Many men struggle with the idea of wearing a mismatching “suit.” You know what I mean: a sport jacket or blazer and a pair of trousers that aren’t the same colour or pattern. A lot of guys would consider this a play or for the sartorially inclined, those in the know. That’s not the case at all, and dressing this way can be quite simple. I suppose it takes a little more thought than grabbing a suit out of your closet, because the decision is made for you there, but it’s still not terribly tough.
The title of this article may lead you to believe that one of these styles is better than the other, and while you may believe that to be true it’s merely a matter of taste. I want to let you know that there are other options out there that are just as handsome and just as easy to wear. There are a few tips and tricks to be learned when buying suits as well that will greatly expand your wardrobe.
Men’s clothing, especially dress clothing, can become monotonous and repetitive over time so it’s always nice to have a few different options in the closet than a black or a navy suit. Wearing a jacket and trousers can be a way to add a more casual element to your look and mix in items you wouldn’t normally with a suit. It can, however, also be just as put-together and handsome as any suit when the details are on point.
Today I’ll discuss the merits of each, what’s are a few appropriate combinations depending on how dressy or casual you want to look, and how to stretch your dollar a bit further. While I do ramble on about fashion occasionally, it’s important to remember that not everyone wants to dress that way. Some guys prefer things to be simple, and that’s okay. I’m not here to rag on the suit either; it’s a tried and true method to looking your best.
With all of that in mind, here are our tips and tricks and miscellany on how to wear a sport jacket and trousers, or a suit, or both (not at the same time).
As I mentioned, wearing a suit is easy. The jacket and pants are already matching, thus taking the majority of the effort out of it for you. I don’t say this condescendingly either because who wants to think about picking an outfit early in the morning? The answer is nobody. I want to go back a step, though, and talk about how to stretch your dollar further when purchasing a suit. Most guys probably have a couple of suits in the closet: your basic navy or grey, a black, and maybe something with a little pattern or colour. That’s all well and good and a good way to get started.
If you don’t need that many suits or perhaps don’t have the extra dough to be buying a couple suits every season you need to think a little more about the ones you do buy. When you are purchasing a suit or two, ask yourself if you can pair the individual elements of each with anything else you own. This is much easier to pull off if you stick to neutral colours and patterns. For instance, a navy suit and a grey suit are going to be complimentary. A classic jacket/trouser combination is to wear a navy jacket and grey trousers. Even the reverse, a grey jacket and navy trousers can occasionally be pulled off if the colours are right.
If you’re only going to be purchasing a few suits don’t buy anything with too much pattern because something like a pinstripe suit will not look good as separates. It’s a phenomenon I can’t explain, but when you see pinstripe suits broken up it always looks like a guy took his favourite suit jacket and put on some pants with it, instead of a natural combination. If you do want to mix things up a bit go for a subtle pattern, like a tone on tone plaid or subtle windowpane, in a neutral colour.
Buying suits that are complimentary of one another and work with a few pairs of trousers you already have in your closet is a great way to stretch your dollar and add a few new looks into your rotation without having to totally break the bank. If you have to wear a suit frequently, or dress quite formally at the office, buying complimentary suits is a great way to spend your money wisely and expand your wardrobe on a budget.
I’ve always preferred wearing a jacket and trousers to a suit. I find it opens up a lot more options for me and can be fun to play with. If you buy a relatively benign jacket you can almost wear it with anything too. Now sport jackets can be as casual or as formal as you want, but I think they lend themselves better to the casual end of the spectrum. Why? Well I think the right jacket can work with jeans, chinos, cargo pants; any proper fitting pant that works with the colour and pattern of the jacket. You often see guys wearing them with sneakers and casual shirts, things like that.
If you’re the type of guys who needs to wear a suit or has a very formal dress code to live by, purchasing a couple of suits that work together is the best utilization of your dollars. If you don’t have too tight of restrictions around how you can dress and only need to have a jacket on, spend your monies thusly: purchase a nice jacket that is versatile and fairly neutral, then buy a number of cheaper and complimentary items. Grab a few oxfords and pairs of chinos in various colours and styles to work with your jacket. Buy things that are all interchangeable and have that sport jacket be the anchor of your look.
If you do need to class it up then you can add a pair of trousers and you will look as though you know exactly what you’re doing. One of those complimentary items should probably be a neutral coloured (light or dark grey) pair of trousers just in case The Man forces you to conform. Again, if your sartorial choices are limited by your employer the sport jacket is definitely the way to go. They can be found for a good price at a lot of places and work well with a lot of things in your wardrobe.
At the end of the day, you need to determine what your needs are before you decide where to spend your hard-earned dollars. If you need to be dressed up get a couple of suits and then mix and match them to your heart’s content. If you don’t need to be all that dressed up, elect the sport jacket as your go-to because it’s an extremely versatile piece and easy to build a wardrobe around.
The suit vs. sport jacket debate will rage on, but there’s no reason why you can’t sit comfortably on the fence. Both are perfectly legitimate ways to dress no matter how casual you want to look. If money is no option, get a few of each and see what feels right. There’s no reason to limit yourself and limit your wardrobe. Have some fun with your clothes; life is too short to take things like that too seriously.