Colour combinations, from casual to formal

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The colour combinations that we discuss every week in regards to formal wear, can be applied just as readily to casual wear. 

Although there will always be elements that don't crossover (such as the immense versatility of denim) a lot of the themes and lessons are the same. 

This post is an attempt to illustrate that, using a progression of outfits similar to those in our popular 'Which office are you?' post

M45 vietnam jacket style

1. Green, cream and navy

We start with a very casual outfit (for me, anyway). A green Vietnam-era M65 jacket, worn with navy sweater, cream denim and my beaten-up Common Projects. 

As mentioned in our post on trousers to wear with grey jackets, cream is a fantastically useful trouser colour, but not easy to wear in England (where it is rarely consistently bright and sunny).

White denim is even harder, as it has associations all its own. But this cream from Japanese maker Boncoura - stocked at Drake's - is a lot less bright, and has a big twill with subtle flecks in it that lends it a nice rugged quality. 

The knitwear is also one of my summer favourites: a very lightweight cotton/cashmere-mix hoodie from Anderson & Sheppard. Worn over a Sunspel grey T-shirt.

stefano bemer janus suede loafers

2. Brown suede slip-ons, rather than trainers

The outfit becomes considerably dressier when the most casual part - those trainers - is swapped for some dress shoes. 

Brown suede is probably the most versatile of casual materials in a dress shoe, and the slip-on keeps it summery.

These are from Stefano Bemer, machine made on my bespoke last. The style is called the Janus because of the supposedly two-faced contrast between the round toe shape and squared-off apron. 

denim shirt and M45 jacket

3. Shirt and sweater

The next most-casual element is that T-shirt and hoodie, so they are swapped for an open-necked shirt and crewneck sweater. 

Note that the colours are kept consistent throughout: if you know your cream trouser looks good with a green jacket and navy sweater, keep that palette but just dress up the pieces. 

The shirt is ready-made, from Phineas Cole at Paul Stuart. The knitwear from John Smedley. 

cream flannel bespoke trousersstefano bemer janus loafers and flannel trousers

4. Cream woollen trousers

One of the wonderful things about woollen trousers, such as flannel, is that they look immediately smart in an age when everyone is wearing denim. But actually they are quite casual - and appear so, making them very versatile. 

Any flannel would therefore happily work with this M65 jacket, the obviously worn-in nature of the one contrasting nicely with the sharp creases of the other. And even cream woollens, like this made in Holland & Sherry's super-heavy Pardessus cloth, work in that combination.

The trousers were made by Elia Caliendo, with some lovely finishing around the waistband and side buckles.

bespoke escorial jacket solito

5. Finally, tailoring

The last thing to change is that jacket, swapping for my olive-green Escorial jacket from Solito.

As with the 'Which office are you?' post, these items could have been swapped in different orders - the shirt could have replaced the hoodie one step earlier, for instance. But the jacket can really only come at the end (unlike that earlier piece) as the cream denim is too rough (and too wide in the leg) to sit comfortably underneath it. 

The important thing to remember is how different items can be swapped in the same colour combination, to alter its formality.

I particularly liked the olive-navy-and-cream combination here, but I could retain that while altering the formality to different days or occasions. And I could change it again replacing the brown suede loafers for oxfords, for instance.

Sunglasses by EB Meyrowitz. Vintage leather case from Bentleys.

M45 EB Meyrowitz bespoke sunglasses

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Very good follow-up to the “Which office…” post. It’s fascinating to see the same colour mood and general idea of casualness play out very differently but equally well going straight from the first foto to the last. I can easily see occasions for each.

Please keep these coming, Simon.


Which Smedley sweater is this please? Do you have experience with their different fits in pullovers (easy, standard, slim)? Thank you Simon


I must say that final combination is beautiful! I am continually trying to see what tailoring I can wear in informal scenarios, would you say this can be worn as standard weekend wear without seeming overtly formal due to the casual, muted colours?


Fantastic post. On this note, I am gradually building up my informal trouser collection, aka pieces to be worn with odd jackets and nicer knitwear, and I wondered what you think about the cream flannels. Do you think they have connotations with cricket or otherwise 1930s resort wear, or can they be worn as a legitimate alternative to the cream chino? Also, I wonder where they rank on the list of odd trousers? I have pale grey flannel and frescos and am wondering where to proceed? Thanks

Néstor Valiño Puigcerver

Very useful!

Love the Solito cut and style.



I’m just thinking, would this be more or less formal with either of the two grey trousers Thomas mentioned?


For casual weekend wear, how far along the list of jackets is this. I assume later than brown herringbone and navy, but what else goes before it?


Sorry, I meant is this the 4th jacket you buy when building a collection, or the 20th? The point about formality is interesting though.

Adam Jones

Really like that m65. Was it vintage? or have you just worn it in well yourself. I have looked at a few before but they look far to new, stiff and “clean”. In the milder months i tend to just wear a Burberry but it is far to dressy with dirty trainers and t shirt. I need something in between. I have tried a Barbour in the same style (trooper) but never really worked well, possibly the bulky-ness of the padding.


What size do you wear in the M65? I notice all the real ones have short-reg-long sizing.



Is there any chance to buy in London well cut cotton pleated trousers with side adjusters or I do need to go for bespoke ? I do not like the idea of buying trousers on line and in Italy side adjusters are very rare and many tailors (apart from the top ones) do not make trousers with side adjusters.

Nicholas M

Hi Simon – great article (as always). Love the M65 – where did you get it from? I’ve been after one for some time, but apart from brands like the Real McCoys have struggled to find any.

Also, and slightly / significantly off-topic, are you planning to do another Permanent Style annual for 2016? Was a big fan of the 2015 one..



Should the 1st outfit text read ‘navy hoody’ rather than ‘navy sweater’?


Dear Simon,

great post! Never thought you might wearing a casual combination like this. I like your post where the initial casual style becomes more sophisticated by changing a piece. Very inspiring! More of them


Hi Simon,
This is a great post! It’s really interesting to look at these various outfits up and downwards and pay attention indeed to the level of formality of each item, while keeping the harmony of the colors as a constant variable! Personally, I love these colors!



Not sure if this is the right place to ask this but I’ve been wondering about your opinion on this for a while. Out of all the mainstay colors for men – navy, grey, brown and green – it seems to me that there are not many options for the odd grey jacket in warm weather fabrics/patterns. Most of the grey options tend towards heavier material – tweeds, flannels, etc. With the exception of fresco, are there summer fabrics, patterns etc. that work well in grey?


Great and very valuable post, thank you, Simon!
Wouldn’t want to be too critical but in comparision with the ‘Which office…’ post, for me the pictures feel much more relevant (showing the evolution and the effect) when clothes are actually worn rather than laid together.


Great post Simon!!


Inspiried by your post I was lucky to find a jacket which has a M65 style, but with little different details . I have found it in Lucca in the beatiful Tuscany in a small shop which runs only their own designed garments. I haven’t found an internet address …it’s called Stefano Veneziani, maybe worth to take a look for all who where looking for a m65 jacket.


Hi Simon

Have you considered colours against skin tone? I tried to read up on this over Christmas but most content is focused towards women and make up. I’ve noticed that certain shades flatter me more, whilst others can make me look washed out. But I’m struggling to join the dots and build a reliable wardrobe taking into account this dimension.



Thanks Simon!


Dear Simon,

White denim: What do you think about?

Thanks a lot for your answer


Hi simon
Can you let me know which style navy Smedley you are wearing in this post or that you would recommend. Building on your recent casual wardrobe post i’d Like to get a versatile navy crew (20% off everything on Smedley website at the moment). Thanks Malcolm


Dear Simon,

is the PS knitwear a good alternative to Smedley ‘s slim fit?


Dear Simon,

I am a bit between sizes and tend to wear my knitwear slim. So I guess S would fit, what if it is too tight? M is already out of stock. Is there possibility of refund?

Appreciate your help!


Great! Good to hear, already ordered….


Dear Simon, S fits perfect…
The knitwear is really fine, I am excited if the durability is also good as expected. Mostly my knitwear get holes at the armholes, but they are not comparable. Both in price and material…
I have decided for your knitwear to reduce the volume of my knitwear. I guess it is more sustainable and comfortable to have only some selected items with high quality.


Dear Simon,

the fit is great! Are there any special care instructions, especially for ironing?

Best regards


Thank you Simon!


Thanks for the reply. And would you only wear merino crew with a shirt rather than t-shirt. Waiting for reintroduction of your Dartmoor- any plans? In the meantime if you had to choose a Smedley merino long sleeve polo, what would it be? Appreciate your help

Flavius Aetius

I really like this kit. Wearing a crew neck sweater with a tweed jacket feels very comfortable. If I could do so with impunity every day of my life, I should not mind never again wearing a suit or any other sort of clothes.

Any chance, Mr. Crompton, we shall see some examples of you wearing these or something similar? I am sure the bespoke pieces – the jacket and the shoes – make it that much better. Incidentally, do you know any tricks for maintaining the elasticity of the gorge in crew neck sweaters?


Hi Simon,
You wouldn’t know in what size you got your Boncoura Jeans? And are they shrink to fit?

Cormac Lynch

It is pleasantly surprising to see this classic color combination keeps on in our wardrobes even when lifestyles have largely changed.
I know that Navy-Grey-White is ultra classic and on the higher end of the formality scale, and this one perhaps on mid-lower end. Would you have any thoughts on formality of color combinations? I would appreciate your comment.

Cormac Lynch

Thank you Simon.


Hi Simon, regarding the m65. What do you think about the m65 jackets with a 50%cotton and 50% nylon? In the images above the m65 looks like 100% cotton (i am right?).
Would you pair a 50/50 m65 still with the flannel? Would the 50/50 also age well? Or should one skip this material and always aim for a 100% cotton jacket?
Kind regards Jack


but would the 50/50 work as as drop in replacement? i ask because there is a difference in price of mutliple 100 of euros 🙂


Couple of questions please. As this piece is a few years old now, where would you say produce the best colour of cream/ ecru jeans now?

And, how do you find the M65 size wise, have you went for a small or medium – assume it’s a regular too? Regards


Thanks Simon. Will give Rubato a check.

Is the M65 length a regular or does it not matter like the jungle jacket, which I know long can be too long!