How to get the most out of an orphaned suit jacket

Worsted jackets won’t play nice with your jeans, but they still have life to give.

When the trousers of a suit wear out, there tends to be two main schools of thought; the first says the jacket has to go, the second says wear the jacket ‘casually’ as a blazer. These two mainstream pieces of advice are, frankly, somewhat bad. Throwing the jacket out is wasteful, and the latter tends to steer people towards wearing a jacket of crisp worsted fabric paired with jeans or beat-up chinos, almost always jarring due to the inharmonious clash of textures. Changing the buttons isn’t enough; you can always spot the guy wearing an old suit jacket with jeans or chinos, and the first thought is rarely ‘hey, that looks good’ but rather ‘he’s trying to make that orphaned suit jacket look like a blazer’.

An alternative method here is to keep the jacket, but pair it with odd trousers made from fabrics of similar character. Some colours of jacket will give you more options for trouser pairings than others; in my experience, the darker the jacket, the more shades or tones you can try for trousers. Solid fabrics tend to be easier to wear than patterned ones in this case, but some patterns may have options too. Below are some notes I’ve taken on what’s worked for me, using jackets from suits for which I’ve worn out the trousers.

I have more grey suits than any other colour, so I’ve experimented most in making outfits with a dark grey, or even black jacket in a patternless cloth. Both give you plenty of colour and pattern choices to mix with; my favourite pairing is with a pair of mid-grey trousers featuring a Prince of Wales check pattern. When the jacket cloth is solid, any old pattern with a mid-grey base will look the part too; houndstooth, gingham, herringbone, you name it. Any shade of grey from mid-grey to light grey will work with a dark grey or black jacket, all the way through to white trousers. Pale earthy tones such as stone, fawn and beige are also options. As the shade of jacket fabric gets lighter – for example a mid grey jacket – the range of tones and shades for trousers gets smaller, as the best results are had when there’s some degree of contrast between jacket and trouser; a lighter jacket should have even lighter pants. As such, a light grey jacket will likely only work with very light coloured trousers, unless you reverse the light/dark ratio with a light jacket and dark trousers (termed northern lights).

How to wear orphan suit jackets and odd jackets
How to wear orphaned suit jackets and odd jackets
Jacket from my Polo black linen suit.
How to wear a suit jacket by itself

Blue is another colour which you’ll likely find yourself in possession of an odd jacket in, which also provides plenty of options. Everything written regarding dark grey and black jackets also applies to blue, however there are further options; more saturated tones in the beige/khaki family may look good, and other earthy colours such as pale greens also become available. As with greys and blacks, simply maintain some degree of harmonious contrast – be it colour or saturation – between jacket and trouser colours for best results. While my examples below are all using purposefully designed blazers, simply apply the logic used for colour harmonising and choose an appropriate trouser option based on the texture of your own jacket.

How to mix and match outfits with your suits
How to mix and match different parts of your suits
How to mix and match different parts of your suits

A significant increase in the number of brown and green suits sold means that the likelihood of having an orphaned brown or green suit jacket in the future is much higher. My favourite match for a brown odd jacket in the winter is a pale green trouser; in the summer, stone or any shade in the tan/khaki family – all the way up to stark white – is my preference. Naturally, greys are also safe options. For green-based jackets, the same overall palette of options applies.

How to mix and match different parts of your suits
How to wear a suit jacket by itself
This jacket is from my brown Irish linen suit.
How to wear orphaned suit jackets well

As mentioned initially, the key to any outfit featuring an orphaned suit jacket feeling put together is ensuring you’ve kept the textures and degrees of smartness similar. Worsted begets worsted, while more textured jacket fabrics like flannels can pair with either worsted trousers or something with a texture more reminiscent of the jacket, such as cavalry twill. If you’re thinking about buying a suit with the intention of wearing the jacket paired with jeans or chinos, simply follow two guidelines; first, go for a more rugged or casual fabric (flannel or doeskin in winter; seersucker or linen in summer) and second, design it in a way that it’ll feel more casual on its own or look for a readymade design that does so.

Finally, if you’ve done all of the above but something still feels off, pay attention to the way in which each garment is cut. If your orphaned jacket is from a full-cut suit, a pairing with low or mid rise slim trousers is going to appear visually incoherent. The inverse also applies; if your orphaned jacket is cut narrow and short, a pairing with wide leg trousers will also be at odds. It’s important to consider the implications of this when considering your wardrobe as a whole; when buying odd trousers, think about what will work with the items already in your wardrobe. With the cards played right, it’s possible to build a wardrobe in which almost every item is capable of mixing and matching; every outfit in the images used for this article is composed partly or fully with pieces taken from full suits.

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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