Learning how to wear suit separates gives a young guy license to be dressed in a suit when the dress code is casual without looking like a total wanker. It’s an approach to dressing down dressing up.

In order to wear suit separates the look as a whole has to come off as casual. Any components that are overly formal, like a charcoal or black separate, is likely to come off as too conservative and can suggest that one-half of the suit has been misplaced in the rush to make that 9am start. Formal suit components rarely look right as separates.

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Nothing to smile about when assignments are due in tomorrow.

The key is working with separates which are from casual suits which are more versatile than traditional dark worsted navies and charcoals given their degage appearance. Cotton suits are probably the best place to start due to their inherent casualness. Casual wool suits with windowpanes, patchpockets, unusual fabrics etc. make excellent separates but should be considered once a cotton suit, preferably in a navy, has been obtained. What should be avoided is the appearance of the components looking like they’re obvious part of a suit from your business wardrobe. Making sure that the jacket and trousers are equally casual is an easy way to avoid this problem.

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Royal Blue Jacket from M.J. Bale.

Here I’ve mixed two wool suits halves: the jacket is part of a royal blue birds eye wool suit in a summer weight wool and the trousers are part of a windowpane, tropical weight grey wool suit. This casual separates combination is conservative compared to what can be found at Pitti Uomo but it’s still able to turn heads on campus without causing necks to snap (Mike is wanted for several homicides). The look is kind of a step up in the casual hierarchy from the traditional navy blazer and grey flannel trousers combo that the British and Americans are so fond of,  but features enough juxtaposition between the top and bottom halves to keep things visually interesting and distinctly casual. Ensuring that the jacket and trousers appear clearly different is key.

The process of matching separates becomes easier and more creatively rewarding once an eye for how to mix colours, patterns and textures is acquired. If learning how to put together a full suit combo is very, very roughly analogous to learning how to interpret Bach, learning how to mix separates can be compared to learning how to scat sing in jazz. Learning to interpret a Bach requires subtlety and precision but isn’t exactly what you’d call fun.

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Brogues not Oxfords when it comes to separates.

It’s also important to ensure that the other components complement the jacket and trouser combo. In terms of shoes anything more formal than calfskin brown brogues is likely to come off as jarring especially since shoes are responsible for the last impressions we have of someone’s outfit and can effect the way we interpret the look as a whole. Due to their formality oxfords should be avoided at all costs. Additionally, accessories like bracelets or a casual tie and pocket square pairing can contribute to create that desired appearance of casual sprezzatura.

But sometimes the solution to getting separates to work is simply a matter of having the right attitude. The first impression we have of someone is usually from the way they look but the last impression is usually from their character. As long as they’re not a wanker what they’re wearing is usually only of secondary importance.

Royal Blue Birds Eye Jacket– M.J. Bale

White Poplin Shirt – M.J. Bale

Forest Green Cashmere Tie  – Herringbone, Sydney

Paisley Silk Pocket Square – Lardini

Light Grey windowpane suit trouser – M.J. Bale

“Buckingham” Brown Brogues – Loake