The holy grail for guys who like to get the most out of their clothing, separates – i.e. combining non-matching blazers and trousers – will not only breathe new life into an existing tailoring collection, 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. To ensure you are successful, here are seven fail-safe separates pairings that utilise pieces the majority of men already have in their wardrobe.
(Related: 5 Fresh Ways To Wear A Blazer)
A navy jacket worn with beige trousers or chinos is about the most versatile mash-up of separates you can get. Just as effective in the winter as it is in summer, this eye-pleasing pairing works for everything from a stroll in the south of France to a pub lunch in south London.
There are no strict rules as to what style of blazer you should wear; this should be dictated by your body shape and personal style. However, we would suggest a double-breasted style for formal occasions, switching to a classic two-button or unstructured design to dress down.
To complete the look, add a shirt, tie and leather Derby shoes to look smart for something like an evening wedding reception, or a crew neck T-shirt and minimal leather sneakers to come of casual when meeting friends for lunch.
One of the most timeless combinations available to men, a grey blazer teamed with navy trousers is a match made in sartorial heaven. Whether worn to the office or for drinks at the weekend, this tag team of versatile, 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 tee and loafers or sneakers for a meal with the other half.
(Related: Your Ultimate Guide To Business-Casual)
Best for those who like to appear smart and understated, black and grey – when combined with a shirt, tie 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 nights out, when the aim is to dress practically but still look good, try switching the standard shirt and tie for a simple T-shirt or polo, and sub the dress shoes for more relaxed loafers. Black and grey are sober colours, so if you want to add some flair, finish with a printed pocket square or patterned silk scarf.
As with the grey and navy pairing, this combination also works both ways. Whether opting for a black jacket and grey trousers or black trousers and a grey blazer, the outcome will be just as effective.
Laid-back layering that’s smart enough for the office doesn’t get easier or more comfortable than this combination. 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, you’re looking for a jacket with the usual lining and padding stripped out. 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.
Neutrals work best on this duet so stick to grey, beige, blue and black for the chinos. Borrow colour combinations from other pairings on this page or go tonal with, for example, shades of beige, brown and white. Finally, ground the smart-casual vibe with a pair of minimalist sneakers or low-fi loafers. Easy.
Separates don’t have to mean separate colours top and bottom. You can 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 when you’re going tonal.
The only rule to think about here is making sure there’s some point of difference between the upper and lower body. It 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 cross-hatch pattern on the jacket or a different fabric entirely.
To finish the look, either bring some contrast in with a white shirt (adding a tie for formal occasions) or keep things casual with a complementary blue shirt under the jacket. Allez les bleus.
One specifically for autumn/winter, this ever-popular combination has been a gentleman’s favourite for generations. Ideal for guys who take a more rugged approach to style, the heavyweight pairing walks a nice line between sartorial and casual without skimping on practicality.
To create an outfit with the two, team them with a pair of brown boots and a crew neck jumper at mid-week drinks, switching to a roll neck and leather brogues for smart-casual events. If you’re wearing selvedge denim (which you should be), remember to roll up the hem a couple of times to showboat that internal selvedge edge.
(Related: How To Wear Tweed In A Modern Way)
For those who are not fans of tweed – whether it be due to the feel, look or weight – jackets in other winter-appropriate materials like wool, cord or flannel make good alternatives that complement denim’s durable, workwear roots just as well.
Any outfit with white trousers is a fairly loud one, and this summer-ready separates combination screams French Riviera in particular. Opt for a blazer in sky blue, green or even a pastel shade of yellow or pink, teaming it with white jeans or trousers for a sophisticated look, no matter where you reside.
To create an 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 blessed with dark or olive skin, you are pretty much free to take your pick from any colour, primary or pastel. However, if you are fair-skinned, 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.
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