I know a few men who have discovered an interest in clothes in recent years – primarily suits, shirts, ties, good shoes. The working wardrobe, essentially. They know about the canvas in a jacket’s chest; they have established how and why something fits; they take a healthy interest in colour combinations. But extending this interest to weekend attire is difficult.

There are many reasons for this. One is that it is actually quite easy to dress when you wear one colour head to foot (a suit). Another is that there are obvious considerations of propriety in an office that constrain your choices. There are also rules, guidelines, traditions. These things become established when a dress code doesn’t change for decades.

But casual clothes change all the time. And it’s hard to understand how smarter clothes can be worn at the weekend without seeming stuffy. So the recourse is to jeans and a shirt, a sweater if it’s cold and whatever coat the weather outside might require. Not a jacket in sight.

While there are many options for materials outside of worsted wool (what most suits are made of) – tweed, linen, corduroy, moleskin – many men associate some or all of them with old men or, more specifically, their grandfather.

I suggest instead that they start in two places: cashmere for jackets and flannel for trousers.

Both are incredibly comfortable. People that wear tracksuit bottoms (sweat pants to Americans) should try wearing flannel. It feels better, looks better and doesn’t smell. (Wool beats cotton in most manifestations in that respect.) And you know how comfortable cashmere is. Try a nice pale grey or subtly patterned brown cashmere jacket, ideally in a really soft, light construction.

Perhaps you’re still a little wary. Certainly, the jacket and trousers together could seem too stuffy if you’ve worn anything remotely like this at the weekend before.

So here’s my final recommendation: try wearing one or the other. Pair that cashmere jacket with well-fitting jeans and suede brogues. The next day, wear the grey flannel trousers with a V-neck sweater and Chelsea boots. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a woollen pocket square to the jacket. Bring the whole thing up with a great watch and a great leather bag.

This is what I end up doing most weekends – adding a little sartorial style to what has to be more casual and practical clothing (you must be able to change a nappy or play in the park at a moment’s notice).

There are various posts on Permanent Style that could help with specifics, but try in particular ‘Five tips on trousers’ and ‘The modern man needs a good blazer’.

Image: The Sartorialist
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Richard

This is a really well observed article, Simon, and addresses one of a few subjects I think are sorely under-discussed in sartorial writing. Great ideas and the photo really demonstrates it well. I don’t think I’ll ever go for the jacket and jeans thing – too many associations. But I have been looking at flannel a bit recently for trousers. I assume we can wear the cashmere jacket with the flannel trousers? Oh, and do you have any recommendations on affordable places to get the jacket?

I think moleskin is a good trouser material to go with a jacket too – how do you feel about that?

Anonymous

Excellent article Simon and great advice. I particularly like wearing corduroy trousers with a merino wool or cashmere v-neck and oxford shirt. However, i’ve had trouble finding a really good pair of grey flannels in a slim-cut, low waist and flat front style. Any advice would be gratefully received.
Thanks,
James

Anonymous

Try Ede & Ravenscroft. I picked up a nice pair of just that description in their sale last week.

Anonymous

Thanks Simon, i will have a look. I have an excellent tailor so alterations aren’t a problem providing he has the raw materials!
Kind regards,
James

Anonymous

Pal zileri usually seem to have a nice line in flannel trousers that are flat front and nicely cut. I have two pairs, one in a mid grey and one in charcoal. Two of my favourite trousers. I almost bought a pair of Borrelli flannel jeans a while ago, I wonder about those still but I decided they were neither fish nor foul….

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
This post is an opportunity to raise a related issue absolutely worth considering! Indeed, if you took a look at today academics’ business wardrobe, what you depict here as weekend casual wear, would be seen as their smartest workwear, I am afraid! Honestly, I don’t remember having seen many in suits except when participating on conferences, symposia and such stuffs. 50 years ago, it was different! Frankly, I really do not think anymore that the current tide could ever be turned! So under such conditions, I wonder whether the best way to be helpful to those folks and all those within this milieu, who might be sartorially inclined, wouldn’t it be to see about how they could best navigate between what in the city is seen as friday casual and something a little bit (!) smarter. There is however no problem for, say, ties, shirts, socks or even shoes, since for those as myself who are well crafted Britsh footwear devotees,nothing could make us change our mind in this respect. But beyond that, what then, when it comes to jackets and trousers specifically? Please, do forget pocket squares and bowties! Indeed,for more than 20 years I have been lucky enough to meet five professors wearing bow ties: two in Germany, one in France,and two in Sweeden! Is there any chance to redeem these folks too?
Thanks,
John

Anonymous

Jacket and jeans? Sorry, too sloaney. Trousers and no jacket? Standard hedge fund uniform.

I would say wear both. And the key to not looking like an old fuddy duddy is not material – it’s cut, colour and attitude. With attitude being most important. If (as will frequently occur) you find yourself the only man in the room wearing jacket and trousers rather than t-shirt and jeans, do not think “I’m overdressed” or (worst) “I look like a prat”. Rather, reassure yourself that you are the only person there dressed properly – dressed like a man – instead of like a teenager.

And actually, what’s wrong with dressing like an old man. Here’s one for starters: http://www.thesartorialist.com/photos/the-armani-question/

NCJack

Tweed!

Anonymous

Simon

I’ve some flannel trousers that I’d like to wear with a mid weight cashmere roll neck. Are there any guidelines when matching knitwear colour to trousers? Generally, jackets are darker than the trousers they’re worn with. Does this rule apply to knitwear? I’m torn between a navy, light grey or burgundy jumper to go with mid brown flannel trousers. Any suggestions? If it helps, I’ll not be wearing a jacket with the outfit.

Thanks.

Anonymous

What about texture in the jumper? Ideally, I’d like a cable knit roll neck but may have to settle for a plain knit. Do you think the latter would still be ok?