit outfit

Written by Sonia Su

Few garments evoke the timeless elegance and allure of the sharkskin suit. With its sleek, glossy texture and rich history, the sharkskin suit has left an indelible mark on the world of formal and sophisticated dressing.

In this article, we explore sharkskin suits, covering their origins and defining characteristics, while also uncovering the secrets to wearing them with style and confidence.


Origins of the Sharkskin Suit

Sharkskin suits have a long and interesting history that dates back to the early 20th century. These suits are known for their distinctive, glossy appearance—hence the name, rather than use of actual shark skin.

They became particularly popular in the mid-20th century as a symbol of sophistication and formal style.

Sharkskin suit


Here's a brief overview of the origins of the sharkskin suit:

Material Innovation

The term "sharkskin" originally referred to the fabric used in making these suits. The material was typically a blend of wool and mohair or rayon. The unique texture of sharkskin fabric was achieved through a special weaving technique that created a smooth, shiny surface reminiscent of a shark skin.

Early 20th Century Emergence

Sharkskin suits began to emerge in the early 20th century, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s. During this time, they were primarily worn by stylish men who wanted to make a fashion statement. The sleek and luxurious appearance of sharkskin fabric made these suits stand out from more traditional options.

Post-World War II Boom

Sharkskin suits gained even more popularity in the post-World War II era. As the economy improved and people had more disposable income, there was a growing interest in fashionable clothing. Hollywood stars and celebrities often donned sharkskin suits, further fueling the trend.

Iconic Style of Sharkskin

The 1950s and early 1960s are often considered the peak of sharkskin suit fashion. These suits were characterized by their narrow lapels, tapered pants, and tight-fitting silhouette. They were commonly worn by Rat Pack members like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, contributing to their iconic status.

Harry S. Truman sharkskin suit

Fall and Rise of the Sharkskin Suit

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, fashion trends shifted away from the slim-fitting, glossy appearance of sharkskin suits. Wider lapels and looser fits became the norm. This shift in fashion led to a decline in the popularity of sharkskin suits.

However, sharkskin suits experienced a resurgence in popularity in the early 2000s, as fashion trends often revisit and revive classic styles. Designers and tailors began reintroducing sharkskin suits with modern cuts and updated styles, making them appealing to a new generation of fashion-conscious individuals.

Contemporary Appeal

Today, sharkskin suits continue to be appreciated for their unique texture and elegant appearance. They are a great addition to any suit collection to wear for special occasions and formal events. We also recommend these 7 best suit colors to have when shopping for a power suit.


What is a Sharkskin Suit?

Sharkskin suits are a type of men's formalwear known for their distinctive appearance and texture. Here are the defining characteristics of sharkskin suits:

  • Fabric Texture: Sharkskin suits are made from a special type of wool or wool-blend fabric that has a smooth, shiny, and sleek texture. This texture resembles the rough skin of a shark, hence the name "sharkskin."
    Blue sharkskin suit
  • Sheen: The most noticeable feature of sharkskin suits is their subtle sheen. This sheen is achieved by using a combination of fine and coarse threads in the fabric weave, creating a reflective quality that sets it apart from traditional wool suits.
  • Color Variety: Sharkskin suits come in a wide range of colors, from classic shades like black, navy, and grey to more vibrant options like royal blue, burgundy, and silver. This versatility allows wearers to choose a shade that suits their personal style and occasion.
  • Formal Appearance: While sharkskin suits can be versatile, they are often considered a more formal choice compared to regular wool suits. The combination of the sleek texture and sheen lends an elegant and sophisticated look, making them suitable for special events, weddings, and business occasions.
    Gray sharkskin suit
  • Tailoring: Like other suits, the fit and tailoring of a sharkskin suit are crucial to its overall appearance. A well-fitted sharkskin suit enhances the wearer's silhouette and provides a sharp, polished look. Use our suit size calculator to find your size.
  • Occasion: Sharkskin suits are typically reserved for dressier occasions, such as weddings, formal parties, and business meetings. They may not be the best choice for casual events due to their formal appearance.
  • Comfort: Despite their sheen and formal appearance, sharkskin suits are often made with a blend of wool and synthetic materials, making them comfortable and suitable for year-round wear.
  • Versatility: While sharkskin suits are considered formal, they can be a versatile style depending on how they are styled. Pairing them with different shirts, ties, and accessories can make them appropriate for various settings and dress codes.

 Blue sharkskin suit

How to Wear a Sharkskin Suit with Confidence

Wearing a sharkskin suit can elevate your style and make a statement at formal or semi-formal events.

Here are some tips on how to wear a sharkskin suit with confidence:

  1. Choose the Right Occasion: Sharkskin suits are typically best suited for formal or semi-formal occasions like weddings, business meetings, galas, and upscale parties. Make sure the event calls for this level of attire.
  2. Select the Right Fit: Fit is crucial when it comes to any suit, and sharkskin suits are no exception. Ensure that your suit is tailored to fit your body properly. (Here's how long it takes to tailor a suit.) Pay attention to the jacket's shoulders, sleeve length, waist, and trouser length to achieve a polished, classic fit suit. For more, here's our guide on how to buy a suit, as well as our top suit brands.
    How a suit jacket should fit
  3. Shirt and Tie Combinations: Opt for a dress shirt that complements the color of your sharkskin suit. Classic white, light blue, and pastel shades are safe choices. Here are our picks for professional dress shirts.

    When it comes to ties, you can choose a solid or light color tie, subtle patterns, or textured ties to add depth to your outfit. Check out this classic black tie and navy floral tie, as well as our guides on the best ties for navy suits and best suit colors for men.
  4. Shoes and Accessories: Coordinate your shoes with your suit. For darker sharkskin suits like black or charcoal, black leather shoes are a safe bet. Lighter or neutral color suits can be paired with brown or burgundy shoes. Accessorize with a leather belt that matches your shoe color, and consider adding cufflinks for an extra touch of elegance. Here's our guide on how to wear a blue suit with brown shoes.
  5. Keep It Tidy: Ensure your suit is clean, well-pressed, and wrinkle free. Proper care and maintenance will keep your sharkskin suit looking its best.
  6. Personal Style: Don't be afraid to incorporate your personal style into your outfit. Whether it's a pocket square, a unique tie knot, or a stylish lapel pin, adding a touch of your personality can make your look more memorable. These are the most popular pocket square folds to try.
    pocket square fold
  7. Practice Wearing It: If you're not used to wearing formal suits, practice wearing your sharkskin suit before the actual event. This will help you get comfortable in it and make any necessary adjustments.

Remember that wearing a sharkskin suit is all about exuding confidence and sophistication. With the right fit, styling, and attention to detail, you can make a lasting impression at any formal occasion.


Frequently Asked Questions about Sharkskin Suit Jacket

What is a sharkskin suit?

A sharkskin suit is a type of men's suit made from a fabric with a glossy, smooth texture that resembles the shark skin. This material is typically a blend of wool and mohair or synthetic fibers, giving the suit a luxurious sheen and a distinctive, elegant appearance.

Is a sharkskin suit formal?

Yes, a sharkskin suit is considered formal attire. It's a classic choice for formal occasions such as weddings, galas, and business events, thanks to its sleek and polished appearance.

What type of fabric is sharkskin?

Sharkskin fabric is typically a blend of wool and mohair or a combination of wool and synthetic fibers. It is known for its smooth, glossy texture, which is achieved through a special weaving technique, and it often features a subtle two-tone appearance.

When were sharkskin suits in style?

Sharkskin suits first gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, becoming a symbol of mid-century men's fashion. They experienced a resurgence in the 21st century as a retro and vintage-inspired fashion choice.

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