I love having suits I can mix and match different ways.

Contrary to what you may have been told, 1.) suits are extremely versatile, especially for a smart casual or business casual look, and 2.) they can be separated and worn with many other things, from denim jackets to other suits!

In this post, I’m going to give you some examples to try.

If you have similar items in your closet, give them a shot and let me know how it goes.

And if you want to share photos or have questions, I’d love for you to do it in the Effortless Gent community on Facebook. We have a group of a few hundred guys and everyone can benefit from the questions that are asked and answered.

Four outfits from one suit… but not just any suit

Here’s where the big BUT comes in…

You can’t take any suit and wear the trousers and jacket separately. You have to have the right suit, made from the right fabric, designed with the right details.

By the way, thanks to Oliver Wicks for providing the suit I use to illustrate the examples in this article.

First, fabric and weave

My ideal suit for breaking up and wearing separately would be made from a navy hopsack. My friends at Oliver Wicks had this amazing 9 oz. blue hopsack fabric from Angelico.

image_749_2389_original

 

I chose this blue hopsack specifically for its versatility.

The hopsack weave is more “open” and has a coarser texture. So its inherently less formal than a finer, smoother, flatter weave.

In traditionally formal or business formal situations, this suit may not be the best choice. But since I’m never in those situations, this works best for my lifestyle.

Work in a business casual office? Often in situations where you need to dress smart casual or just sharp in general? You’ll get a lot of use from this suit.

The color is only slightly brighter than standard navy. The color and casual detailing (patch pockets, brown buttons, natural shoulder) make it easy to break this suit up and wear it with different pieces.

Here’s the blue hopsack suit I use in the outfits below. My second choice was this grey birdseye. The birdseye weave skews a bit more formal – not as easy to wear separately.

Second, details

I asked for a few customizations…

  • ~9.5cm lapels
  • single pleats
  • 2″ cuffs
  • patch pockets
  • side tabs
  • no belt loops

…and addressed some problem areas:

  • wide chest and back
  • bigger quads
  • slightly larger armhole to avoid divots
  • extending the shoulder a bit

The suit came out wonderfully. I’ve ordered quite a number of suits before, so I know exactly what I need (though, to be honest, I’m still learning with each order).

Because you may be unsure of what you need in a custom suit at the beginning, it’s important to work with a company that’s willing to walk you through it, step by step.

Oliver Wicks has been my go-to over the last couple years, mainly because of the attention to detail and the accommodation of my little requests (such as what I listed above).

Once you have the right suit, breaking up is easy to do

My friend Tanner of Masculine Style sums this whole idea up perfectly:

“Texture is key. A worsted wool or a finer weave like a sharkskin or birdseye won’t look right when the jacket is worn as a separate.

[With fabrics such as birdseye that have a slight texture], it makes [separating the suit] easier, but it’s still such a fine weave that it’s tough to make it look right. I’d say that’s fine with odd trousers, but the contrast would be too strong to wear it with jeans or casual chinos.”

Something to keep in mind if you’re in the market for a suit, but want one that you can break up without looking like you’re wearing a suit jacket whose pants have gone missing.

Outfit 1: Full suit

suitbreakup-1full

Here is the full suit with a white shirt, brown pin dot tie, complementing square, and brown lace-up bluchers.

When wearing as a full suit, I’d treat it like a standard navy color. Most combinations you’d wear with navy can go with a brighter blue too. Just keep in mind the saturation is bumped up a bit. You don’t want to go too bright.

A white or light blue shirt always works. So does a subtle pin dot, stripe, or solid silk knit tie.

I wouldn’t wear anything too saturated or “loud.” The suit itself is plenty eye-catching on its own.

Outfit 2: Trousers only

suitbreakup-2trousers

Here I’ve combined the trousers with a brown herringbone sport coat.

The sport coat is a linen-cotton blend. It pairs nicely with a light pink oxford cloth button down. The trousers’ formality matches the jacket’s nicely. I finished it off with a pair of grey driving shoes.

Outfit 3: Trousers only

suitbreakup-3trousers_2

I could take the formality down a few more notches. Replace the sport coat with a denim jacket and my drivers for clean, white leather sneakers.

Well-fitting trousers – especially in a blue or grey – can go with plenty of other items. You’re not relegated to only sport coats and ties when you wear them.

Outfit 4: Jacket only

suitbreakup-4jacket

Finally, one of my favorite combinations. I paired the blue jacket with a blue gingham shirt, light khaki dress chinos, and cognac leather loafers.

This is one of my personal uniforms. I’d wear it almost every day — if I only had a handful of outfits to choose from.

The light chinos contrasted with the bright blue jacket is perfect for spring and summer. You can easily swap out the light chinos for denim, mid-grey trousers, or even a different color of chinos (say, British khaki, charcoal, or olive, for starters).

Of course, the light chino + blue jacket combo has the most punch.

Wearing a suit separately is easy

Start with either the jacket or trousers. From there, mix in more casual elements.

The jacket is often easiest to start with. Replace the trousers with dress chinos, regular chinos, or even denim.

Since you normally wear a dress shirt with a suit, try a sport shirt, an Oxford cloth button down, or a polo on hot days.

If you want to wear the trousers, swap out the suit jacket for a sport coat.

Try a linen dress shirt or Oxford cloth button down instead of your dress shirt. Go with loafers or driving shoes instead of lace-ups.

If you know the formality scale and where certain items fall on it, it’s easy to mix and match different #menswear favorites.

I hope this gave you some ideas!

How would you break up a blue or grey suit? Let me know in the comments, or better yet, join the Effortless Gent community on Facebook and upload some photos in a private group setting.

If you found this article useful, make sure to check out our Lean Wardrobe resources page.

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PUBLISHED August 16, 2016


Barron is a Lean Wardrobe Advocate and Founding Editor of Effortless Gent. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Tumblr.



  • Alan

    I am 5’11” tall but with a 30″ inseam – long torso short legs (like Michael Phelps, minus the Olympic medals). I have always been told by tailors they shorten the silhouette of the leg. Would you still recommend a 2″ cuff? I like a 1.25″ cuff but usually tailor without to make my bottom half look more even with my top half.

    • If I were you, I’d go no cuff, wear the pants at your actual waist (higher up), and opt for little or no break.

    • I don’t always recommend it. I just happen to like it. They do shorten the silhouette, and since you want to appear to have longer legs for more visual balance, go with no cuff and no break, and a medium rise (above the hips, a bit higher than normal) like @TheModestMan:disqus suggests.

  • Chris Sandiford

    The middle two don’t work at all for me and the lack of belt is offputting. The denim combo looks like you’re off to put a shift in at the local mechanics. Sorry. The blue is too overall-like to work outside of the full suit.

    • Anna Nuehm

      Full ACK on everything. I can’t even believe he was being serious with that beltless suit trousers / denim jacket combo. Sorry to say, but in my eyes, that’s a ridiculously mismatched look.