suit jacket and jeans

Ted: In reference to your post on building a wardrobe, if the man in question mostly gets navy and grey suits, does he need to buy sport coats? He can just use the suit jackets and mix and match.

The short and simple answer, Ted, is no. He can’t.

Suit jackets rarely look right as odd (or sports) jackets. Think about the material of the suit jackets we are talking about. It is smooth, worsted wool (at least with the first five suits in the wardrobe). An odd jacket is normally made of a rougher material – flannel, tweed, linen. Or at the least, thicker material – cashmere, cotton. In the image above, the jacket would work much better with the jeans if it was in one of these more casual materials.

An odd jacket works well with casual trousers such as chinos, flannels or jeans. This is because they are rougher materials and more casual as a result. A suit jacket looks out of place.

Not all suits are of fine, worsted wool of course. The thicker and rougher the material of the suit, the better the jacket will work separately. So a flannel suit, a tweed suit, a linen suit.

Material is the most important factor. Next most important is pattern, followed by colour. Any check on a jacket makes it look more casual; a pinstripe is intrinsically formal. As to colour, the paler the colour the more casual it is.

So a flannel jacket in dark-grey pinstripe would not work well separately, despite its rough material. And if you really want to wear a worsted wool jacket separately, best to have it in tan with a windowpane check.

I myself have a navy blue, worsted jacket that is all that is left of an old suit. It fits very well and would be a shame to throw out. Despite its smoothness of material and dark colour, it is helped by having a wide windowpane check: that makes it a touch casual. I think it works as a separate jacket, but only just. Only when worn with relatively smooth trousers – cream cotton, for example.

So the long answer to your question, Ted, is maybe – as long as you keep the relative formality of the jacket and trousers close together. The safest option by far is to keep your odd jacket a casual one, in a casual material, colour and pattern. That increases the number of combinations available.

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Simon – I propose you change the buttons on your left-over blue jacket, for example to a brushed silver style. This will help make it more of a stand-alone piece.

Diego Rafael

“as long as you keep the relative formality of the jacket and trousers close together.”

this is the key, correct? assuming a wool pant of color A with a suit jacket of color B, this mix/match can be pulled off if the fit and color are in harmony, no?

Arctic Penguin

I can see where you’re coming from, but I have to disagree, but not generally, simply in terms of particulars. I think the cut of the jacket is far more pertinent to the use of a jacket as a separate than its material. A jacket used as a separate should be cut slightly shorter than a jacket might be traditionally for a business suit. It’s roominess in this instance is also less forgiving, as the general fit of the jacket which matches the trousers used in the suit might not be so matched to jeans or other kinds of pants (trousers, sorry).

For instance, I love wearing one of my suit jackets as a separate and it works wonderfully. It is a wool worsted, but is is a darker grey composed of black and white threads woven in a very tiny square pattern (not a pattern really so much as it is a texture), as opposed to threads blended to be grey in themselves. But it is cut in a more modern style than many of my other suits, which tend to have slightly larger lapels, it is about an inch shorter, and the waist has more shape to it. It works fabulously with a pair of straight-legged jeans, no pre-wash or any of that, and in certain lighting I’ve actually been asked if the jeans and jacket were cut as part of a single ensemble.

I really think it’s a matter of blending colors and fit, as you so often point out. I think this is a rule that stands to be broken effectively if one attends to the details, the particulars, though I can certainly sympathize with the attitude that many men do this haphazardly.

When I pair this same jacket with either the vest or trousers that it came with, it dresses up very formally, given the whole choice of ties and pocket squares, or alternately swapping the vest for a sweater. But it is very versatile and in the future I will simply pay more attention to the cut of the suit to achieve this versatility. My earlier suits I simply got with no intention of using them as separates, and indeed the idea was then to me anathema. Of course, at that time, I hadn’t yet discovered your blog.

But I digress: I personally think that given certain aesthetic considerations, chief among them proportion, suit jackets work wonderfully as odd jackets. One only then risks loving the jacket with too many outfits and thereby runs a greater chance of wearing it our prematurely.


Simon, thanks for taking the time to respond to my question. I am also in the process of building a business wardrobe (I am a law student) and find these forums very helpful.

As it is now, I have a glen plaid, a navy stripe, and a charcoal stripe suit, all Brooks Brothers, all second hand (but in great shape and tailored to fit). I also have two cotton suits, one from Simon Copley and another from Brooks Brothers. Medium and charcoal gray. I also have a houndstooth odd jacket from Burberry’s, but I find it a bit loud.

It seems that my next two suit purchases will surely be a solid navy suit as well as a charcoal grey or medium grey suit. It seems that at that point my business wardrobe will be off to a running start! Then, a flannel or tweed grey suit. THAT, I imagine can be used as an odd jacket.

Again, thanks.


Thanks, Simon. One of the problems I have with regard to the price/quality conundrum is that it seems that the correlation is not always exact. For example, new Brooks Brothers or Polo suits retail for around $1000 (give or take), but I’m frankly not sure of the quality (they make so many that I can only imagine). If the quality is no better than something from, say, Jos A. Banks or Joseph Abboud, then why spend the extra money?

I wish that there was a publication that matched quality to price, so I knew whether a Zagna or Hickey Freeman was really worth $1400, or an Oxxford or Paul Smith worth $2000, for example. But I digress…

Danny McKinney

When I wear a Turtle neck collar-shirt with a Tie ? And Jeans together, it helps me look Casual on a Sunday Morning.


How is grey crispaire h&s? It is worsted but i think its thick and rough enough to wear separatly.


Since the age of this post, would you still stand by everything you wrote or would you amend some points?

Lindsay McKee

Here’s an interesting question? I’ve had the privilege to be invited to no less than two royal garden parties!!
Dress code:- lounge suit. Is that requirement de rigour or can you dare to get away with separates if you don’t have a suit?

Lindsay McKee

Correction, those were past invites.,not upcoming ones. For others who may be invited to an event, not necessarily a royal one where a dress code other than say, a formal white or black tie dress code is required, I assume that a suit, rather than separates, would be essential.