Wearing navy trousers as separates
I’ve generally cautioned in the past against wearing navy tailored trousers as separates, with a jacket. This is for a few reasons.
First, I know from experience that it’s an option men often go for. They’re likely to already have trousers from a navy suit, and think these will be a great option on their own.
Unfortunately they’re unlikely to work with a jacket - both because navy is a hard colour to pair well, and because the material of the suit is likely to be a fine worsted wool, which is often too sleek as a separate.
Such material is always going to be hard to work as trousers, but navy has the additional problem of being so associated with a suit.
Second, I warn against it because of that pairing point.
Navy is quite a rich colour, and rich colours are nearly always harder to combine with others than weak ones. That’s the same whether it’s a blue, brown or green.
The contrast, of course, is with grey. There’s a reason grey is the most universally used colour for separate trousers - it’s very lack of colour makes it easy to combine with everything else.
Grey flannels (or high-twists in summer) are as good with a dark navy blazer as they are with a bright yellow tweed.
Third, if you’re starting out wearing sports jackets and trousers, it’s always easiest to start with dark on top and light below.
Keeping the top half generally dark, and the bottom half generally light, makes it much easier to build up a wardrobe of jackets and trousers that work together - as well as shoes that go with both.
And of course navy is only dark. There are lighter blues, but if anything their colour makes them even less versatile.
After grey, men generally find that colours such as beige, olive and cream are better options for separate trousers than navy.
And if dark colours, then quite muted - not rich. So dark green and dark brown, in greyed tones (see examples of mine at those links).
I’d even recommend charcoal first among dark colours, certainly before navy.
If nothing else, I’d point readers towards the best-dressed men of today and historically, who rarely wear (or wore) navy trousers as separates.
They may have done it purely through custom or instinct, but there were good reasons behind it.
Having laid all that out, I do think there are times when navy can work.
I generally don’t go into that when this question comes up in comments, mostly because it would require all of the qualifications above.
But if the navy is dark, and in a casual finish like flannel or (pictured here) serge, then I find it can look good with jackets that aren’t rich enough to clash.
In the images I’m wearing my Fox Brothers navy-serge trousers (made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury) with my W Bill charcoal-donegal jacket (by Steven Hitchcock).
The jacket is essentially grey, and therefore provides an easy partner for something richer below the waist.
It’s not instinctive to think of navy in this way - almost as you would a bright colour - but in my experience it’s the best way to work it.
Another combination I’ve shown in the past - below - has the same trousers with a very muted brown jacket and grey knitwear.
It’s also worth saying that while navy is definitely easier to wear as an odd trouser with knitwear, or just a shirt, this is partially because those pieces are also muted, or because the whole outfit is more casual.
So navy is a good colour for chinos, but often the shirts or T-shirts worn with it are blue, white, grey or a variation on those colours.
And when they’re not, or it's the knitwear that creates contrast, I think it’s because the look is more casual - and clashes of colour are fine. Elegance is no longer the aim.
Lastly, denim falls outside this navy argument - because it’s casual, because indigo is not that rich, and because it wears and fades, and so is not that dark anymore and has natural variation.
I'm sure others will disagree, and I'm interested to hear what everyone thinks. But this is what I've found from my experience.
The shirt worn with the outfit above is a heavy Japanese cotton with indigo and undyed stripes. From 100 Hands.
The shirt shown with a cream Shibumi handkerchief is a PS Striped Oxford - which just came into stock on the PS shop in finished shirts, having been available as cloth before.
The brown-cotton casual jacket is from Anderson & Sheppard. The tan-leather folio is the one I designed with Equus leather.
Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man
Nice article, thank you!
I think you mean A&S…
The brown coat you mean? Actually that referred to my Cordings coat, which I didn’t end up including an image of here. The jacket at the bottom is A&S, yes. I’ll correct it.
Hi Simon, who made the jacket in the second picture? Is it Huntsman?
I don’t know, I just sourced it online as an example of poor trouser combining…
Found it! http://www.roubi.eu/summer-suits.asp
Personally, I like the combination so I guess that we have different tastes.
To be honest, I don’t think it’s a personal thing, it’s more universal. The fact well-dressed men (in the industry and elsewhere) never wear the combination is some evidence.
But then that’s just my view!
or perhaps the fact that well-dressed men rarely wear the combination is the reason many people find it odd 🙂
Good point – it’s hard to separate the two. I still feel instinctively that it’s not that, and it’s a rational thing, but it’s very hard to have complete confidence given how much is a social construct
Exactly. Learn them, and then be aware what you’re breaking. The Master of Blue and his all-navy ensembles is a good example I think. It’s not what you would recommend to anyone starting out, but it does create a striking look.
You are absolutely right : navy / dark blue trousers are almost impossible to match. I know it, but I keep repeating the mistake thinking „this time it will be different“. But it isn‘t. Beautiful rich navy wool cavalry twill ? Don‘t be tempted !
I think the exceptions are : jeans ; very casual type trousers worn in summer ( ie more jeans cut than trousers cut ) ; some flannels that are are not too deep in colluding.
I think directionally I agree with you, but would make a distinction around formality.
Navy worsted is popular in Spain and Portugal for “business” wear, often teamed with coats in browns or greens, but I think the colour comes into its own at the less formal end. Cords and moleskins sit very well with most tweeds; moss, rust, sage etc, probably with dark suede shoes, whilst lighter cloths such as fresco will pair well with tan, olive, tobacco coats in a complimentary cloth, such as linen or even cotton.
And if you’re lucky enough to be in the Med, then navy linen trousers worn with a linen (of different weight) in pink, canary, teal etc etc works perfectly.
I’ve never seen an odd trouser in navy flannel that works though.
Hi Simon, great article.
I have this problem all the time! I often wear navy Incotex chinos with white shirts and light/ mid grey jumpers. This is fine, but I always have the same problem that nothing seems to work that well when I reach for a jacket.
Whilst the grey jackets that I have are okay, I have found my best solution to be a bright, almost majorelle, blue Loro Piana cashmere jacket which, to my eye at least, works because it contrasts enough with deep navy and works well with light/ mid grey.
However, this starts to work less well once the trousers start to fade and loose there deep navy hue.
Not wearing navy trousers is another one of those style conventions which I just don’t get (a bit like the one which states that it’s wrong to pair light shoes with dark trousers [which it is] but light trousers with dark shoes are fine).
I’m happy to wear to wear navy chinos with an unstructured dark grey tweed blazer. Personally, I find them indistinguishable from jeans at a distance of more than a few feet and they take the smartness of the outfit up a notch.
That said, I will only pair them up with a light blue shirt, navy tie and black shoes, otherwise there’s too much contrast going on and the whole ensemble starts to look a bit patchy and ill-thought through.
Totally agree on all points, and I also find this very issue almost amusingly weird. How a navy sportcoat and grey flannels are so great together, but the other way around just doesnt work at all.
I think navy trousers can work with a navy jacket not being a suit. But maybe you have to be a master like Noboru Kakuta. See: https://m.blog.naver.com/PostView.nhn?blogId=hohohot7&logNo=220978828696&proxyReferer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.uk%2F
Nice link. Interesting that even with the Master of Blue, there are no navy trousers with different coloured jackets
Here’s a shot of him with grey jacket and blue trousers. I refrain from calling them any too, and they also seem to be cotton chinos, which really just emphasizes your point. https://pin.it/kcmsg4dx33hbfd
Yes nice point. Chinos are easier, with grey, and I guess it’s a very unstructured jacket
I see my autocorrect was on fire. Any too = navy though, but hopefully the point came across anyway.
Yes it did, don’t worry!
How about blue trousers with a shirt and/or jumper – with a blue overcoat?
Yes, blue is fine with knitwear. Though ideally a coat and trousers would not be exactly the same colour
great article. I also had that intuition, and as every “sartorial no go zone” become one day or another a field of exploration, I finally bought a pair of navy cords, with the same intuition as your flannels ones, because if we want navy trousers to work, I believe they have to be textured. The first try was a grey herringbone tweed, and it worked pretty well. I also tried them with a oatmeal cashmere Pow with a very subtle blue window pane, and it seems it also worked. Really look forward to read if others followers have good ideas in the comments
Great article. I think all the points you’ve made are perfectly valid. Perhaps more could have been written around navy flannel and the like . I find navy flannel trousers go really well with a cream or grey cashmere roll neck.
The orthodoxy around navy trousers is not one I agree with. I understand it from the perspective of navy trousers in a suiting fabric, but with something like a navy cotton or cotton-cashmere chino, I think it works well.
My navy chinos are one of my go-to options in the summer — either with a white or blue popover / short-sleeve collared shirt, or with a tan (or other light-colored) jacket.
Clearly I should have said this above – I’m only talking about tailored trousers (not chinos) and only with jackets
I have to say that I generally agree with yr position regarding navy blue, or really rather all blue odd trousers outside of denim ones worn with tailoring. It has always reeked to my eye of down-market plebianism.
My Father used to refer to is as the weekend Security Guard Look. Somehow, a man in navy trousers, especially worn with a mid blue dress shirt always ends up looking like either a police officer or a security guard wearing half of their uniform. Nothing wrong with either of those jobs, but to look like yr wearing half of a uniform is not flattering, or tasteful.
I don’t particularly care for dark denim either, I own 2 pairs of denim trousers, and I purchased them dark years ago, and actually wore them working on my Aunt’s ranch with animals during Summers. They were washed very frequently, and broken in. They are both nearly white now. I rarely wear them, but that is the finish that I prefer on my denim trousers, and they work with tweeds and hopsacks and blanket wool and flannel coats and jackets in the country. For casual wear, I prefer cotton drill or poplin trousers depending upon the season, and never in navy, or any blue.
I love yr rationalizations regarding why exactly navy does not work. I agree.
Three jackets that work well with plain navy tailored trousers:
– Mid-grey with a marked pattern and/or texture (and ideally a blue windowpane or similar overlay)
– Anything that is mostly white with some blue (seersucker, white-and-blue-gingham, etc.)
– A madras coat where there is some blue in tee mix.
Interesting, thank you. I hadn’t though of 2 and 3
Solid point that flaneurs ignore at their sartorial peril.
Equally, I would endorse dark top, light bottom as similarly important – to ignore this risks to turn you into a game show host !
To digress – given this may be my last intervention prior to Christmas, I’d like to wish all my fellow flaneurs a sartorially successful festive season.
I find it odd that navy works so well with blue jeans (it’s the most common color for denim) but not so much with wool.
I avoid navy trousers in worsted wool because they look too much like part of an orphaned suit but have a pair of navy chinos and navy cords that I use in the same way as I would a pair of navy jeans: with knitwear, with a light grey sports jacket, with a dark grey sports jacket, and with a navy tweed jacket that has quite a bit of flecking.
That navy trousers are “hard to wear” is remarkable primarily because navy suits are such a go-to. Trousers in any color too far away from the grayscale are hard to wear in the same way that navy trousers are hard to wear. I can’t imagine even olive or brown worsteds looking good with odd-jackets.
That said, I wear navy trousers quite a bit: in flannel, cotton, flax; with just a shirt, with trench coats, with knits. I just avoid it with odd-jackets. It’s not that big a deal.
“Its” very lack of colour
It is not difficult to look stylish in navy trousers. I wear them regularly, especially cavalry twill, moleskins and cords. In the warmer months, navy chinos or cotton twill jeans are best with white, red, pink, and light blue polos. Stylish men only wear t-shirts at home, by the pool or on the beach. Olive outerwear, e.g. Barbour Bedale, Harrington or a Loden coat, works very well with navy trousers. Avoid plain grey above the waist as it looks dull and boring.
Thanks. The post was only about navy trousers as part of tailoring, so with a jacket.
The same approach applies to tailored jackets. An olive or brown tweed jacket, perhaps with a blue check or windowpane works, very well. I often layer with a polo neck (e.g. John Smedley sea island cotton) and a contrasting sweater if necessary.
A bengal striped shirt is a bolder casual alternative. For a more formal look, with navy flannel or cavalry twill trousers, I’d choose a lighter blue Oxford or flannel shirt instead of the polo neck.
There no need to caution readers against navy trousers, especially in the wet and colder months when the streets can be dirty.
I agree that navy trousers are difficult, and yet I keep making the same mistake as it’s such a nice colour when seen in isolation. I thought I’d get a lot of wear from my navy Incotex chinos, but I only wear them to pop to the local shop when I randomly grab the closest thing to hand. My single pair of worsted wool navy pants have only been worn during the 80s movie montage that precedes each night in the pub, and they always end up slung over the back of a chair when I opt for a safer grey.
The only pair that have got any real wear are my thick winter weight wool J Crew trousers, but that’s only because we’ve hit -30C where I live, and my options for winter clothing are limited.
Call me old fashioned but I once worked for two very fine haberdashers that often paired navy with a camel blazer. Camel went with everything. Navy also works with tweeds and glen plaids of a coordinating color. But the times have changed and men for some odd reason are wearing medium and lighter brown shoes with black and navy suits and trousers. Sorry fellas but you look like you got dressed in the dark.
The subtext is that, ordinarily, if sartorially educated, a man doesn’t wear blue trousers as a separate (with jacket).
Having experimented with this I disagree. Firstly it is a matter of cultural geography. Secondly it’s a matter of texture and tone.
Thirdly an understanding of colour.
Blue, though tones may vary, is a primary colour that is, in warmer climates, regarded as a colour that is identified with Mediterranean notions of the outdoors (sky and sea) and thus an element of the sportif. Furthermore as the light quality of the Mediterranean is much brighter than Northern climes (consider any work on Art History) colours are seen, quantified and utilised in different ways. It is why, as Inkster points to, the colour is popular in Portugal. Simply put blue is seen and regarded in a different way and thus matched accordingly. It may also be why those resident in Northern Europe regard blue within more narrow lines (as do N.E. artists).
Conversely, NE uses the more muted tones of burgundy, moss, dark brown (Le Look Anglais) in ways that SE/Med countries would not.
Culturally (sportif aside) this approach to colour is absolutely embodied throughout the dual aspect (North and South) of European art. Some mistake the differential as a relation to the religious influence but that is more a matter of subject content.
Secondly on texture and tone. Fine worsteds don’t generally mix with heavier cloths (as Simon points to) but when taken away from the suit environment to that of separates, utilising greater texture, blue can work. Why? It is perhaps due to blue being a colour that falls on the retina behind others and, as it is darker, to a human eye, it looks larger. There is therefore a dichotomy in volume perception. Why, again? It is due to the upper body being larger – if the lower block of blue appears larger, particularly in the clean lines of silhouetted tailoring, then it looks dysmorphic. If texture is increased, in more grossly structured weaves, then a visual softening of the colour occurs as the light spectrum is being reflected in more varied and subtle ways. This effect is also achieved in more muted tones of blue where the saturation is pulled down by the inclusion of other colours, thus lessening the effect.
When deploying blue in fine worsteds within the context of a suit the issues of dysmorphic colour use disappear as the colour effect, top and bottom, is the same.
Denim, as jeans, worn in a casual, less defined way, and matched to looser jacket silhouettes, is amorphous and resolves the colour block dichotomy found in tailoring by formulating a less defined form.
It is worth noting that, within the colour spectrum, true blue is more a cyan/aquamarine – blue as we culturally reference it (usually as Navy blue) actually sits toward the colour indigo.
For those who are interested the best short tutorial on colour is here.
Thanks, and some really interesting points.
On the mediterranean one, I would only note that no more sartorial men I respect in those areas wear blue trousers as separates, than do in northern Europe.
Sartorial men that you respect? What is that supposed to mean?
I think Inkster and Anonymous make compelling arguments frankly, and if they are referring to something factual (ie blokes in Portugal wear blue trousers) why can’t you just accept it?
Adam, I’m happy to and I do accept their views. I have never suggested I don’t.
We just disagree, and it’s absolutely fine that we do.
On the sartorial men point, I mean that I have never seen a man I considered to be well-dressed wearing blue tailored trousers separately with a jacket.
Agree with Simon. I live in Italy. Men wearing separate jackets and trousers are common here. Navy tailored trousers are not. They’re no easier to pull off in Rome, Naples or Milan than in northern Europe. Simon’s argument about the difficulty of a rich color in tailored trousers is a good one. My only navy trousers are cords; if I try to combine them with a jacket, soft-tailored brown tweed feels like my least bad option, but the combination stands out in my hometown of Rome, and not in a good way. The jacket works better with almost anything else. The trousers work better with a cardigan and no jacket. And that’s under a Mediterranean (winter) sky.
It’s been my observation that in urban/city areas of Italy and Spain during the working week blue is more evident, less so in weekend and less in the smaller centres. On sartorial figures of inspiration I agree but posit that intellectual interest in the subject will look to discovery of greater subtly and range vs. the more obvious colour staples that fashion (vs. style) might dictate or place within the market. With bespoke, given the dearth of cloth choice (less affected by market trends) this is a practice made much easier.
Fair enough Simon, but if, as has been said, blue trousers are worn with a jacket as a “normal” business outfit in Spain and Portugal, perhaps they have spotted something that you haven’t?
I own two navy corduroy trousers and they are easy to combine with tweed sport coats or leather jackets. In my opinion navy trousers are easier to wear in a winter outfit.
Very helpful article. Love that Hitchcock jacket!
I like navy or dark blue trousers with textured jackets that are brown or even tan. That is one of the combinations that you mention can work. I agree with you that navy pants worn as separates must not look like suit pants. That is a terrible look. They should be flannel or have some texture or a cut that would clearly not be used for a suit. Such pants in navy can also work with plaid or patterned jackets in lighter blues. I recently bought a pair of lighter blue wool pants and I think the only way to pair them is with a navy sport coat.
Anyway I always look at your posts and enjoy and learn from them. I have found that learning about men’s tailored clothing is a lifelong project. I also like it when you discuss workwear and streetwear. Perhaps I should no longer be wearing them at my age but I do and I enjoy it.
First of all I would like to say, that I really like Permanent Style and have been following the blog for about three years.
I’m writing because I have a question that I couldn’t find the answer to on the website.
I’m 21 years old, study and work in a political organization. Therefore I’ve been wanting a more casual look, but I love wearing jackets.
Right now I only have blue jackets as odd jackets and I want to try something new, and therefore I’ve been considering getting a brown cotton jacket.
My question is how would you pair a dark brown cotton jacket? Or would you recommend getting another color than brown?
Thanks for good content and your thoughts would be much appreciated.
That’s lovely to hear, thank you.
Brown can be very nice- it’s normally one of the first options after navy and grey, alongside tan and green.
A brown cotton jacket would look nice with lots of trousers, including a grey that contrasted enough with the jacket, cream, tan/beige, and perhaps even jeans if the jacket was casual enough in cut and make.
I hope that’s helpful
Have you tried wearing a pair of separate navy trousers with the jacket that you’re wearing in the 3rd picture. I think you might find that you look quite good in that outfit given that colours work really well together beige and navy being quite a classic pairing.
I as a dark skinned man actually find seperate Grey trousers impossible to wear as they tend to ‘wash’ me out. I wonder if any of your other black or asian readers find themselves in a similar position with grey
I have yes, and I’m afraid I find it doesn’t work for me. The two colours clash.
It’s a good point on skin colour, though I find from others that any effect from grey washing out can be mitigated by the other things it’s worn with. White shirt or dark shoes to increase contrast, blue shirt or less dark shoes to decrease it.
If this works, it should be particularly true with grey trousers, which aren’t close to the skin?
It is rather odd that a colour which works so well on a jacket is less successful as trousers.
An example of a well-dressed man who successfully pairs navy trousers with tailored jackets is Jean Manuel Moreau. One of the top Google image results is a perfect illustration.
You’re right, JMM can do that well – usually with grey or beige.
(I’m looking at images lower down – though of course everyone’s Google results are different)
Love this post. I think you’re spot on when it comes to the formality… worsted navy trousers always look like an orphan, but as you move to more casual fabrics, like flannels, cotton chinos, moleskin, and denim then it can absolutely work with more muted sport coats (and look excellent). Mid- blues are also a problem, in almost every fabric, including casuals…to hard to pair without looking child-like.
The only in my opinion that works with navy trousers is a light blue shirt like one of the pics. Tough to work with. Maybe be white blue striped shirt.
That’s about it.
An interesting set of observations. I have often worn navy blue trousers, usually thick cotton drill, or occasionally flannels, (never smooth, hard worsteds) with Harris tweed jackets that have very rough texture and a mix of colours — browns, blues, greens, reds, creams, etc. I have not had adverse comments from friends on these combinations, and I rather like the effect. But the moment one moves away from a deep navy blue and enters the bluish-grey area, or the domain of colours that are on the somewhat lighter end, all sorts of combinations seem possible. One I particularly like is cadet blue trousers (similar to the dress trousers often worn by US Marines) coupled with a classic navy blue blazer. And thickish blue-grey flannels look truly splendid coupled with district check or houndstooth tweed jackets. Here is a striking picture of Bruce Boyer wearing this last combination:
Elegant, don’t you think?
In sum, I personally do not have hard-and-fast rules regarding colours. I will often experiment with many combinations, and I am struck by how well a non-obvious combination of colours and textures actually looks. In part, it is because what is familiar to us in others’ choices that we see slowly predispose us to certain ways of regarding colour and texture in clothing. Rules and norms emerge out of such experiences. If we look at these things with fresh eyes, setting aside our predispositions, we might find new combinations that are striking and elegant. I once thought that reds and purples were too garish for men’s clothes, but I have long since changed that view: Muted deep reds (closer to maroon) and tweedy purples mottled with other dark hues can be quite handsome and striking, especially when the rest of the clothing provides a blander foil to the more assertive piece. Such efforts must be made with careful attention, however. Hoc opus, hic labor est.
Thank you Dr Peter, really interesting.
For what it’s worth, I think Bruce’s trousers are as close to grey as makes no difference.
I suppose ultimately we are all entitled to our own opinions on this. There is no right or wrong, and nobody is in a position to claim any expertise on the matter.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think this combo quite works. I admit that this may be a result of the photography – but the mottled appearance of the jacket does not seem coherent with the seemingly flat, even, color of the navy flannel. Further, the darkness of the jacket doesn’t offer enough contrast to keep the trousers from looking like a dark blob that is somewhat out of place. If wearing navy trousers I think you have to accept the fact that navy looks best with high contrast accompaniments. I think Mark Cho still did it the best that I’ve seen when he paired navy trousers with a lighter colored guncheck jacket and a white shirt. He created enough contrast and used an interesting, but not mottled, jacket with a multi-colored pattern so as to successfully draw the eye away from the dark mass of the trousers and upward toward the face.
I do agree that separate navy trousers should never be made of smooth cloths. I think hopsack works well, though.
Simon, there’s a story behind Bruce Boyer’s flannels. You are right: In fact, they are grey.
Some time ago, I posted this picture in the Ask Andy forum, and many people liked the colour of the trousers and wanted to find a pair of blue-grey flannels that looked like Bruce’s. A colour called Air Force blue came close, according to some. There was also a pair of Stone Blue flannels sold by O’Connell’s, a men’s shop in Buffalo, NY. Andy, the owner of the forum, actually checked with Bruce and reported that the bluish quality was probably an artifact of the photography, some trick of the light. The mid-grey flannel used to make them are from the Fox Brothers (UK) company, if memory serves me.
Nevertheless, the point I wanted to make is that they look very elegant with the tweed jacket he is wearing. To my eyes, the colour, as it looks in the photograph, is what I’d like to see in a pair of odd flannel trousers, rather than, say, the much deeper blue of classic blue flannel suits. This was also the opinion of others who joined in on the discussion in Ask Andy.
Our discussion of Bruce’s flannels also makes an overarching point about appearance and reality. What our eyes pick up is only half the story. How our brain interprets that information is the critical part. The subject I study and do research in is cognitive neuroscience, and it is filled with endlessly fascinating information about how appearance and reality work together to create our understanding of the world. May I humbly suggest that the best dressers, the ones whose acumen and verve we respect, know this truth about appearance and reality very deeply?
Very interesting, thank you, I hadn’t seen that thread. Nice to know my instincts were right on Bruce’s trousers too.
I agree, expectation and interpretation is critical, I’d be interested in reading something about it sometime
I do like “outfits” with blue trousers (cavalry twill), but usually in a monochromatic way (i.e., all items are blue) but, linking to your comment about grey being a good combination, I recently had a sports coat made from Minnis Harris Tweed 520128 which is mainly grey but with a muted blue windowpane check, and this really works.
The only down side is the Harris Tweed is essentially bullet proof and too hot to wear in 3 seasons of the year….. but I think a lighter tweed with a similar design would be a good all year round alternative.
Nice article Simon. I have always found navy odd trousers problematic – and more so the further they get from jeans. Even navy cords are a bit of a struggle.
Nevertheless I had tailored pair made last year out of a slightly textured travel material (VBC maybe) and managed to get some wear out of them worn with a very muted beige-blown linen jacket as well as a grey houndstooth one.
Anyway- my query is that I can’t quite grasp from what you’ve written what you think distinguishes those grey jackets which can be worn with navy from those which can’t. Is it a question of being a fairly dark and having a pattern?
And can any brown tailored jackets work in your view?
I think the jacket has to be fairly cold (grey mostly is) so that’s why a pale beige often works better than a rich brown. But not necessarily dark
One small anomaly worthy of enquiry is though there is an argument to be made re. blue trousers in tailoring (black trousers also fall into this category – best matched with grey and camel only). The ubiquitous indigo of denim can, and often is, matched with everything. Success varies with the wearer but many achieve a reasonable colour pairing with all manner of jacket colours and textures (outside of worsted). One could also include blue chinos in the ability to be successfully paired. Cloth types include tweed, Melton, linen, cashmere, hop sack, barleycorn. Which, coming back to the point of the article, begs the question, if denim works as a colour match, albeit within a more casual category, is it that the cloth, especially worsted, and not the colour is the issue (particularly as the majority of worsted suiting is in blue)?
(However some successful variations on a theme can be achieved).
Several points to consider.
1. Navy is a very strong color, especially in wool. It is both very saturated and quite dark. Generally, we want the top half of an outfit to be stronger in color/saturation, than the bottom half. Navy cottons, linens, etc. will be less saturated than navy wool. This would make them easier to wear.
2. Navy also can have a lot of purple in it. Purple can pair well with greens and yellow ochres. These are unusual jacket colors (except when muted) though, because they are hard to pair with shirts.
3. If I were to do navy, I’d go with navy linen because it is the least saturated. I would also try to go for a lighter navy that would be easier to wear. It could be good with a cream or olive (or even very light grey with some pattern to it) linen jacket and some mid to light brown suede loafers. Cream is strong enough to outdo the navy, and green can go well with the purple tones. I think the navy has to be sufficiently weak to work with the green, though. You could probably even do navy wool with a cream jacket. Cream is just really strong.
Orazio Luciano seems to pull it off on…PS
Nice example. A pale grey seems to nearly always be the best bet
Online, it would seems pale grey, pale blue and camel give the best navy trouser/light jacket combinations. It’s a matter of choice and purpose as to whether one would wear them but all seem to be examples worn in spring/summer season scenarios.
I have found that a more matte navy in flannel or something with a bit of texture will work with a lighter brown or grey jacket with brown shoes to tie it up. It’s a nice change from the ubiquitous gray trousers and well worth a punt.
Reading all this makes me think of the quotation;
“Precision in dress is the neurotic refuge of the perpetually insecure”
Relax and wear what feels nice. Don’t overthink things guys.
This article has surprised me quite a bit, and honestly, hasn’t managed to convince me to stop wearing navy trousers with sport coats (or anything else). Navy is THE most versatile color. It’s more versatile than charcoal or mideum grey. You can pair navy trousers with virtually any jacket (except navy, to avoid a mismatched suit look), shirt, and tie. Yes, the trouser fabric, its weight and texture, are important for those who are obsessed with details. It’s quite obvious that it’s best not to match a heavy tweed sport coat with fine worsted pants. But from the point of view of color combinations, there isn’t a single more versatile color than navy. Charcoal comes in second, but charcoal can also look harsh in the spring and summer. Charcoal also doesn’t pair as well with brown shoes, as navy does. It really makes no sense at all, that the “menswear community” rejects navy pants. But then again, a lot of these people treat clothes as a hobby (or maybe as a religion). They’re obsessed with their clothes, which is an unhealthy situation. Honestly, snobbish and pretentious comments from a lot of users here, pretending that “there is no possible way to combine navy trousers with anything” are quite ridiculous.
Thanks a lot for the views IT. Please try to refrain from taking a swipe at other people and insulting them though. It doesn’t add anything.
I apologize if the tone of my comment was, perhaps, a bit harsh and insulting towards other users. However, I also find statements, such as “no well-dressed man will ever wear navy pants with a sport coat”, or “navy pants are for plebians”, to not be particularly polite.
True, I will try to police those too.
It’s funny. One of my early commissions from Saman Amel was a pair of navy hopsack trousers after having seen them in their lookbook. They came out lovely and went well with knitwear, but in the end, they felt so limited in regard to choice of fit wear and tops what I ended up getting a matching jacket making it a full suit.
Navy flannels and worsteds are best left to full suits.
I’ve been eying Stòffas indigo flannels, but those have a bit of a melange effect, which is enough to work with a brown or green jacket I imagine.
On a semi related note, I really don’t see or understand the versatility of a grey jacket, regardless of trouser color.
I have come to like navy trousers in summer with vibrant bottle green linen jacket with a neutral windowpane. White shirt and navy tie to tie together. It is about high contrast and zing. Also I feel it will not work at all unless you look fit.
I have never been able to wear navy trousers successfully (I’ve had navy trousers in wool gabardine, linen and corduroy) because I find the colour too strong to wear in the lower half of the body. You can wear a navy jacket with trousers in grey, cream and tan, but when the combination is reversed it draws the eye down. There needs to be something in the upper half of the body that draws the eye up from the strong navy trousers, and I don’t find that most neutrals can do it.
I do like the grey Donegal tweed jacket with the navy serge trousers pictured because the jacket has enough going on to compete with the trousers. It brings the eye up and away from the trousers. But a more plain grey tweed or cashmere jacket wouldn’t do the same. I think a large check (one that’s visible from a distance) could make it work.
An outfit that works is one that draws the eye to the face, and strong trousers take away from that.
I think that having a darker complexion can help as well. For white people, navy trousers can draw too much attention away from the face.
This has been an interesting discussion. I’ve never understood the advice that ones shouldn’t wear navy trousers with jackets. The arguments around suit trousers looking wrong with an odd jacket, and of the preference to have a darker jacket with lighter trousers both make sense to me, though these aren’t specific to navy.
The arguments made here around richness of the colour and navy being a poor combination are the ones that don’t seem intuitive to me at all and I’m struggling to understand them. In particular, navy strikes me as a dark, subdued colour (which is why it’s such a good colour for a serious business suit) and is a colour that pairs easily with almost everything (why it’s a default colour for ties or knitwear).
I’m wondering if this is perhaps in large part about the shade of navy, and I’m thinking only of darker shades of navy (that tend to go better with my darker skin). If we’re looking at a very dark navy–almost midnight navy–would the arguments above still apply? Or perhaps apply less strongly?
Personally, I think they would, yes.
Can you see how navy might be considered quite a rich colour compared to say any shade of grey, or beige?
Sure. I’m with you that far: navy is certainly richer than any grey or beige.
Navy trousers look great, as your photos clearly demonstrate.
Great post, Simon. What colour and style of shoes do you pair with your navy trousers and grey jacket? I’m struggling to find a pair that works. Kind regards, Tom
Very dark brown leather or suede, with the style of the shoe depending on the sharpness and therefore formality of the tailoring
Totally agree. There there are some interesting and subtle differences in colors within the blue that could work. Fir example, moleskin cotton that is kind of muted blue (not really navy nor electric blue) but somewhere in between. This could be paired very well with wool sports jackets that are light/ medium brown or dark beige in the background with blue squares in the front. It could be paired with a nice very light blue shirt or sweater and produce a nice causal outfit. I recall that you have a herringbone dark beige jacket which I think would go well with cotton moleskin blue trousers. Also a medium brown (but not chocolate or dark brown) or dark beige suede sports jacket would also pair well with a blue cotton trousers for a causal relaxed look. I would never however buy flannel navy trousers nor worsted wool ones.
What about your sugar bag blue sport coat with navy hopsack/flannel trousers? Then maybe some lighter medium brown shoes? Test 2 theories at one.
I’ve tried that I’m afraid Zeke and didn’t like it. It may be personal, but the navy is too rich. Much better with grey
I think you are missing an opportunity to wear camels and browns with the Navy trousers.
I have a pair of VBC Navy flannel Hollywood top trousers from Edward Sexton. I’m having him make a jacket in the same cloth but also one in a brown check which will also go with the VBC grey Drape cut and VBC charcoal Hollywoods (which is the predominant reason I’m having the Navy flannel jacket made) that I have also bought from him. More of a smart-casual look but more versatile with shirts and shoes.
Thanks Chris. I do often try browns and camel colours – both I generally find too strong.
I also don’t personally like flannel for jackets. It’s not designed as a jacketing and usually looks too much like part of a suit.
Do you think navy cavalry twill trousers would be good to wear with tweed? I was thinking in particular of the fox brothers navy version of your ecru fabric.
They would be great trousers, but as described above I don’t think they’d go with that many colours of tweed – in my personal view. Greys mostly
On that note, which do you think is a more versatile tweed (i.e. would work as a jacket you wear to a gallery or dinner and perhaps Friday at work) the donegal grey you have from Hitchcock of PoW Marling and Evans?
Thank you very much, Simon!
The donegal, just because as a pattern it’s more subtle
I’m thinking of getting a dark grey sports jacket. What do you think would be more versatile? A herringbone pattern or a flecked donegal such as the one featured in this article?
Seems to me that dark grey donegal is a slightly more modern look, and grey herringbone is more conventional (for better or for worse…)?
Yes I think that’s probably right – less so the patterns, and more the fact that a grey is more casual and conventional than a dark grey.
Either would be nice though – I think the herringbone is marginally more versatile, but the shade is more important.
The herringbone works well with jeans. Would you say the same about the donegal?
No I wouldn’t. The herringbone is much better there
Hi Simon, I wondered if you might consider doing a piece at some point on styling navy chinos specifically; both casually and smartly. You mention above and have mentioned previously how much easier they are to wear than navy wool separates, but I’m not sure you’ve done a piece focused on them (unless I’ve missed one, sorry). Maybe the options are too obvious and there’s no need but from my own experience and the comments above, they’re a ubiquitous trouser for all kinds of men, and I know I would – perhaps selfishly – find it interesting and no doubt useful.
Sure, nice idea.
I second Joe’s suggestion of a post on navy chinos.
I’d especially appreciate a sliding scale of chino formality, like the one you did with shoes (https://www.permanentstyle.com/2008/08/a-sliding-scale-of-formality.html) with regard to the sort of details that make a pair of chinos more or less suitable to wearing with a tailored jacket.
In fact, maybe “how to wear chinos” deserves a post all its own.
I would also love to see a post about chinos, especially navy.
Simon – prompted by the comment you made in today’s article on the PS Linen Overshirt in navy (lovely piece by the way, unfortunately didn’t get an order in before they sold out!) not working with navy chinos I’ve just been rereading and considering this article and would also love to see a ‘How to wear navy chinos, smart and casual’ post; as others have commented here, beyond the basic t-shirt/polo shirt/knitwear on the top half, I’m never 100% happy with my pairing options, especially casually.
Ok, thanks Alex, noted
Simon, what do you think of Army-style navy chinos? Say like your Armoury ones but in navy. How would you style them, if at all? Thanks.
To be honest, I’ve never found navy as useful a colour in chinos like that, I think principally because I wear so much navy knitwear. I tend to wear beige, tan, green more as a result.
I also wouldn’t wear them with tailoring, but perhaps that’s not what you meant.
I find that navy or perhaps midnight for my own taste does work well as a separate trouser with the provision that is designed and cut as a separate. Heavy pleats and deep turnups and always belt loops – plain bottoms and Dak tops with pearl buttons always look like the wearer couldn’t make their own mind up
In the article you mention finish as well as how dark the navy is as ways of moving from the association between navy tailored trousers and suits. What about casual materials like linen, specifically Informale’s drawstring trousers in navy linen? (you’ve mention you have a pair but I’m not sure you mentioned which colour). They may well be tailored but surely they wouldn’t really be associated with a suit?
This wouldn’t really apply to linen, no. The biggest difference with linen is the weight or type – generally Irish or Italian. The Italian tends to be lighter, less starchy, and therefore look more casual as well as wrinkling more.
Either way though, there’s no danger of linen looking like orphaned suit trousers, no. It’s really just with wools (not cottons either)
The problem with navy trousers isn’t that they look *bad*, but that there are other options that will always look better. They’re never going to be the first choice. Depending on the jacket, either an appropriate shade of grey or brown/tan will look better. I can’t think of a single jacket where navy would be my *first* choice.
Nicely put Craig. I think the only time I’d say it was my first choice, was with some dark greys like the jacket at the top of this piece, when I also want it to be smarter than brown or tan.
I have read all the comments, and i see a lot of diferent opinions and arguments.
Personally i found this subject simple.
If you take the trousers like a part of the italian background (blue tie plus light blue shirt) you can match an incredible variety of jackets like tan, green, burgundy, ect. Even more strong the pattern is, more it matches. That beacause (in my opinion) the trousers helps the tie/shirt to bring calm to the all outfit.
Clearly that’s not an everyday outfit. But this is because the jacket not the trousers.
Much more that works if the jacket have any blue detail (checks, gunclub, ect).
Obviously the same work can be done with a mid grey trousers, but i feel that the blue one elevates a bit the formality of the entire outfit.
Again i think that the key is the eye continuity of the italian background until the ankles.
I would like to know your opinion on this.
I think that is a nice point Dan, and those would be good combinations.
The question here was specifically about what else to wear if you’re already wearing a navy jacket and grey trousers, but those other suggestions are nice too.
Maybe is my mistake, but i posted the comment on the “wearing navy trousers as separate” post (i know it’s an old one, but still interesting!)
If the comment is off topic i apologize, but in my device the comment appears in the correct post.
I’m so sorry Dan, you’re right. That comes from me managing comments from an admin screen, rather than here on the post itself.
I disagree on the use of navy trousers there I’m afraid. I just don’t think it looks that good with those strong colours – and grey nearly always looks better. The Italian Background principle is different I think, in that you’re wearing two pieces together, blue and navy; a navy knit on its own would not look great under many jacket colours, as we covered here.
I have a pair of navy Calvary twill trouser…do you think they will work with a denim chore jacket?
It depends how close in colour they are, but probably
I wouldn’t say they would clash, it wouldn’t look wrong. It would just look better if the materials were a different colour probably
Hi Simon, for corduroy trousers, would you say dark grey would be more versatile than navy?
Yes probably, though it depends whether you wear navy or grey most on top
Navy trousers are an absolute staple for a casual wardrobe. They may not pair well with a jacket but they so well with a white polo, linen pop over, or a safari jacket and dress shirt (whether casual e.g., OCBD does not matter). I have navy trousers in Irish linen and worsened wool. Simon is absolutely right, but I wanted to add this as one should not avoid a pair of navy trousers.
A really interesting article, Simon. I came across this as I’ve sold all of my suits, given my workplace is no longer formal, and I now wear separates almost exclusively. My problem, however, is that I would like one navy suit for when it’s needed but would like the option to be able to use it for separates (on that note, a grey suit would be an alternative but I’m not sure I like a plain grey worsted sports jacket, and certainly not as much as one in navy). Do you think that a worsted navy with some texture and visual interest (such as this: https://www.themerchantfox.co.uk/collections/fox-air/products/navy-hairline-plain-weave) would work as separate trousers? I’m confident the jacket would work as a sports jacket as long as the details are casual enough (patch pockets, Neapolitan/Floretine style etc). Thanks
In short Guy, I’m afraid the answer is no. It’s a question that comes up all the time, as it’s what a lot of people want, but it doesn’t really work. The trousers might be OK, though they’ll still look as if there’s a suit jacket somewhere. The jacket will look less like a separate jacket I’m afraid.
Thanks for your advice, Simon, much appreciated, and I agree (it was worth testing it out though). I think for formal situations, I’ll stick to my navy DB sports jacket with grey worsted trousers. I feel like that’s just as formal.
Great article! I would like to try to recreate these trousers as best I can to pair with sports coats. I was looking on Suitsupply and they have an option to custom pick fabric for trousers, I’m curious if you would recommend any on their list as casual enough to work well with sports coats. If not, are there any MTM or bespoke tailors in Los Angeles that you would recommend to attempt to recreate your serge navy trousers. I would prefer the least expensive option but understand this might be an expensive engagement.
The link to Suitsupply’s custom trouser page can be found here:
Please let me know what you think and thanks for a great article!
I would go for a dark navy flannel – it would be close enough. Even tailors rarely have serge. I think I can see some of that under the circular flannel option on the SS website, though of course it’s always hard to tell from those little images.
Certainly, any tailor we have mentioned on the site that visits LA (even Steven Hitchcock or Whitcomb & Shaftesbury) would be able to do a great pair of navy flannels.
Thanks Lukasz, and yes good points