Drinks parties, dates, dinner and beyond. These are the awkward limbo events for which a full suit is little much, but smart casual could be seen as a cop out. Thankfully, for the style-conscious man, there exists another option. Albeit one that tends to strike fear into the hearts of those who’ve never attempted it.
We’re talking, of course, about suit separates.
The majority of gentlemen tend to write separates off as some sort of advanced-level style move, reserved only for the street-style elite and the Pitti peacocks. However, we’re going to let you in on a secret: it’s not anywhere as hard as they’d lead you to believe. The trick lies in knowing when to wear them, which colours work well together… and which ones don’t. Once you’ve got that pinned down your wardrobe options will increase dramatically. So allow us to fill you in on the fundamentals.
What Are Separates?
At their core, separates are any items of tailoring that don’t come from the same suit. Mixing the colours up keeps things more laid back than wearing a two-piece, without straying into sports jacket and jeans territory.
It can be a little more complex than that, though. For example, the trousers don’t always have to be tailored. A pair of suit trousers could be swapped out for chinos in most cases and still be classed as separates. It’s all about how it looks as a whole, and pairing the correct colours is a big part of that.
When Should I Wear Separates?
Any time the dress code is a little bit fuzzy would be a good time to opt for separates. They’re always a great option for weddings, business casual offices and cocktail attire. As long as you don’t work in a corporate office, and the invite doesn’t state black tie, you can consider yourself good to go. And if in doubt, check with the host.
The Best Separates Colour Combinations
Some colours work beautifully with one another. Others, not so much. Here we look at the failsafe options you can keep referring back to time and time again to ensure your separates are perfectly matched, no matter what.
Navy Jacket With Khaki Trousers
There are very few colours navy doesn’t work with, but there are a select few that it complements so wonderfully it was almost as though they were designed to sit next to each other. One such hue is khaki. The beauty of this combination is that it works both ways round (top or bottom), but we’re going to focus on a navy blazer with khaki trousers.
First, use a base layer to anchor the outfit. A white shirt, earthy roll neck or dark T-shirt would work nicely. If the occasion calls for it you could even add a waistcoat – something autumnal like a brown or beige textured wool would work well. Then it’s just a case of matching the suit trousers to your shoes. Try going for Oxfords or loafers in either a deep brown or black.
Blue Jacket With White Trousers
White trousers and tailoring is a bold style move, but one that can really pay off. So don’t let the Italian menswear mavens have all the fun, grab yourself a slice of the high-contrast action too – just watch where you’re sitting when you’re out and about.
This one is best pulled off with a hearty dose of sprezzatura. Jacket wise, why not go double-breasted? If it’s colder weather you could even introduce a tonal waistcoat to give this combo an extra dimension. Other touches like a Panama hat, a scarf and/or a vibrant pocket square will help you to achieve that sense of effortlessly nonchalance, without coming across try-hard (it’s a fine balance).
In terms of shoes, your options are numbered but black, dark brown or oxblood will always look great with this tried-and-tested pairing.
Beige Jacket And White Trousers
As previously mentioned, a summer wedding presents the perfect occasion to wheel out your separates. But unless you want to be on the verge of passing out from heat exhaustion by the time the speeches start, you should avoid dark colours and heavier materials.
A beige jacket in linen, layered over a blue chambray shirt, is a good place to start. It’s smart yet summery and will keep you cool. Match this with a pair of crisp white tailored trousers or chinos.
Then it’s just a case of nailing the footwear; black, dark brown or oxblood loafers are a solid option here.
Grey Jacket With Black Trousers
From a summer favourite to a winter one. Mixing black and grey may not sound like the most festive combination around but keeping your jacket and trousers low key and muted gives you some leeway to create a focal point elsewhere within your ensemble.
A good place to start is with your base layer – i.e. whatever you’ve elected to wear beneath the jacket. A roll neck is a sophisticated choice and as the rest of your clothes aren’t screaming for attention, you can opt for a bold colour or even a pattern – a seasonal Fair Isle perhaps?
As for your shoes, keep things nice and simple with black Derbies, brogues or monk-straps.
Burgundy Jacket With Navy Trousers
When dressing for impact, a statement jacket is your best friend. A colourful top layer is a foolproof way to bring an outfit to life, making it ideal for parties and functions that allow you a little room for manoeuvre in the dress code department.
We’ve said it before many a time, but it’s worth repeating: if you’re going to wear a statement item – be it a jacket and shirt and tie or whatever else – you need to ensure the rest of your getup is pared-back. Nothing should be fighting for attention. That’s why a pair of navy trousers is such a good accompaniment in this instance. Navy is classic, understated and will complement a statement burgundy jacket without stealing any of the limelight.
On your feet, you’ll need to make sure the colour of your shoes is a good match for navy. To get this right, always opt for either black or dark brown.