The holy grail for guys who like to get the most out of their tailoring, separates – combining non-matching jackets and trousers – will not only breathe new life into an existing suit rotation, they also let you create a wealth of smart casual or formal looks. Yet while anyone can throw together two different garments, it takes a little thought to nail the best colour and fabric combinations, especially when the rules of tailoring are in flux as they are right now. To ensure you are successful, here are seven fail-safe separates pairings that utilise pieces the majority of men already have in their wardrobe.
Grey Jacket + Navy Trousers
One of the most timeless combinations available to men, a grey blazer teamed with navy trousers is a match made in sartorial heaven. Worn to the office or for drinks at the weekend, this tag team of masculine hues will ensure you always look confident and stylish. It’s worth mentioning that, although we recommend a grey jacket with navy trousers, this combination works just as well in reverse – offering up two go-to outfits to add to your repertoire.
To complete the look, utilise other capsule wardrobe essentials, such as a crisp white shirt, neutral tie and black lace-ups for the office, switching to a printed T-shirt and loafers or sneakers for a meal with the other half.
Black Jacket + Grey Trousers
Best for those who like to appear smart and understated, black and grey – when combined with a shirt or roll neck and shoes – is the ideal combination for life’s more formal occasions. While monochrome separates may conjure up images of the boardroom, make a few alterations and you have a sharp off-duty weekend look. Perfect for fancier nights out, try ditching the tie or sub the shirt altogether for a polo shirt or lightweight knit, and switch the smart shoes for more relaxed trainers.
As with the grey and navy pairing, this combination also works both ways. Opt for a grey jacket and black trousers, and the outcome will be just as effective.
Unstructured Jacket + Pleated Trousers
Laid-back layering that’s smart enough for the office doesn’t get easier or more comfortable than this. The foundations are formal, but softer materials and more relaxed fits de-stuff the look for a smooth transition from business hours to happy hour. Up top, look for a jacket without all the usual padding. This gives a softer drape over the shoulder and through your body. Patch pockets, shawl collars and working cuffs keep things casual, as does a wider choice of materials, including cotton twill, wool-blends, jersey or soft denim.
Fuss-free colours work best on this duet, so stick to grey, beige, blue and black for the chinos. Borrow combinations from other pairings in this list or go tonal with shades of beige, brown and white. Finally, ground the smart-casual vibe with a pair of minimalist trainers or low-fi loafers. Easy.
Chore Jacket + Wide Leg Trousers
Tailoring doesn’t necessarily mean ‘blazer and trousers’. You can swap out the officey top half and go with a chore jacket instead – it instantly tones down the formality of a look yet still remains elegant, especially if paired with some properly sleek trousers. Again, there is a difference between the trousers we’re aiming for with this look and your regular suit trousers. The latter are all too often made from a smart but boring worsted wool, and unless you shell out for something made-to-measure or designer, the fit will be lacklustre.
Instead, look to wider cuts for this combo – we don’t mean billowing, but there should be plenty of room in the thigh, with a gentle taper down to the hem. It’s a little bit workwear, a little mid-century modern. And a hell of a lot cool.
Textured Blue Jacket + Trousers
Separates don’t have to mean separate colours top and bottom. It is entirely possible to pair a jacket and trousers in similar tones without looking like you’ve got your suits mixed up. Greys can work, but blue is the safest colour option when going tonal. The only rule to keep in mind is making sure there’s some point of difference between the upper and lower body. This could be a noticeable gear-shift in colour: a petrol blue jacket with navy chinos, or a navy jacket on sky blue trousers. Alternatively, you can keep the tones similar but add some distinction with the material. Try a crosshatch pattern on the jacket or a different fabric entirely.
To finish the look, bring some contrast in with a white shirt (adding a tie for smarter occasions) or stick to casual dress with a complementary blue shirt under the jacket. Allez les bleus.
Work Shirt + Matching Trousers
We’ve discussed how tailoring trends have transformed the suit over the past year or so, and how it can be worn right now. One of the new menswear moves becoming increasingly popular is ‘the new suit’; two garments made of the same fabric – an overshirt and trousers for example. These still act as separates, and you’ll probably find you wear them on their own more often, but when combined there is no easier way to look well turned out. Think about it. One of the pleasures of wearing a suit is how easy it is – you throw on two matching pieces, a couple of accessories and you’re good to go. The same applies here, yet with none of the stuffiness typically associated with tailoring.
Many brands are now making this look a reality, but especially those that table in workwear like A Day’s March, Universal Works and Folk. Look for fabrics such as brushed cotton or wool twill and aim for navy or charcoal for maximum versatility – either piece will work with virtually every other garment in your wardrobe.
Bold Jacket + White Trousers
Any outfit that features white trousers is a reasonably daring one, and this summer-ready separates combination is no different. Scream Riviera style by opting for a blazer in either a check pattern or a bold shade such as sky blue or green, and team it with white jeans or trousers for a sophisticated look, no matter where you reside. To create a memorable outfit, roll the trousers’ hems a couple of times and go sockless with espadrilles and a T-shirt for an evening out on holiday, or try an open-necked shirt and loafers for a summer wedding reception.
Your skin tone should influence the colour of your jacket. For those with dark or olive skin, you are pretty much free to take your pick from any colour, primary or pastel. If you are fair-skinned, however, it’s best to opt for a slightly darker hue to avoid looking washed out – think a deep red or petrol blue. The fit of the jeans or trousers is also paramount. To maximise on style (and to allow a little air-flow), go for slim rather than skinny cuts and you’ll nail that sense of effortless chic that our continental cousins pull off so well.