Every so often, a trend comes along that makes you double take – in the case of men’s co-ord sets, quite literally. Like chunky trainers, cargo pants and bucket hats before them, co-ords have gone from relic to ironic, to bona fide menswear trend. “Co-ords create a totally different look to your usual get-up,” says James Wright, senior menswear designer at streetwear brand NICCE. “It’s a versatile look that can be worn smart or slouchy, buttoned up or layered depending on the occasion, all the time giving off a high summer feel.”
Oliver Cheshire, model and founder of resortwear brand Ché Studios adds: “Co-ords are a must for any summer wardrobe. I feel it’s like the man’s suit for the summer. It just works and is a very easy option for any beach or bar trip.” Whether it’s a neat Cuban collar-and-short combo or a workwear-inspired jacket-trouser two-piece, co-ords are an easy way to gain double the style points while only putting in half of the work.
3 Ways To Wear Co-ords
Despite what the cast of Love Island would have you believe, co-ord sets needn’t be bright, tight and in-your-face – there is a subtler approach.
“Toned-down neutrals are a good way for slightly older guys to get into this trend,” says Sarah Gilfillan, founder of men’s personal styling service Sartoria Lab.
Channel the Cote D’Azur with shirts and pleated shorts or chinos in off-whites, pastels or classic navy, keeping things interesting with textured finishes such as herringbone, towelling and seersucker.
“Go for a slightly looser fit, but avoid supersized as it could stray into pyjama territory,” adds Gilfillan.
Loud And Proud
The words ‘printed two-piece’ might strike fear into the hearts of many, but they can prove surprisingly wearable, if you know what you’re doing.
“If you’re feeling brave and want to make a statement go for a Hawaiian, floral or animal print co-ord set,” suggests Gilfillan.
Big, bold prints such as these can be tricky, so stick to a relatively muted palette, matte fabrics and a slim, but not skinny fit. Those looking to make less of a splash should consider micro-prints, stripes or geometric motifs, all of which are much easier to wear.
Everybody knows that a holiday is an excuse to dress with a little more pizazz – but that needn’t mean novelty shirts or ill-fitting budgie smugglers.
“Co-ord sets are ideal for travelling light as you can wear them in so many different ways,” says Gilfillan.
“Wear your shirt open (vest optional) with a bucket hat and sliders to go to the beach, or add chunky trainers, calf socks and a cross body bag for a day trip.”
To eke out maximum mileage from your co-ords, Gilfillan suggests you sub in a pair of chinos for sunset cocktails, and pack a few plain T-shirts for easy daytime fits. To further the versatility still, Cheshire recommends keeping “the fit quite classic and the colour combos fairly simple”.
Best Brands For Co-Ord Sets
Topman has come a long way since its noughties heyday – it’s no longer just for painted-on jeans and neon checked shirts. Today, the high street giant is more streetwear savant than Hoxton hero, with its co-ord collection heavy on short-sleeved sweatshirts and short sets, in a millennial-appropriate palette of pastels and tie-dye.
It’s a good job Oliver Cheshire is so damn likeable, or else we’re sure he’d have a long list of enemies. Not content with being one of Britain’s most successful male models, the soon-to-be Mr Pixie Lott has now launched his own line of excellent, sustainably-made resortwear. Think boxy Cuban collar shirts and short-shorts with a retro Venice Beach vibe.
Founded out of frustration with baggy board shorts and too-tight briefs, Orlebar Brown specialises in the kind of swimwear that takes you from the beach to the terrace. Having branched out into a full holiday-wear collection, OB (as those in the know call it) is the place to go for towelling polo shirts and grown-up Cuban collars with matching tailored swim shorts.
If you’re looking to make a statement with baroque patterns and botanicals, then BoohooMAN is where it’s at. For better or worse, the fast-fashion retailer pumps out new trend-driven pieces faster than you can say “tag me in that Instagram pic,” with a massive range of printed and brightly-coloured co-ord sets.
The good folk at Universal Works are a pragmatic bunch, obsessed with functional, workwear-inspired clothing based on fit and good design. Appropriately, their take on the co-ord trend is inherently practical, focused on lightweight utility jackets with matching deck shorts. A stand-out is the field jacket that can be worn all-year round with either chinos or cargo shorts – all in the same lightweight fabric.
It’s tricky to keep up with the latest streetwear trends without an endless PayPal balance and a passion for queueing – unless, that is, you’ve been acquainted with east London’s NICCE. Going against the grain of limited runs and midnight drops, NICCE’s laid-back, minimal style is both accessible and timeless, with colour-blocked two-pieces and understated logo prints.
Always a failsafe option for last-minute holiday pieces, River Island’s offering is full of colourful prints and thigh-skimming shorts that’ll have you feeling positively Balearic, even when you’re in a muddy festival field. Most of its co-ords are made up with swim shorts, but don’t let that put you off wearing them away from the water.
Zara’s little brother Bershka is a hidden gem on the high street. Slightly cheaper than its world-conquering sibling, it has an edgier, retro-tinged aesthetic filled with pop culture references. In the warmer months this translates to printed shirts and shorts that have a Fresh Prince feel without being costume-like.