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Menswear has done something that was once considered unthinkable: it broke up with the two-piece suit. Not an official divorce, per se, more of a trial separation. The idea was for men to make room for other styles in their day-to-day dressing, so when they did wear the occasional suit, it would feel more special. After all, the whole suit-and-tie relationship had a habit of falling into monotonous patterns – the same blacks and greys, the same pale blue Oxfords, the same black brogues.

In their place, men started embracing tailored separates, and things got serious. They found they were more comfortable in pieces that weren’t so matchy-matchy – it gave them an opportunity to show off their personal style. And things have been going strong ever since. 

Now it’s time you got in on the relationship, too. And it’s easy. Tailored separates are pieces that aren’t part of the same suit and are made from different fabrics. They don’t technically have to be tailored – they can consist of chinos or a sports blazer that were purchased, well, separately. They’re essentially the Goldilocks of smart-casual dressing: more laid-back than your standard two-piece suit, but more considered than jeans and a blazer. 

Unsurprisingly, many of the big style players – from Timothée Chalamet to Michael B. Jordan – have caught onto their appeal. They look smart in a whole range of situations, from work to weddings, and they’re a great default option when an invite calls for business-casual or cocktail attire. You can also easily dress them up or down depending on where you’re headed. If you need to dial things up a notch, you can style your jacket with a button-down shirt and tie, as well as your trusty brogues. If you’re heading to a more laid-back event, you can style yours over a polo or t-shirt with a pair of trainers.

If the thought of mixing and matching separates sounds intimidating, just know that anyone can it pull off if they adhere to some simple rules. First, nailing the right colour combination is crucial. You want to make sure your colours contrast enough that it doesn’t look like you mixed up two similar suits. Some foolproof combinations are navy and khaki, white and blue, and beige and white. You can spring for more statement-making colours, like a cobalt or burgundy, but make sure to keep the rest of the pieces in your look simple. If you want to add pattern into your look, only opt for one per look to avoid looking busy, and make sure you add it via your jacket. 

You also want to be considerate about the fabrics you mix. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want to pair any fabrics that are too flat or too fine. Look for more textured fabrics, like corduroy or wool, that look like they’re designed to stand alone. And when it comes to fit, slim trousers and a fitted blazer still look smart, but don’t be afraid to lean into the more relaxed direction style has taken recently. Looser-fitting drawstring trousers, paired with a more roomy double-breasted jacket, will help you strike the balance between relaxed and refined. 

When it comes to finishing touches, like accessories, the trick is to not overdo it. You may have ditched your suit, but you still want to look put-together, so stick to the essentials: a handsome leather-strapped watch, a patterned pocket square, and a pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses. Anything else will just come on too strong. The last thing you want is this new thing you have with tailored separates to fizzle out too soon.

Words: Allison Pavlick
Photography: Lola & Pani
Styling: Brooke Philips
Styling assistant: Isabelle Harvey