Trousers to wear with grey jackets – Reader question

Thursday, May 19th 2016
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Harrisons Lamlana jacket grey

Hello Simon 

I am struggling with a lighter grey jacket like in your Caliendo denim post, or a navy jacket. Are they really that versatile to be the top 2 odd jacket colours? (As you mentioned in your oatmeal jacket post.)

What are the trouser colours you can wear with them? Are we basically stuck with cream or charcoal trousers for mid grey jackets? Or navy chinos, cream or light grey trousers for navy jackets. I am not sure brown trousers would look as great


Black suede shoes


Navy and grey are usually recommended as the first sports-coat colours in a wardrobe for their suitability to different occasions, rather than to different trousers.

Navy is the smartest of all colours, and with grey trousers can be almost as formal as a suit (with tie and black shoes); but it can also be pretty casual, with an open-necked denim shirt perhaps.

Grey is never as smart, but if anything is even more versatile. From a pale cashmere (or Lamlana - angora/lambswool mix as pictured above from Steven Hitchcock) to a hairy tweed like the Elia Caliendo piece you mention.  

A cashmere navy jacket worn casually [Click on all images to go to posts]
The Caliendo grey tweed, with jeans

Navy can also go with a wide variety of trousers. There is the traditional mid-grey flannel or fresco. But I also find pale grey to be just as useful, if not more so. Then there is tan/beige. More unusual colours like brown and green. And cream, which goes with everything.

Navy is easy because it is so dark. The first step in pairing a jacket and trousers is ensuring there is enough contrast between the two; because navy is so dark, the majority of trousers are paler and contrast is not a problem.   

Navy hopsack with brown trousers
Navy cashmere with light grey flannel

Grey is never as dark, and rarely pale enough to be at the other end of the spectrum.

It also suffers because it can rarely go with grey trousers. This is a big loss, because grey is a very versatile colour for trousers (in terms of occasions) for the same reasons it is in a jacket. It is subtle, conservative and supports strong colours well.

As you imply in your question, navy odd trousers also rarely work. Their darkness means they nearly always look like the divorced half of a suit.   

Grey checked jacket with cream trousers
Charcoal worsted with a grey jacket

However, all is not lost. First there is charcoal, as you mention in your question and as I’m pictured wearing here. It’s dark enough to work with any shade of grey, and is often best in a worsted wool rather than a woollen like flannel.

There is cream, which as I said goes with anything (being so pale) but is often too formal or summery in a smart trouser. Easier in a chino. (I wish I lived in an age wear more people wore cream trousers. Outfits were so much easier.)

There is tan/beige, which is fantastically useful group of colours. But you do have to get the shade right - there must be that sufficient contrast with the jacket. Good to have one darker/stronger tan and one paler beige in the wardrobe.    Brown trousers with grey bespoke jacket

And finally there are the more unusual browns and greens. I quite like these as trousers, even just for their rarity. I like brown flannel or Crispaire (as with my Caraceni jacket and as pictured above, while touring Dege & Skinner) and I like green flannel or linen.

It sounds like tan/beige is the area you have yet to explore, but do give brown and green a go if you stumble across a pair you like.


Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

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Simon and i agree on a lot of things but not his fondness for the preponderance of grey jacket and the charcoal trouser.
because IMO they are not versatile.

I have both items of course but they rarely see the light of day as there is almost always a better option, to me.

Navy jacket on the other hand in different weights, finish, cut and style is arguably the most versatile item in any wardrobe.

YMMV, of course.


Great post, and a useful corollary to the earlier post on the same topic.

A related geographic question: how much of a priority do you think off-white or pale cream trousers (pale enough to contrast with tan jackets) should be in the UK? I have seen plenty of good examples but mostly in pictures lit by Mediterranean sun rather than in the flesh here in the UK. Better to get more beige and brown options first?

(I suppose there is a broader question too about how the internet tends to homogenize certain ideas like seasonal appropriateness.)


Hi Alex,
Something I often overlook until I catch myself is skin colour. It plays such an important part (especially in the UK where we can be quite pale most of the year!) in setting the palette for the clothes you wear.

Not sure if Simon has ever discussed this or has any inclination to do so.


Néstor Valiño Puigcerver


I disagree with with you when it comes to navy trousers. Chinos, flannels, frescos, linen…if they have some texture they work well with pale jackets. I found them even more formal than the classic navy blazer+grey flannels. I’m thinking about the classic smoking ensemble of white/cream jacket with black trousers.



This post explains why you should opt for a brown jacket instead of a grey one. You can wear almost the same trousers you would with a navy jacket and honestly brown is a way more interesting colour imo. The other problem with a light gray jacket is that the light jacket dark trousers combinations is harder to pull off instead of the usual dark jacket light trousers. It can be done nicely but more difficult.


That does depend on your office. I regularly wear a brown tweed jacket in the office. I guess that’s the advantage of working somewhere where the stated dress code is a smart (suit and tie) but must people, including the bosses, actually dress more casually.

Bertie Wooster

Simon many thanks for taking the time to address my question in detail. Yes I totally forgot to mention that I do have tan and beige options. I do think that the charcoal trouser in worsted has a bit of the half suit issue, but definitely less so than navy. I guess the way to get around this is by playing around with the texture and going for wool, silk, linen blends, flannel, fresco etc. So yes, I personally feel I have more flexibility with navy, dark brown and dark green coats than grey. I think grey with a tinge of brown makes it more versatile…and if I vaguely recall that your Breanish tweed had that. Cream is indeed versatile but you run the risk of nautical or colonial connotations as you have alluded to before, and I guess cricketers and tennis players used to wear these in flannel a few decades ago. You may call me old school but I feel that light colours like cream or beige should be for Fridays or weekends and not early in the week if you are in a conservative city job. Thanks again!


I have a pair of brown trousers that I pair with a navy jacket regularly. I like the combination – which was inspired by Simon’s navy jacket with brown fresco trousers pictured above.

I do think a light grey jacket is harder to pair with odd trousers. Charcoal works and maybe a very dark brown. I often see light grey paired with black trousers which looks alright but is often matched to some truly ugly black shoes.

Simon does having some pattern in the light grey make this pairing easier?


Hi Simon,
This is a very useful post indeed! Now since you have already explored quite all the options with rather smart grey jackets (wool and cachemire), I just wonder how the formality scale would look like if it were, say, a linien pale grey one. I have in mind the kind of exercise you did here:
Perhaps there are more options than even with a navy jacket. But I’m not sure, due to the type of fabric in this case.

facebook_Jack Floyd.10154203678547692

Can you please explain the problem with navy trousers? Charcoal, and many greys, can also look like “part of a suit”, and IMO do not pair with tan/camel/mid-browns as well as navy does. This appears to be a British vs. American difference of opinion.


Which brands of chino do you recommend? I’ve tried Incotex but everywhere only had the slim fit which were too tight on my calves and as a cyclist I’d imagine you’d have similar issues


I feel odd trousers are a little bit like ties. You can add some colour, you can add some contrast. At the moment I wear red trousers with a double breasted light tan jacket.
I could have opted for bright green or mid blue as well.
The only problem with dealing with odd trousers this way is that you would need as many as you usually have ties and this can get very expensive with bespoke trousers.


Grey is a neutral colour (more so than navy) and makes a very versatile jacket colour.

I have a bespoke grey jacket quite similar to Simon’s (mine has a charcoal over check in it) and it works excellently with lots of different colour trousers. I had a pair of navy moleskins made up with it but I also wear it with navy chinos (excellent) and brown chinos (also excellent) in warmer weather. Because it’s a neutral colour it’s very versatile and will work with virtually any colour trousers – red, light blue, you name it…

I prefer my grey jacket to my navy jacket with jeans as it presents more of a contrast – i.e. not all blue. I also have a tan/golden brown tweed jacket which also really rocks with jeans so it comes down to the weather…

I have worn my grey jacket with charcoal trousers but I look better with some colour in my outfit so tend towards navy trousers – or charcoal trousers with a navy jacket (typically a more formal combination)…

I think cream trousers would need treating with care with a light grey jacket – there needs to be a good contrast between separates, else they might just looked mismatched rather than subtle… For me I tend to wear a bright royal blue Caccopoli summer weight jacket with my (similarly summer weight) ivory trousers (not cream!)

So I’d say a mid-light grey jacket is an excellent corollary to a navy jacket and I wear my mid-light grey jacket(s) a lot! Definitely worth considering one once you have a good navy jacket in your wardrobe – it is very versatile jacket colour and just that bit different from everyone else’s navy!

Peter B

Hi Simon, do you think a combination of light gray trousers and a darker grey jacket, with a houndstooth or herringbone pattern could work?
Also, a Navy jacket with brown trousers work well, but a brown jacket with navy trousers? Considering the navy trousers had more texture (e.g. flannel).


Thanks Simon. How does using cotton instead of wool change what you say on colour. For example do you see blue cotton trousers as different than wool?
Here are some other colours to consider that I find that help one get past tan and grey , orange and duck egg blue.


If you don’t care about appropriateness, bright colours are in my opinion extremely versatile. Bright red trousers go with almost any jacket colour – blue, gray, tan, cream.
I don’t need to follow dress code at work and I am under 30 and I wear shirt and jacket every day. With the use of bright colours I avoid being asked If I am going to a wedding. Navy jacket with grey flannel trouses looks too conservative and formal.


Hi Simon,

Hopefully an easy advice request here…
I pair a grey check (blue checks) blazer with navy chinos, black chelsea boots and a blue button down collar shirt… however, I’m struggling to work out the most appropriate tie, would a navy grenadine be the easy answer here? I’m just not happy with the “look” with a grey tie but that may be because the grey isn’t dark enough to sufficiently contrast the blazer.



Many thanks, will play around 😉


Hi S,

Very interesting post and comment exchanges. Do you think a double-breasted cashmere navy jacket is as versatile as a single-breasted one or do you think it would look too “formal” with jeans for instance? I am thinking about having one made and would like to deviate a bit from my usual single-breasted jackets (though I don’t have a good classic single-breasted navy cashmere like your Solito jacket). Would something along the lines of your pale grey Cifonelli DB work (not in colour but in style)?
Thanks much,


Yes, would have thought so, thanks…
So if you exclude jeans (ie just wear it with flannels, etc.), which style do you think would be a better choice from Cifo in your mind (knowing that all my jackets are SB but not having a classic SB navy cashmere)?
Thanks much


DB it is then! Were you thinking his DB 6×1 (just ordered a suit in that style) or the same as the more classic DB 6×2 (like your pale grey one)?


Haha, indeed…

Bertie Wooster

BTW, can you wear a wool trouser but a linen/cotton jacket (or vice versa)? Many of the photos where I’ve seen you with cotton in the bottom, it’s been wool on the top half. Don’t recall seeing many instances where your bottom half is some kind of wool but the jacket is cotton/linen

Wool is generally perceived to be wintry unless it’s lighter tropical wool or open weave stuff, say a fresco in light grey or beige, while cotton/linen is clearly summer. I guess weight, texture and colour determine summer vs winter. Is it okay to put together a combo where one part may have summery connotations and the other may have wintry connotations eg. The top cotton, bottom wool thing I refer to above, or wearing a challis/cashmere dark tie with a linen suit etc?

Nick Inkster

I find the idea of a plain mid to light grey coat wholly bizarre.

Mixing light coloured top to darker coloured bottom is not hard frankly, either in a Mediterranean inspired pastel combo, or a patterned/textured cloth for the coat (eg from the Glorious Twelth bunch) with anything from coral to lime, but the grey coat thing would be at the very bottom of my list of priorities, if it made it onto it at all.

Nick Inkster

True Simon, but I had missed the office/formality point of your thread, so apologies for that, but a P&H would go with any more formal trousering in the flannel/worsted/twill/range across a wide range of colours.

I just don’t see a flat gray as a colour for a coat.

Matias Montini

Just a little question: do you know how wide the lapels are, on your grey jacket from Elia Caliendo?
Thanks in advance for your answer.


Btw Simon, is there an upcoming review of your Steven Hitchcock jacket? The suit he made for me is probably the most comfortable thing I have (albeit still with a business connotation). It is less ‘staggering’ than my Maurice Sedwell suits (sharper cut, rolled sleeve-heads etc.) but perfect in a business context when you want to wear your jacket all day. The only thing I noticed is that the back would typically look less clean (ie quite far from the impeccable back shape of your very structured C&M suit) which I think is needed to achieve the level of freedom in movements of the ultra-drape cut. Did you have a similar experience?
Thanks much


Dear Simon,

Please would you share the number for the Lamlana cloth from which Steven Hitchcock made your grey jacket? I cannot seem to find it on the W. Bill website; and, unfortunately, I do not currently have access to a tailor with the Lamlana bunch.


Dear Simon,

Thank you very much for searching for and sharing this,

William Gambrill

Forgive me for emailing you directly rather than on the website, but my inquiry involves a tailor recommendation and I am sure that you would rather keep it private.

I use Tony Martin and Benson and Clegg for my traditional British look. (You should visit him). I use Steven Hitchcock for the soft piece of the wardrobe and Leonard Logsdail for ultra-structured.

My question involves the Italians. I have been using Sartoria Sabino from Naples and found them to be great. However I love their DB cut, but I am not as keen on their fake three single breasted. I want to know your thoughts on the Solito house cut and if you would recommend Solito or Rubinacci. (Solito is, of course, more economic).

Many thanks Simon for your great posts and any comments on the above

William Gambrill


As it relates to Solito, I have read that you can request the cutting style of the father, Gennaro, rather than the tighter fit of the son, Luigi.

As I am in New York, it is Luigi who travels and will be cutting the fabric. Is is safe to request Luigi cut a looser garment a la his father, though it may be contrary to his own persuasions?
Thank you.



Hello Simon,

What pants will you recommend to match with a pale grey fresco jacket?

Thank you,


Cool. How about the which sports jacket will you recommend to match with a pale grey fresco pants then? I already have got a Navy Hopsack.


Alright. Thank you!


Nice post. Thx


Dear Simon,

thanks for a good site with lots of valuable information.

I have recently had a Boglioli K-jacket made in a grey herringbone pattern with dark brown buttons hoping it would be really versatile, and look somewhat like your caraceni cashmere jacket colourwise but more informal. Unfortunately I put to much emphasize on having a herringbone pattern, a rather small and speckled herringbone with light, mid and very dark grey, and perhaps too little on the overall tonal impression. The overall impression is rather darker than what would perhaps have been optimal, just a bit darker than what john smedley refers to as charcoal in their knitwear (which really is bit light for charcoal, isn´t it?).

Now I´m a bit at a loss for suitable trouser colours. I´m hoping to wear the jacket as an allround jacket which could be dressed up with perhaps a grenadine tie and down with a wollen tie or without just an open necked shirt. Light grey trousers would probably work, and hopefully jeans but any other suggestions would be very welcome.

Oh, shoes would probably be brown suede chuckas, dark brown oxfords from G&G (too sleek?), kind of reddish brown less sleek oxfords or double strap monks. Black chuckas, or tan chelsea boots are also be available. And a pair of G&G dark brown split toes are in the pipeline.

Kind regards for any advice,


I’ve been searching your site for comments about black trousers, whether chinos, worsted, or something else. Are black trousers of any kind even more taboo in your view, worse than navy? The thing is, I see black pants used widely in fashion, perhaps more so in more modern tailoring and street clothing? I’d appreciate your thoughts on black. I also wonder about charcoal.


Hello – For an odd light to mid grey unstructured jacket to pair with chinos and tailored trousers, what material would you recommend? I am thinking of hopsack, with patch pockets, but it may not provide texture enough.

Thank you


Hello Simon,

What shirt and tie colour (and fabric) combination would you recommend for:

1- Cream trousers
2- Charcoal



Sorry I missed the office/formality point Simon.
I was referring to a light grey jacket (salt and pepper) for a non-too strict office.


Thank you very much for your valuable advice.
The aforementioned jacket is from Yuki Inoue
(4th photo in his Instagram


On a more casual approach what trousers would you recommend with the said light grey jacket with an indigo shirt? Or conversely, which jacket with cream trousers and indigo shirt?


For the cream trousers/ indigo shirt combination would a navy blue jacket do? Or a tobacco suede blouson?


Thank you Simon. Did a quick test on both proposed combinations and the navy one really works.


Hi Simon, I’ve recently had a jacket made up in a grey Shetland glen plaid with a burgundy and navy overcheck. comment image)

The loudness of the check makes it very hard to match and the best I’ve been able to come up with it is wearing it with navy chinos and a plain blue oxford shirt, or navy chinos and a cream roll-neck sweater. Do you have any other suggestions? Have I managed to pick an ugly fabric?


Thank you Simon, I’ll give that a go.

Rupesh Bhindi

Hi Simon,

Could you share the fabric details of the pale grey caleindo sports jacket you had done. I know its a while back and it may not be available.


Sorry to dredge up an old post. I struggle with what trousers to pair with a couple of mid – dark grey cashmere jackets I own. They are fairly formal in structure, strong shoulders etc, fairly typically British jackets and I’m never sure what colour and probably more so, material to wear with them. Chinos and cords seem too casual, flannels are an option (but in what colour?) I’m not too sure after that?


Good read. Regarding beige/tan. Would a heavy (439gm) brushed cotton or a wool calvary twill be more versatile to use with jackets and knitwear?


Would the cotton or the wool twill be more versatile.


Hi Simon,
I would like to ask for your opinion on the tonal dressing. I tried tone-on-tone outfits for the top, such as navy and grey sports jackets with similar shades of polos, but I wasn’t sure whether I could do that for the tops and bottoms.
For instance, do you think a dark/mid-grey Donegal overcoat (e.g. PS Coat) and mid-grey Fox flannel trousers could work? And a dark brown herringbone jacket with dark brown flannel trousers?

Many thanks,


Hi Simon,
Regarding the shade of beige/tan to wear with grey jackets, do you mean that simply speaking, one should wear darker tan/beige with lighter grey, and vice versa? What if they are both somewhere in the middle? And would a difference of material help (i.e. cotton pants and woolen jacket)?


Hi Simon,
I know that one of the “rules” with odd jackets / trousers is to have enough contrast in texture between them so, among other things, they don’t look like they are a lost part of a suit.
But thinking about grey it came to my mind how could work different shades of the same fresco fabric bunch for trousers and jacket (i.e. charcoal and light grey, that way you could have a couple of suits and 4 ways to combine them, a little bit “a la Thom Browne”).
What do you think about it? too fashionist? a simple no-no?

Lindsay McKee

I love this grey jacket. It’s not herringbone, how would you describe it?
Ever thought of narrow herringbone which I think would be more formal, which I like, personally speaking?
I love the mention of light grey flannel rather than mid-grey for trousers which is interesting.
Take your very dark navy/midnight cashmere Hitchcock jacket, probably my favourite.
I talking separates here, not a suit of course.
As you advised on keeping a good contrast, how would light grey flannel like the Fox one work with that Hitchcock midnight cashmere jacket?

Lindsay McKee

Thanks again