In an age where suits no longer dominate the workplace, more and more men are wearing separate jackets and trousers. But while the dress code is more relaxed, the outfit is suddenly more complicated. There is much broader range of cloth, colour and pattern to choose from, and two decisions to make, rather than one. It doesn’t help that the suit is the worst place to start from:  almost nothing is going to go with your navy jacket or trousers.


The key to wearing separates is contrast. Both items must clearly be differentiated from each other. The easiest way to do this is through colour, then pattern. Design details such as contrasting buttons and patch pockets can also help differentiate the jacket from a suit. And although contrast in cloth is also worth considering, more often keeping the two materials similar in their formality is the best option.




First, colour. Grey flannels and cream summer trousers have always been popular as separate trousers because they are neutral in colour and provide sufficient contrast to any dark jacket. In my case, above, the pale-grey flannels are even more versatile, and contrast with the brown Rubinacci jacket where a darker grey would not.

This of course leads to the classic separates outfit: navy blazer and grey trousers. Bear in mind, however, that any navy suit jacket will not work as a blazer – it needs something to set it apart from a suit, such as brighter/paler buttons or patch pockets.


A stronger blue not normally associated with a suit would work, as would a strong pattern such as a windowpane check (see image at top).




Colour is always the easiest thing to vary, however. Mariano Rubinacci does so admirably above with a gingery linen jacket (Happy Birthday Mariano…), while Luca Rubinacci prefers stronger colours.


Note, too, that the materials are similar in their formality – and for formality, read roughness. Mariano’s linen jacket with his fresco trousers; my donegal-cashmere with flannels; Luca’s linen/silk jacket with gabardine: all have a similar-enough texture on bottom and top. The only exception, I find, is when the materials might be too similar to allow contrast. My Liverano jacket, for example, works best with smoother gabardine or worsted trousers.

See also post here with large selection of photos (only some of them of me…).

If you’re starting from scratch, keep it simple: just grey trousers, perhaps mid-grey flannels and pale-grey frescos; then any dark jacket that is obviously not part of a suit. Once you start looking around, you’ll find plenty of other combinations you’ll want to mimic. 


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Anonymous

Are there any tips you can bestow on how to tell what fabric it is from a photograph? For example Mariano’s green jacket looks like linen to me as it looks slightly rougher and a little creased but that is just me hazarding a guess. Also the construct can make the material appear a lot heavier/lighter than it actually is.
Thanks,
Sam

Zo

Sorry to dig out an old post…asuming you still hold this view! Can you explain when you say jacket and trousers should have similar external finish for a successful match? For example match hospack with worsted wool trousers (both shiny finish) as opposed to a grey flannel/brushed cotton (dull finish)? Ignoring the seasonal mismatch obviously.

Zo

Sure thanks it does. At what point does the finish of trousers make them unsuitable to wear as separates?

Mark

Hi Simon,

I note that most of your examples involve lighter pants and a darker jacket. Do you think the reverse is just as easy to pull off — a lighter jacket paired with darker pants? Say, strong-blue pants with a light grey jacket?

Cheers,
Mark

George

Hi Simon,
I am considering getting a mid grey blazer, in a sort of hopsack like fabric and patch pockets. While it is clearly not part of a suit, I am still dubious on how to pair it. In my mind mid grey should be the most versatile colour there is, but it does look odd next to navy chinos, green chinos and perhaps denim.
I already own two navy and one red blazer, hence the addition. Thoughts?

Mark

Thanks Simon.

Matt Spaiser

I have a light grey herringbone jacket, a tan and charcoal herringbone jacket, a black and white plaid jacket and a mid-grey Donegal Tweed jacket that are all great with charcoal trousers. In summer I wear a cream linen jacket and a tan silk/cotton jacket with navy or brown trousers. I find that it goes both ways very easily. I don’t have so many dark jackets apart from navy blazers.

Anonymous

Simon,

Very nice coloured light grey trousers in your second picture! Where (Maker or Bunch) are they from please?

Best, Laurent

Maria Calò

the best grey for sports trousers is Pearl grey flannel but I cannot find the fabric anywhere, its a great colour in flannel, also brilliant as a suit, anyone got a source

Mark Walker

Once again, Simon, an excellent post about separates.

I struggle with finding flannel trousers, often just ending up with grey wool rather than what I think are proper flannels.

What brands would you recommend and what are the watchouts to make sure I am selecting the right style/ fabric?

Thanks

Mark

Matthew Pike

It’s not something I’ve been able to perfect so well just yet, I’ll keep trying. It’s an interesting subject.

Anonymous

Nice article, but I disagree with the idea that a suit jacket can’t be re-invented as an odd jacket.

D.

Anonymous

You mention the more casual office dress code. That often means mid grey to charcoal pants (with shades of brown and navy in rotation). Generally speaking not light colored trousers. Any suggestions for jacket colors?

Anonymous

Very sensible advice, thanks. As an aside, what are your feelings on sleeve dressing on odd jackets. Where do you weigh in on the 1-4 button range?

confuseddasher

Simon- first time to your blog, which is a wealth of information. Nice tip on how to wear separate jackets and trousers. I have a feeling this is more of an European than American kind of thing, but it’s still a great way to go nonetheless.

adela

You are so awesome! I don’t think I’ve read something like this before. So nice to discover someone with a few unique thoughts on this subject. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is something that’s needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!|

Anonymous

well, i have this one button dark shiny blazer and it looks really good. however my trousers don’t fit where as my blazer fits perfectly. i was wondering what can i wear with is blazer.i have an formal event to attend to in the near future. my initial thoughts were black trousers with a white shirt and the grey blazer. Or the option of a different shade of grey which would be darker and not shiny accompanied with a similar colour waistcoat and then my grey jacket. of course i really need your help as it will finally allow me to figure what im going to wear. so can you please help me??thank you

Michael

Great article! Any advice of what type and colour trousers to wear with a grey herringbone tweed jacket?

Regards,

Michael

guest

PLEASE don’t show sports jackets, blazers and even suits worn with open-necked shirts! This style may be popular but it is sloppy and unfinished.

guest

PLEASE don’t wear this combination with an open-necked shirt, which (however popular it may be at present) looks sloppy, unfinished and incongruous. If not a tie, wear a roll-collar jumper (turtle-neck sweater).

Anonymous

How would you feel about a pin stripe jacket with a different pair of trousers?

David

What’s the opinions on wearing patterned trousers, with a tweed coat, so for example grey check with navy tweed blazer? Or check trousers with a tiny checked blazer? Or is the rule generally self coloured trousers with a patterned sports blazer?

Sean

Hi Simon. I’m struggling with finding a jacket colour to go with some trousers. They’re an earthy grey/brown. Would a patterned dark charcoal work? Or should I steer more towards navy?

Sean

In fact they’re a very similar colour and texture to the brown blazer being matched with grey trousers in the above picture

khan

Do you think mix matching trousers and jackets for a more formal event is a good idea. Lets say for a wedding party (as a guest).

IB

For a dark/medium dark grey jacket, which clearly is not a part of a suit but not casual by any means, what color would you recommend if staying on the more formal side?

Tiffany

I’m having a little trouble. I just started work and I’ve been putting together random pants and blazers I previously owned. The dress code is business professional. Although no one has said anything, compared to the matching suits they wear I feel more like I have business casual. I’m 5’9 so I’m more likely to wear flats also. What do you think? Should I try better to match things up or is it ok to wear separates?

Brian

Hi Simon, I’ve had a beautiful herringbone charcoal jacket for about a year. Dilemma is finding the proper trousers to match. Found a pair of checkered light greys which kind of look okay, but lack the ‘wow’ effect I’m looking for. I’m hesitant to wear brown trousers 🙁

Brian

Thank you. Simon. Off I go to seek plain greys. .:) I placed them against a pair of black trousers and they looked really odd. Weird because herringbone has traces of black in it, so I thought it would work .Strange how this color palette works. 🙂

Brian

Just re-read my post…almost didn’t make sense. What I placed against a pair of black trousers was the herringbone jacket..

WN

It would be a good idea to kill the connection between suits and business. What exactly is a “business suit”?! It’s just a normal part of the wardrobe of a gentleman. Better remember instead the name “lounge suit”, and all the sudden you might enjoy to wear a suit more often…

Dean Rowntree

Hi, I’m relatively new to this, so I hope I could get some advice. I picked up a jacket in a sale, seemed like a good deal. No trousers available though. It is a dark navy blue with black satin peak lapels, a single-button tuxedo jacket tailored from a textured blend. Is there anything you could recommend I pair it with?
Thank you,
Dean

Dean Rowntree

Thank you for the advice Simon, appreciate that.

Chris

Hi Simon

First of all thank you for all you’ve put into this blog. It has been most informative and educational. As regards odd jackets, a friend has passed me a length of dark brown kid mohair/wool blend that it nice and porous. However, there is only enough fabric to make either a jacket or a pair of trousers but not both. I know that most would say that mohair might be too shiny for a casual-ish summer garment, but do you think a dark brown mohair/wool sports coat could work?

Cheers,
Chris

Chris

Hi Simon

Thanks for your input. Having looked at it more closely, it does seem more starchy than the worsteds I’ve handled. Having said, I don’t suppose you might think that the detailing (patch pockets, lighter coloured buttons) may offset the formality a little?

Best, Chris

Anonymous

My suit jacker is a lighter black compared to my slacks. Both are black just that my slacks are darker. Would it be weird if I wear them both to a formal event? Thanks.

Mark W

Hi Simon

Another great article and particularly useful to me, as I often wear a Herringbone jacket very similar to http://goo.gl/5jMLfG for work. Usually with a dark polo neck or slim fit shirt.

In the past I’ve always gone for darker trousers/smart jeans, recently however I’ve invested in a pair for Cheaney dark leaf coloured shoes and I’m slightly concerned that dark trousers would no longer look right with mid brown (conker coloured) shoes.
Is there any colour trousers/smart jeans that would work well with the Herringbone jacket and the brown shoes? Should i go for a lighter colour perhaps?
Thanks in advance, Simon

Mark W

Thanks for your advice, Simon. I think I’ll take a look at some creams/lighter greys etc.

Out of interest, what’s you view of burgundy coloured jackets with a subtle check pattern? Troublesome colour to match, perhaps? Seems to be a colour that many people avoid in favour of the classic blue. Really just interested to hear your views.

John

Just brought Raging bull Herringbone Blazer – Blue over Check. Please advise on jeans or chinos and colour, shirt and shoes.

John

Thank you

Ben Johnson

Hi Simon,
It would be interesting to see a post on “advanced” combinations, like how to wear the same shade top and bottom.

David Bresch

What looks best with a bright green tweed jacket? How about a summer-weight gun check? Finally a traditional POW (light brown)? A powder blue fresco? My tailor has narrow tastes where odd jackets are concerned, are their national differences in color matching? Btw vis a vis the unfinished look of open necked shirt with odd jacket or suit, only very few doctors at my hospital are wearing ties and jackets, maybe 25%. Times change. I would never say my open neck is superior to a tie but comfort is becoming more important to physicians.

Barak Cohen

Simon,

I had a brief question about the term “flannel.” Do you mean to conflate woolen and worsted flannel, which I understand to be different? Or should they be considered differently when thinking about how to pair odd coats and trousers?

Shem

Hey Simon,

Assuming I am buying my first suit and am planning to get one which I can use pref for 4 season wear and the jacket as a separate, which fabric and weight would you recommend? I’m planning to go for a navy suit with patch pockets to make the jacket more casual…

Steve crammond

Ive a check blue waistcoat and jacket and brown check trousers.
I think it works but something tells me its not quite right.??

Chris

Hi Simon,

What fabrics to you recommend for a sport jacket and trousers that I can wear in both spring and fall seasons?

And summer as well?

Thank You.

Anonymous

Simon, have you ever matched hopsack with hopsack where the color and finish differ? E.g., tan hopsack trousers in a very light wool with a gray silk-wool hopsack jacket? Or is the similarity of the weave problematic?

Anonymous

I am aware that this is a no-no, but I had a navy suit with light blue pinstripes.
The pants were destroyed and I want to use the jacket as a separate, despite it being a bad idea.
I am not going for perfection, just want to get some mileage from the jacket and not look like a train wreck. Greys? MY clientele is not really aware of suit fashion, but professionals in my line like of work are expected to wear ties. My partner and I wear jeans and sports jackets occasionally, so our dress code is fairly loose and some of our clients have expressed appreciation when we don’t look like the “other guys.”
Provides some room for experimentation/imperfection. Any suggestions?

Rups

Hi Simon, I’ve recently had a blazer made in a beautiful deep blue kid mohair cloth. It’s probably a couple of shades lighter than midnight blue. Wondering if I can pair it with charcoal trousers or if that would result in blending with one another. I’ve noticed most men go mid grey flannel but I’ve already got charcoal ones sitting in the closet. If I could go back I’d go for a lighter blue but at that moment in the shop I just instinctively went for this cloth.

Julian

Pardon me for hijacking an old thread, but would an odd jacket in French blue wool/linen/silk cloth work well with mid-grey trousers in a similar wool/linen/silk material? Or are the cloths ‘too matching’?

I’ve followed your blog for the better part of this decade and it is just a wonderful repository of incredibly useful insights and information. Please keep it up!

Julian

Many thanks! What kind of cloth would you suggest for trousers to complement a wool/linen/silk odd jacket? Off-hand, I’m thinking perhaps Finmeresco?

Rups

Simon I was wondering if you had any tips on what trouser fabric to wear with a dark navy mohair hopsack blazer. I’ve tried to pair with flannels but the jacket looks a little too sharp for more casual flannel cloth. Would a cavalry twill/whipcord or something else work better?

Anonymous

Hi Simon, my husband is going to a wedding in Paris soon and though not usually concerned about clothes, he wants to look stylish. He has a formal charcoal grey jacket. What would you pair it with – navy or pale grey trousers and striped shirt? Thanks.

Alex N.

Dear Simon,
Would you combine a high twist sports jacket with a high twist odd trouser? I am currently combining VBC 4-ply sports jacket with a Mid-grey Cavalry twill and works very well. But how do I expand? Linen is great for summer, and flannel for winter, but if I looking for something spring/autumn appropriate, what would you suggest? Would Gaberdine work?
Alex N.

Rupesh

Hi Simon,

Could you wear light grey trousers or navy as well as cream with your su jacket in dark brown Crispaire fabric, which you had commissioned with Dalcuoure.

Thanks

Rupesh

Peter

Hi Simon – I have mid grey flannels, charcoal flannels, heavy twill beige cottons, mid grey high-twist, and cream linen trousers. Living in London. What would you go for next do you think? I’m wondering about lighter weight brown or olive cotton for spring/summer and cavalry drill for winter?

Severin

Hi Simon, just stumbled over this very interesting article!
I have a very nice navy blazer with a subtle dark brown windowpane check, which is perfectly paired with grey trousers. Yet, I was thinking about changing the look a bit and was wondering if plain dark navy trousers would match the jacket?
Brown corduroy trousers could also look good, I guess…
Thanks for your ideas!
Severin