The blazer/sports jacket paired with odd pair of pants (also known as trousers) style is a cornerstone of modern male fashion – dressy enough to work in the office or at a bar whilst still being casual enough for weekend wear and hang out with friends. Unlike a more conventionally composed suit, the jacket/pants combination offers immense opportunity for self-expression and fun. Choosing the right combinations however, can be a daunting and tricky prospect with a lot of room for error. In light of this, I’ve thrown together a quick reference guide and a few photos to highlight arguably the best and safest options available. Note that whilst I’ve tried to avoid influencing it overly with my personal opinions but this is hard to avoid and as such there will be plenty of disagreement. That’s ok!

The colors discussed mostly refer to solid colors as patterns introduce a whole new layer of complexity. In general though, most patterned jackets are dominated by one major color and can be matched in much the same way. Patterns do allow for a lot more freedom as well, breaking up harder colors and allowing for more innovative and daring combinations.

As a general rule of thumb, Dark Jackets and Light Trousers are the easiest combination to work with. The other way around is a bold look that can very easily look bad done wrong and light-light/dark-dark is certainly the most challenging. Attention and diligence to the shades of both items involved is crucial – too close and you will create a mess. Too far apart and your outfit risks looking disconnected or disproportionate. A very dark jacket and a very light pair of trousers can make one look unreasonably top-heavy. A good way to fix this is by paying attention to the cut of the jacket – a shorter jacket with more open quarters will alleviate and modernize the look. Good if you want to wear a navy jacket with white trousers, for example.

See Also Our Guide To Blazers

 

Navy Jackets1lW2Knavy jacket

The classic for a reason. Terribly versatile color that provides the foundation for all manner of outfits.

Combines well with:

Charcoal – a classic British public school look. Risks looking safe but boring unless the fit and details are more modern.

Med/Light Grey

Khaki – An American business staple.

White – A summery, somewhat preppy style. Shorter and tighter jackets work well.

Brown

 

 

Blue Jackets

blue jacket

A much more uncommon and vibrant color for jackets, it’s a bold and rather Italian style that looks good with soft shoulders and tight (often too tight) tailoring. Almost exclusively a summer color.

Looks good with:

White – perfect #menswear summer look.

Khaki

Grey – Lighter greys work better in my opinion, but a darker grey with a light blue jacket is ok too.

Other blues – Depending on the shade of the jacket – there should be a clear contrast between the two. Navy looks great under a light blue jacket.

 

Grey/Charcoal Jackets

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Contrary to instinct grey and especially charcoal solid color single jackets are some of the least versatile choices of the lot. A very commonly seen color but often very poorly used and understood. Its lack of color limit it mostly to other shades within the white-grey-charcoal spectrum. Khaki works ok too. In general, if you’re buying your first sports coat I’d steer well clear. Charcoal is especially limited, lacking the softness of grey it’s restricted mostly to pairings with lighter greys.

Works with:

Other Greys: Charcoal for grey jackets, grey for charcoal jackets. Be careful of going too light in shade.

White/Cream: One of the better combinations available – spring/summer only. Pay close attention to the shades involved – lighter greys are much more preferable. Charcoal is too much.

Khaki – Not especially exciting

A grey jacket on navy or brown trousers is pretty dire, avoid.

 

 

Brown Jackets

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A somewhat under-appreciated color, brown is really versatile and great for the autumn/winter seasons. Brown jackets frequently feature heavy fabrics (flannel, tweed) and strong patterning.

Charcoal/Grey

White – Can be very crisp

Olive – A bolder, more playful combination which reinforces the autumnal/country aesthetic

Other shades of brown – tricky to do well, strong patterns and colors help.

 

 

Khaki/Tan/Beige Jackets

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Another color much more suited to the summer, a lightweight (perhaps cotton or linen) tan jacket is pretty easy to combine with other summery trousers.

Works well with:

White/Cream – I think cream is nicer with tan personally.

Grey/Charcoal – Lighter greys go great for a more subdued look. Charcoal can work well too, but beware of your proportions. Heavier fabrics look better with charcoal.

Brown – darker than the tan of the jackets. Can risk looking stuffy depending on the cut and the style (see Bond)

Olive and other pastels for a bolder approach

 

 

Olive/Greens Jackets

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The most underrated color for a autumn/winter sports jacket in my opinion, it’s impressively versatile and can look great. Finding the right shade of olive/green is a nightmare though – too strong or vivid and it’ll border on ridiculous. Some crossover with brown.

Grey/Charcoal

Khaki/Beige

Browns – an earthy combination

 

 

 

Black Jackets/Black Trousers

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Probably best not to buy or wear black jackets or trousers. They pretty much don’t successfully go with anything else. A black suit at least has some purpose (evening events, funerals), but black solo pieces don’t. They’re too dominant and aggressive to play nice – either contrasting or overwhelming any other colour. They demand too much attention visually to be a safe or coherent combination.