The color of your sport coat makes a bigger difference than you think

The color of your sport coat makes a bigger difference than you think

Q. Is it more correct to wear a light-colored sport coat with darker-colored pants or to wear a dark-colored sport coat with lighter-colored ones?

A. Both are correct. Each one is a classic way to dress and each has its own advantages. A man can decide which one is better based on what he sees when checking himself out in a full-length mirror. Unless your body proportions seem to call out for one or the other, why not incorporate a few of both looks into your wardrobe?

To clarify my reference to your body’s proportions, keep in mind that light colors visually tend to make you look larger, and dark colors do the opposite. So, if you feel that your top half is smaller than you would like it to be, then, choose a light sport jacket with dark trousers. But if you feel that your torso and shoulders are too large for the rest of your measurements, you might well pair a dark blazer with light-colored dress pants. This is a balancing technique that works.  

Finding great sport-coat-and-dress-pants-combinations is a casual-dressing skill worth developing. Besides contrasting colors that mix dark and light, another approach involves mixing solids and patterns. 

Your best choices of pairs that work well would be:

  1. Mixing two solids, such as a solid light-colored sport jacket with solid dark trousers or the opposite, a dark blazer with solid light-colored trousers. A few handsome choices include: an ivory jacket with charcoal gray dress pants, a navy blazer with beige/tan pants, and a blue blazer with white jeans. 
  2. Mixing one solid and one pattern, for instance, a tweed sport jacket with solid trousers or a blazer with pants in a small-pattern. Try a black-and-gray houndstooth jacket with solid gray trousers, or a solid-color blazer with herringbone-patterned trousers.
  3. NOT mixing two patterns. Two patterns together, such as a windowpane plaid and a tweed, are jarring.

While a sharp contrast of light with dark is a distinctive look, you can also pair two mid-range shades. A light gray blazer can go with medium-gray pants, and a medium-brown tweed sport coat works with a pair of khakis. But avoid going for a pair that is too close in color so there is no distinction between your jacket and your trousers. And here is one more no-no: never choose half of a dressy pinstripe or chalkstripe suit and use it as one of your two separate pieces. It will look like what it is, a mistake.

When dressing in contrasting pieces, it is best to select your accessories with an eye towards classic simplicity. Timeless, solid blue or white shirts are good choices. If  you wear a tie, a safe pick would be a solid-color knit or a very quiet dark foulard, nothing too elegant or shiny. A pocket square can be a nice addition, if you like wearing them, but it is not a necessity. Avoid eye-catching shoes and/or bright, colorful socks.

Unlike the simple choice of wearing a matched two-piece suit, creating a handsome pair of separates displays your taste and how-to-dress skills. Show them off by putting together items that look very intentional, not as if you could not find a matching set.

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