What should I wear to a funeral?

I’ve been told that wearing black to a funeral is too formal. Or just for older people. What should I wear?

Abe – Minneapolis

Hi, Abe,

Maybe you’re asking this question theoretically. If you’ve lost someone recently, my sincere condolences.

When it comes to funerals, I’m an advocate of a classic look. Black tailored suit, crisp white shirt, black tie, black Oxfords.

A year ago I bought what I call my “death suit,” which for me is a memento mori and an acceptance of what these next few decades will look like. In our middle ages, we have to admit that the generation ahead of us, including our parents, will be moving on.

Some people may tell you that a black suit is too depressing. We should be celebrating a life well-lived! Yes, but you’re better off celebrating it with something that doesn’t draw attention to you. Here’s the thing. If you wear a black suit to a funeral, no one will remember afterwards. If you decide that in honor of your fun-loving Aunt Jeannie you’re going to wear a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, they will remember.

If you don’t like the stark contrast of the white shirt and the black suit, or if you’re on the pale side, like me, try a few different shirt and tie colors. If you’re a really white guy, go with grey, silver or light blue. Always matte, never shiny! Traditionally we’re not supposed to wear black and navy blue together, but I think a navy blue tie and light blue shirt works with a black suit. For a bit of respectful celebration, try pink. Whatever you do, never wear a black shirt and black suit. Not only is it too Matrix-y, but you could look like a floating head in any photos. Or disappear entirely if you’ve got a dark complexion.

If it’s a winter funeral, dress for it. Wear a black trench coat with a scarf complimenting the color in your shirt and tie. You don’t want to be that guy hunched over, hands jammed in his front pockets shivering graveside.  What you wear is an extension of the respect, honor, and celebration you feel towards the one you love. Stand tall. Move slowly. Smile. Shake hands warmly, not like you’re interviewing for a job. And please don’t think there’s anything unmanly about crying at a funeral. Always keep a handkerchief in your pocket.

-R.L.
Chop That Wood

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