The stylish man generally avoids wearing pieces of his suits separately, even when his suit trousers wear out and he ends up with an ‘orphaned’ suit jacket. This is because suitings are usually not made of the same materials as odd jackets and odd trousers, and they usually look too formal to be worn not as a whole suit. Many ‘orphaned’ suit jackets end up in charity shops when their trousers wear out. There are, however, some tricks to wearing the pieces of a suit separately.
The Risks of Wearing Suit Pieces Separately
The fashion police are far from your biggest concern when wearing a suit piece on its own. The biggest problem is that by wearing one part of a suit without the other, the suit will wear out faster. A suit should be thought of as one whole garment, not of as individual pieces, So if one piece wears out, the whole suit wears out. If you wear the trousers by themselves, they will wear out long before the jacket, and trousers tend to wear out sooner than the jackets even when they both get the same amount of wear. For this reason, men sometimes buy a second pair of trousers to go with their suits. Some shops used to sell ready-to-wear suits with two pairs of trousers.
With some suits, the jacket is useful without the trousers. More typically, the trousers can be useful without the jacket but not the other way around. For this reason it is always better to have separate trousers to wear with sports coats that are not suit trousers. On the few occasions when James Bond wears his suit trousers with a sports coat, it isn’t a problem because the clothes only need to last the life of the film production. While the actors used to take home their Bond wardrobes, that came second to the suits’ use in the films.
Suitings that Work Separately
If you split up your suit, you don’t want it to look like it’s a suit that’s missing the other half. The cloth determines if one piece of a suit can look right without the other piece. Most suits worn separately still look like the pieces of a suit when they are split up because the suiting is too dressy to be split up. Odd jackets and odd trousers are usually made from different cloths than suits are. The style or detailing of a suit jacket or trouser never determines whether it can work on its own or not, and changing the buttons or stitching on a suit jacket will rarely make it look more like a blazer or sports coat.
Suitings that Also Work As Trousers
Some suitings can make both effective odd jackets and odd trousers, while others work well as trousers on their own but not jackets. Conversely, any cloth that is appropriate for trousers is also suitable for a whole suit, though many such suits won’t end up being smart business suits. There are only a few cloths that are commonly or traditionally both used for suits and for odd trousers. To clarify, these few cloths are not traditionally used for odd jackets, just for trousers or whole suits.
Flannel is the most significant cloth that is both a classic material for suits and for trousers. Woollen flannel is usually the variant used for odd trousers, but worsted flannel is also appropriate. Flannel makes for a relaxed suit, which is also why it is effective for odd trousers. It is James Bond’s most frequently worn cloth for odd trousers.
The only time James Bond wears a piece of his suit without the other is with his grey flannel trousers. He occasionally wears his grey flannel suit trousers with a different jacket, such as a blue blazer or a light grey tweed jacket. Bond wears his dark grey or charcoal flannel suit trousers with these jackets in Dr. No, Thunderball and A View to a Kill. He may be wearing the trousers from his black worsted flannel three-piece suit in Diamonds Are Forever with the brown herringbone half-Norfolk jacket at the start of the film.
Gabardine, in both wool and cotton, is another material that is effective for both suits and odd trousers. James Bond wears both wool gabardine suits and trousers often in the 1980s films, but in different shades of tan. While his tan gabardine suit trousers would be effective with sports coats, he always chooses darker and richer shades for his suits and paler shades for the odd trousers.
Worsted prunelle and wool-and-mohair cloths can also be worn as odd trousers, but they are more common as suits because they are smooth cloths with a good amount of sheen. As trousers, they pair best with dressier sports coats such as worsted blue blazers or silk jackets. They are not ideal for odd trousers but they can be worn.
Flannel and gabardine generally do not make good odd jackets, but they’re far from the worst suitings for odd jackets. Prunelle and mohair are much too fine to make good odd jackets.
For these cloths to make good trousers, they should be plain without any pattern. Striped suitings are rarely effective for odd trousers. While semi-solids may introduce texture to suits, they are usually in patterns that are unique to suits and look more formal. Checked suitings can work as odd trousers, particularly houndstooth, puppytooth or glen checks in flannel and serge or plain-weave worsted. Checks that are grey or read as grey can pair well with a blue blazer or another solid jacket. Windowpane suitings work too but are a little flashier. These suitings may work as trousers, but they aren’t usually effective as jackets because the pattern is too small or cloth is too fine. Good odd jackets should ideally have some texture and a looser weave, both so they have more character and so they contrast texturally with the trousers.
Suiting that Work for Both Jackets and Trousers
Some suitings can make both effective odd jackets and odd trousers. The most basic worsted wool suitings are serge—an even twill—and plain-weave, and as basic worsted cloths they can do just about anything. However, modern versions of these cloths are less effectively worn separately than older versions are. This is because modern versions are lightweight and made of finer wool, so they look smoother and shinier and thus more formal. They’re often too formal for odd jackets and trousers. Older versions of these worsteds were common for both odd trousers and for solid blazers with metal buttons, and they were more effective for both because they had more texture and little sheen.
There are English serge and plain-weave worsteds still woven today that have a less formal look and still look good for both blazers and trousers in addition to suits. High-twist worsteds such as ‘Fresco’ maintain the texture that older plain-weave worsteds had and are still effective for both blazers and trousers, albeit still on the more formal side.
Hopsack is a worsted basketweave cloth that is most often used for blazers, but it is also sometimes used for suits and trousers, making it a very versatile cloth. Its looser weave and added texture makes it a sportier cloth than most other worsteds.
Cloths that make up sportier suits are some of the most effective cloths for both suits and trousers. These materials include, but are not limited to, linen, silk, poplin, corduroy and tweed. Any suit that James Bond has worn of these materials works well as individual pieces. However, tweed trousers tend to work better with knitwear than they do with other jackets.
For the last few years, men online have frequently been talking about an Italian method of wearing suits called spezzato, which means ‘broken’. In the context of menswear it refers to wearing a suit in a broken way by wearing the jacket from one suit and trousers from another suit. It’s especially common for travelling businessmen to wear their suits in this manner because by packing two suits they can have four outfits to wear. James Bond never wears his suits in a spezzato way, despite the practical aspects it would have for his travelling wardrobe. He only wears his flannel suit trousers with sports coats, not with other suit jackets.
Wearing a spezzato outfit is nothing new; people have been doing it for as long as the modern suit has been in existence. It works better when done in certain ways, particularly when the materials are solid and when they have some texture. Suitings that work well separately as mentioned above are the best to wear spezzato.
More on Odd Trousers
To read more about the trouser cloths James Bond wears, see these two articles:
Matching Your Trousers to Your Jacket, James Bond Style
Interesting point of view. I often don’t mind to use the spezzato approach but I would not prefer to wear out my trousers or jacket.
The idea of matching and breaking up a suit and wearing the jacket as a “sport coat” or the trousers as odd trousers is a peculiar one and for me it can sometimes work and other times not as much.
In general, I agree that many suits (especially the more formal ones) are particularly hard to break apart since some of these (particularly the jackets) would look like they were orphaned. Orphaned suit jackets especially are most guilty of this since they lack the visual interest to look casual or sporty enough to stand on their own (orphaned trousers for the most part for me, aren’t as severe and can sometimes work).
Other times however the breaking of the suits can work as shown in the few instances Bond wears them, or in the more successful spezzato method (though I find some examples of spezzato to be particularly affected).
For the most part for me, I mostly stick to Bond’s example and often pair individual odd trousers with sport coats and blazers since I try to avoid giving the orphaned look nor prematurely causing a discoloring in my suit or trousers. That said, I have once paired my medium grey pick-and-pick trousers with my serge blazer, and other times the jacket with black mohair odd trousers and while definetly not ideal, since I have a small tailored wardrobe, I somehow found a way to make them work and try to follow the more successful examples of spezzato. And with my grey pick-and-pick jacket being quite a bit snug and small on me as a result of growth (though the trousers remain comfortable, and if anything quite roomy as my waist has gotten smaller due to weight loss), the temptation to pair the medium grey trousers with my blazer is much higher , since there’s still a lot of life left in the trousers (though I still have some Dark grey and other coloured odd trousers that pair well with the blazer).
With regards to Connery’s blazer in Diamonds are Forever, I noticed you theorize that he is probably using the trousers from the black suit seen later in the film. I suppose that would explain why the trousers look very dark and barely contrast woth the blazer and typically in Connery’s Bond films featuring the blazer, he often wears it with the grey flannel suit trousers in each film (and in Diamonds are Forever there was no dark grey flannel suit). Would you say Matt that the pairing wasn’t ideal and could have been better with the medium grey flannel trousers from the flannel suit earlier in the film (though I suppose it would break the low contrast blazer look Connery often wears and the film department thought that the trousers would be barely seen, and thus chose it instead)?
I’m theorising that Diamonds Are Forever black trousers are paired with the half-Norfolk jacket, not the blazer. I had thought the trousers with the blazer were charcoal flannel, but it’s possible that they are the same black trousers. It’s difficult to tell when there aren’t good shots of the outfit in natural light. I agree that the trousers from the mid-grey flannel suit would have been superior.
The trousers with the navy blazer in DAF are very dark, I think they could be charcoal or darker even almost black. You wouldn’t think the costume department would put Connery in a navy blazer with black trousers but mistakes do happen. It’s like these days when I see people wearing dark blue or navy sports coat with black chinos or black casual trousers of some time. I’ve worn very dark charcoal almost black trousers with a dark blue sports coat before but there was at least some contrast.
It’s regretable to be completely useless orphaned suit jacket came from high quality suits like:
I wish I had a way to reuse them somehow
I think the Quantum of Solace suit jacket can work well as a blazer if you put metal or smoke mother of pearl buttons on it, and wear it with worsted mid-grey plain-weave or serge trousers. It would be good for evening events when you don’t want to be dressed up in a suit.
The On Her Majesty’s Secret Service herringbone suit unfortunately will always look too much like a suit being in a worsted herringbone. It looks similar to a striped suit.
This is off the topic, but there’s problem for me about dressing.
I have to be taken photos for something public, but the manager from office send me a mail: “It will be published in spring, so I ask you to wear bright clothes as much as possible.”
I’m a quite winter man, and I worring it’s not flattering with bright clothes and camera’s flash.
So, do you think I shall try to wear clothes that have more contrast for my season, or wear bright clothes that have less contrast?
Be simply, when I have ordinary white shirt and dark red tie, the jacket has to be navy(include midnight blue), or medium grey in that situation?
I hope this long unnecesary post and your glorious answer help me and someone who see this.
I think there are ways it can work to both look appropriate for spring and to suit your complexion. A medium grey jacket with a white shirt and vivid blue tie may solve this problem.
Four words, gentlemen, to relay to your tailors –
Mother of Pearl Buttons.
There’s your key to make your suit coat wearable as separate.
Also, fresco fabric, and don’t wimp out on the weight.
Fancy buttons only work for the examples I mentioned here. You can’t turn most suit jackets into odd jackets by changing the buttons. Cloth is king.
Well, heavyweight plain weaves and serge for the winner, then.
I concur with Matt’s propositions. I have rarely used this technique except perhaps in a sartorial emergency where the clothes are very similar in texture and preferably at night! Even then I’ve never felt comfortable doing this.
P.S. In the latest podcast from Tailor’s with love I meant Craig (Imo) was the worst dressed Bond actor not Connery! especially in his recent vodka commercial (Yikes).
I’m glad it was Craig you were talking about. We were all so worried about that after the video ended!
Thanks, I appreciate it. There was a lag time during the podcast, and I had joined late so by the time I tried to correct my statement it had ended. I’m also happy that I was not immediately tarred and feathered on the spot! I feel I must add that it has nothing to do with Craig nor his acting, Casino Royale was excellent, it’s just that style wise I believe, as others do, that his preferred personal style departed from traditional style we seem to prefer for Bond, well enough said.
Very informative article Matt! I did always think the James Bond movies did this quite often.
Good article and I find myself agreeing with all your points. One thing I liked about the grey flannel trousers with navy blazer pairing in Dr No was that it felt realistic. Bond is travelling and would therefore be constrained by luggage space (something From Russia with Love doesn’t account for, as Bond wears four different grey suits in Turkey). It stands to reason that under those circumstances he would wear the trousers from one suit with a separate blazer rather than pack an extra pair of grey trousers. I sometimes do this when travelling if one of my pieces is a plain grey suit.
The only other time I separate suit pieces are with tweed suits, where I wear the jackets separately. Fabric wise it works and since jackets wear out more slowly than trousers I don’t think it affects the lifespan of the suit as much as wearing the trousers separately would.
You’re completely right about the tweed suits. Even if the jackets do wear out, tweed trousers on their own pair very well with knitwear. But I find that tweed jackets don’t wear out so easily, and you can always put elbow patches on them.
Definitely makes sense from a travel perspective in Dr No/Thunderball, some of that realism is often lost for the understandable purpose of a good wardrobe in the movies, although I agree Alan re the sea of grey suits in FWRL and think that was overkill. Definitely agree with Matt though that better to have separate flannel trousers for odd jackets. Great point about adding elbow patches to old tweed jackets too.
Completely agree that it’s better to have separate flannel trousers, although wearing a flannel suit’s trousers with another jacket will not wear them out too fast if it’s only done occasionally while travelling.
I like all the grey suits in FRWL but it just felt unrealistic to me, as Bond doesn’t travel with that much luggage. One well cut grey suit could have been quite effective, like in North by Northwest.
In From Russia with Love it takes place over too much time for one suit. Two suits would have been the minimum, and three suits wouldn’t have been unreasonable. But he didn’t need six!
Looking realistically at Bond’s circumstances, I would have to agree with Matt and others that a luggage carrying 6 different (but similar) shades of grey suits with only slight variations in details and pattern sounds really impractical and unrealistic! Like Dr. No, 3 grey suits would have been enough for Bond’s mission in Istanbul and would allow some variety in his wardrobe. I by no means dislike any of the grey suits (they are all well tailored by Sinclair and Connery wears them all well), but I definitely agree that from a distance, many of the suits look similar in colour and its the finer details that separate them.
For variety’s sake, his Medium Grey Plain weave glen check suit, Dark grey pick-and-pick suit, and Charcoal Dupioni silk suit (or alternatively his Glen Urquhart Check Suit) would have been enough while still presenting some variety in the patterns, colours and fabrics that are still appropriate for his business in the film.
Interesting choices. I find that the plain weave glen check and pick-and-pick suits are two of the most similar, both in colour and scale of pattern. The Glen Urquhart check suit has more contrast with the pick-and-pick, so I’d go with those two, plus the flannel. The silk suit is very nice, but it’s not practical.
On various occasions I used that even in the flashy version.
I used to travel a lot for business on Monday to Friday trips. And having a grey suit and packing a blazer proved extremely useful. I even tried the Prince of Wales trousers with blazer combination. A bit flashy but the blue windowpane trousers and Air Force blue blazer looked quite well together.
I have a slubby tobacco linen suit with patched hip pockets. On rare occasions when travelling for work the suit’s jacket can be repurposed as a blazer with cream cotton or linen strides. I wouldn’t make a habit of this but I think it’s a successful transformation when packing light is a necessity. . As noted above, the degree of difficulty increases with smooth worsted suit jackets, straight flapped pockets etc.
For a suit like this, the jacket would be no different than one made as just an odd jacket. I imagine your outfits look very nice.
Cheers – the suit came from Suitsupply several years ago and around the same time I got it they were doing an odd jacket that was slightly different in fabric but with very similar cut and details and almost the same colour which adds to the likelihood that this works for both blazers and suits – in the right setting of course! Tobacco linen is not a very Bondian suit – probably the closest he got was the almost-but-not-quite-a-suit in the desert in SPECTRE
My case may be quite special.
I’ve been making conduit cut suits for a long time and have very basic navy and solid grey.
There is also the “old-fashioned serge” that has appeared frequently in the comments of this blog, and there is also a serge that is not so fuzzy but can not be called a clear serge.
So if you do “broken suit”, This works pretty well.
Even though I’m pretty loyal to Bond’s outfits, sometimes I want to change my mind. In such a case, as the title suggests, “Wearing the Pieces of a Suit Separately” is executed.
Especially when I was young and didn’t have many suits, and I wasn’t able to make that many suits, I used to go there more often than I do now.
However, you should also carefully read and follow your latest post “How James Bond Coordinates Texture in Clothing” when doing this.
It is also necessary to match the weight of the jacket and pants as closely as possible.
Well, here’s an interesting example.
I have a good relationship with a tailor who is well known for being quite hard-line and advocating a strict British style.
This tailor used to have a young manager.
At that time, he was around 35 years old and had nearly 10 years of experience as a tailor.
He has no problem doing this “Wearing the Pieces of a Suit Separately”! said to me.
But his boss, who is even more experienced than the manager and who is insanely hard-line, says it’s not cool to dress like that. Also, dressing is not the only issue.
The problem, he says, is that doing “Wearing the Pieces of a Suit Separately” too often changes the way the suit wears and the resulting aging is strange.
This is an example of “even among tailors who advocate such a strict style, opinions are divided.”