From the Boardroom to the Bar
When you buy a new suit, you aren’t getting one new article of clothing, you’re getting a wardrobe. That might sound silly, but many men aren’t aware of the possibilities of how to wear the jacket or pant on their own. Not only do you get some extra mileage out of your investment by getting creative with your suits, you elevate your personal style to an entirely new level. This is by no means a comprehensive summary, but hopefully it’s enough to get the gears turning about how you can take your suits from the boardroom to the bar without missing a beat.
Before we talk about what you can do, let’s establish what you can’t do. If the jacket has formal style elements like peaked lapels, padded shoulders, or buttons that blend in with the jacket, then it should stay with its lower half. On that last point about buttons, if you’re really committed, you can get a set of buttons to swap out when you want to wear the jacket casually. Also, it’s generally accepted that pinstripes and chalkstripes are formal patterns and shouldn’t be worn casually, but it’s not a hard and fast rule and you can certainly play with different looks if you like. We’d stay away from black or navy with pinstripes, though, as well as suits with bold pinstripes. If the suit is double-breasted then it’s way, way too dressy for you to be wearing in any non-formal setting. If you like your suits to be tailored to a slimmer fit, you’ll want to be careful about wearing your suit jackets casually. A good way to test if your jacket’s tailored too slim is to wear a knit sweater over a dress shirt and then put on the jacket. If it doesn’t feel like there’s room in the arm and shoulders for the sweater, or if it alters the silhouette of suit’s fit, then leave it with its matching pant. Finally, a jacket with a light, fine fabric shouldn’t be worn in a casual setting. Not only does the dressier look of the jacket clash with the casual expression of the rest of the outfit, but those finer fabrics are far more susceptible to wear and tear.
A surefire way to give any outfit a casual expression is to wear jeans. Jeans are never formal. They can be nice jeans and look nice, but they will never be formal. That makes them a popular choice when casually wearing a jacket. Blue jeans can be worn with a navy blue suit jacket as long as you make sure the colors work together. There should be contrast between the colors of the two garments, especially since they’re both blue, otherwise it just looks…off. Wear nice jeans in a dark shade of blue with a navy blue jacket, making sure the jeans are darker than the jacket. In this case it’s all about making sure there’s some color separation between the two blue garments. Go darker than the jacket and you should be in good shape. Avoid torn, faded, stonewashed, and ill-fitting jeans. If it’s a blue jacket, don’t wear black denim. Black denim looks terrific with a light grey jacket, but with blue it’s the opposite.
A navy blue suit is the easiest to split up and wear casually because its jacket can basically be treated as a blue blazer. If a suit would be too dressy for the occasion, but jeans would be taking it too far the other way, consider pairing a navy blue jacket with a pair of grey wool slacks (see here). It’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, but it’s a classic, refined-yet-casual look that is appropriate for almost any setting where formalwear isn’t required. In colder months, add a V-neck sweater over your dress shirt for extra warmth and an extra dimension to your look (but make sure the colors match!). Another option with a navy blue jacket is a pair of grey flannel slacks, which adds texture to the outfit and gives the outfit a more casual appearance. Typically, the more texture a fabric has the more readily it can be dressed down. Tweed and flannel, for instance, are much easier to take casual than a sharkskin or silk fabric.
Speaking of grey flannel slacks, if you have a grey flannel suit (a great look, by the way) you can wear the pant on its own as well as the jacket. With the pants, any of knitwear will pair exceptionally well. Go with a V-neck for a slightly dressier option, or swap it out for a quarter-zip sweater to dress it down another level without sacrificing anything in the style department (this look is an in-house favorite). As previously mentioned, you can also wear the pant from a grey flannel suit with the jacket of a navy blue suit. This one is kind of fun because you’re wearing a suit pant with a suit jacket, but it’s nevertheless an unquestionably casual look and no one will know you’re just mismatching the pant and jacket from two different suits. They’ll just be impressed.