Fashion

The Right Way to Break Up a Suit

One item, a whole bunch of ways to wear it. Here's how to style your suit for every scenario.
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For most of the history of the men’s suit, there was only one way to wear it: with a dress shirt and tie. But over the years, this foundational piece of tailoring has extended into a variety of different uses. 

First came the suit-with-a-turtleneck look of the 1960s; then came the suit-with-a-T-shirt combo of the '80s. Today, thanks to a more adventurous, anything-goes approach to fashion and the intrepid rise of casual and athletic wear, the suit has become something of an all-purpose item. Whether the jacket and trousers are worn together in their traditional pairing or split up to add a bit of sophistication to an otherwise non-tailored look, the suit has truly become the modern day Swiss Army knife of menswear. 

The key is simply knowing how to use it. From a night on the town to casual Fridays and everything in between, here’s how to break up your suit for every scenario.

The Office

Blazer by Boss; shirt by Boss; pants by Boss; shoes by Cole Haan. 

With office dress codes skewing much more casual these days—even bankers regularly dress down—the suit is no longer the mainstay of the professional wardrobe. But that doesn’t mean you can’t rely on one as a foundational piece of your office style. 

The trick is just to broaden your horizons on what type of suit you can wear and how you can wear it. A virgin-wool flannel suit (like this washable one from Boss) lets you dial down the formality of a traditional suit without losing that tailored elegance. And while you can still go the full professional monty by wearing the matching trousers with a dress shirt and tie, pairing it instead with an Oxford shirt and dark jeans or lighter chinos is a great everyday look that’s perfect for today’s business casual environment. 

For those chilly winter months, just add a lightweight crewneck sweater to the mix—over the Oxford, under the blazer—for a sharp, layered look.

Casual Friday

Sweater by Altea; pants by Boss; sneakers by Converse. 

The biggest problem with casual Friday today is that people confuse weekday casual with weekend casual. Showing up to work in the sweatpants and tee you wear while watching football on the couch is not a good move. You need something that’s low-key and comfortable, but that still tells people you’re a valuable member of the team. 

Break up your suit and wear the trousers with a light crewneck sweater and a pair of classic low-top sneakers—Chuck Taylors, Vans, Stan Smiths, etc. An outfit like this is crisp enough to keep you looking professional, but casual enough and—more importantly—comfortable enough to keep you from looking overdressed. 

If you want to have a little more fun, try the blazer with a graphic tee, dark jeans, and a pair of minimalist sneaks. It’s also casual and comfortable, but the blazer gives you more of that modern, billionaire “cool guy” look.

A Night on the Town

Blazer by Boss; sweater by J.Crew; jeans by Acne; boots by Common Projects. 

There are a couple of ways to approach a night out with a cotton garment-dyed suit. One is to shoot for the moon, style-wise, and pair it with a cashmere turtleneck and a pair of Chelsea boots. 

But, if you’re looking for something with a little more edge, you can also wear the blazer with either a turtleneck or crewneck sweater, black jeans, and a pair of polished black lace-up boots. Another approach is to ditch the blazer and pair the suit trousers with the same sweater, plus polished black Derbies. For a more casual vibe, go with simple sneakers. 

In the warmer months, swap out the sweater for a crisp solid or patterned poplin button-up shirt.

Dinner With Friends

Blazer by Boss; sweater by Boss; jeans by Nudie; boots by Clarks. 

The way you want to dress for dinner or game night with friends is in a way that doesn’t overdo it. But, as always, you don’t want to look sloppy—or worse, not stylish. 

The trick is to think high-low, using your suit jacket or trousers as the high and everything else as the low. Wear the blazer with a cotton crew sweatshirt, faded blue jeans, and either suede desert boots or a pair of sneakers. You can also flip it around by mixing the suit trousers with a light merino or cashmere sweater and those same footwear options. 

Another option is to go the preppy route with the trousers, a blue Oxford shirt, and a pair of all-white kicks—like Jack Purcells or Stan Smiths. Think of it as the John F. Kennedy approach to casual dressing.

Weekend Brunch

Blazer by Boss; sweatshirt by Everlane; chinos by Boss; sneakers by Vans. 

Although weekend brunch is a solidly casual affair, wearing your suit, broken up, of course, is not off the (figurative) table. At this point, you really just want to think of it as a version of chinos and a light jacket. Like, for instance, chinos with a poplin shirt, polo shirt, or a hooded sweatshirt and a pair of canvas sneakers or leather loafers. That’s an A+ weekend brunch look. 

Conversely, you can also pop the blazer over a tee or a cotton crewneck sweatshirt, and then pair those with your favorite worn-in jeans and a pair of sneakers for that always-stylish ‘80s vibe. It’s essentially the same approach as traditional casual wear—jeans or chinos and a light jacket—just cut in a way that will make you look 1000 percent sharper.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Scott Christian
Scott Christian is a style writer for Esquire.com
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