I’m a big proponent of understanding basic style rules, and then bending those rules (maybe even breaking a couple) to make them your own. Doing so will help you create a personal style that’s completely yours.

The idea of a high / low look isn’t a new thing when it comes to men’s outfit ideas, but if you haven’t yet incorporated this style into your daily life, why not?

What is High / Low Style?

High/low (or high-low) style is this general idea of:

  • combining high-fashion, tailored, and custom pieces with more casual, everyday pieces, or,
  • the combining of the higher-priced items in your closet with your less expensive items

Most people have outfits in mind for certain occasions. So, jeans and a t-shirt for going to the store, suit for work or a wedding, etc.

The idea behind high / low style is blurring the lines between formal and casual, or expensive and affordable (something else I’m a big proponent of) so you take on a more smart, sharp casual look. That way, you’re never too overdressed for any occasion, but never underdressed either.

Common High / Low Outfit Ideas

Probably the most basic high / low style mixture out there? Denim with a sport coat. Looks great, classes up the denim. Throw on some great leather shoes and in 95% of situations, you’d be dressed appropriately.

Waistcoat, denim, dress shirt, sneakers. BOOM.

Some other ideas? A waistcoat and dress shirt with denim and sneakers, suiting trousers with a simple, fitted sweatshirt. Suiting trousers with sneakers and a thick cardigan sweater.

Think mixing high and low can’t look good? It sure can. Remember, if everything fits well, you’ll have a much easier time putting things together and making sure your look is polished.

Other Reasons To Have a High / Low Style

1.) Perfect way to utilize both casual / dressier clothing in your closet

If you’re like most dudes, the suit you bought and had tailored sits in your closet for most of the year, only seeing the light of day when a special occasion arises.

You need to make use of that suit more often. Break it up and use parts of it throughout the week.

  • Throw on your suit jacket with your favorite pair of denim
  • Wear the trousers with a sweater and some sneakers

Mixing a suit in with other, more casual pieces, keeps it interesting, and adds another dimension of awesomeness to your everyday style.

Here’s a great article (with images) from Dan T at Articles of Style. He does the high / low, dressy / casual thing really well.

2.) Lets you be more creative with your combos

It’s easy to get into a routine with your clothing.

And there’s nothing wrong with a uniform, but if you’re still figuring out what defines your personal style, you don’t want to get stuck early on.

You want to experiment and try as many things as possible, so you can land upon something that’s uniquely your own.

Ready to use this outfit idea?

It can take a bit of getting used to if you’ve never mixed two seemingly different types of clothing together before. But I believe in you!

Wondering if you can pair X with Y? Not sure how to pull off slim trousers with anything but the suit jacket it came with?

Let’s hear it in the comments below.

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


14 Responses

  1. Stefan on

    I’ve been wearing shirts w cuff links with jeans… Wouldn’t the suit jacket with anything else than it’s pair pants though (that’s why there are sport jackets/blazers)

    BTW the sneakers from the picture look like smth someone would wear to take the trash out LOL

  2. MikeB on

    Good article!  Just found the blog and enjoy it.  I am a huge fan of the dress shirt, blazer and jeans with casual shoes look.

  3. Paul on

    I like the tweed waistcoat, shirt and jeans look,I  use it myself.  As for shoes/sneakers, I like them to be leather.  The only other shoes I wear are clarks desert boots.  I don’t like the standard running shoe paired with dress pants, its just not me.
    I think alot depends on the fabric the suit is made from for it to work as separates, corduroy and tweed being the best.

    • Barron on

      Good plan to definitely stay away from running shoes + dress pants. And you’re right, it depends almost solely on the fabric. It’s tougher to do with, say, a cashmere / wool blend than it would be for a cord or tweed like you mentioned.

    • Barron on

      Yeah, I like more non-sporty sneakers when I dress like this, something like Jack Purcells. Or something like Common Projects or Generic Surplus.

  4. James Kerns on

    Barron, thanks for the article. The concepts are always applicable. I’m relatively new to style, but for work I wear trousers, dress shirt, and tie, and feel I’ve developed the skill and always fits well. However, for casual occasions I’m much more torn. I have one pair of dark blue demin I absolutely love, and can mix it with my sportcoats, but I can’t figure out a good way to use all the nice trousers I have except in my work ensemble. I live in Houston, so sweaters and so forth aren’t an option most of the year. I guess my question is exactly what you posted. How do I pull off trousers with anything but suit jacket and/or dress shirt and tie?


    • Barron on

      Hey James,

      It’s always tougher in warmer climates since layering isn’t an option. You can try fitted polos and a pair of understated casual sneakers with your trousers. If you’re slim, a nice v-neck tee on the days where the sun’s beating down.

      Lightweight sweaters (think wool/cotton blends, or 100% cotton) can work for you, especially into the evening. They’re breathable and don’t trap heat as much.

      Try that, hope that helps a bit.

    • Barron on

      With the right pair of sneakers, it can work. I’m thinking more along the lines of a low-profile, classic sneaker like a Jack Purcell, Adidas Samba, Superga, etc.

  5. Brittanee Lee on

    Barron – I just found your website while doing research for my next image consulting seminar for the IFC at my University. I am a style consultant for Dress Code (a custom menswear brand) and I have now officially spent a good 2 hours reading your articles. GREAT information, and honestly, it resonates with me as a woman! As you know there are 500-trillion lady fashion blogs, and I feel like I have to dig and dig to get anything unique or that I didn’t see on 10 other blogs. Your website is refreshing, packed with so much information, and it falls back to the classics. I would define my style as always fluctuating. Not with the trends per say, but with MY life. I am all about the classic and timeless pieces and found lots of helpful insights I can apply to my own wardrobe. I’m glad I found you! 

    • Barron on

      Hey Brittanee, thanks! Glad to hear it resonates.

      One thing I’ve heard a lot of requests for is an Effortless Gent-style site, but for women’s classic style. As a style consultant (and as a lady), do you think that’s possible? Or is women’s style and fashion too intertwined and segmented to really nail down a truly classic style? I feel like men’s is fairly black and white.

      Thanks for your comment.