The Art Of Spezzato: A Guide To Wearing Suit Separates
Discover everything you need to know about mashing up suits, or as the Italians call it, the wily art of 'Spezzato'.
Everything sounds better in Italian, which is why we’re going to henceforth call dressing in separates the art of ‘spezzato’ – the term the Italians use to describe the converging of different suit jackets and pants. The word literally means ‘broken’, which is a hint that one should proceed with caution because breaking up a perfectly good suit in the pursuit of sartorial individuality can be a task fraught with danger.
Why bother in the first place, since a suit is a perfectly good menswear garment in itself? Well, yes it is, but dressing spezzato opens up a whole new world of tailored flair and individualism, so long as you abide by certain rules. Welcome to the first day of your suit collection’s new life…
Why split up your suits?
First of all, let’s clear something up about suit separates. Strictly speaking, spezzato means the mixing up of two suits, but you’ll often see someone wearing a sports jacket and trousers being referred to as ‘spezzato’. That is not the case. That’s simply the sports jacket doing what the sports jacket was designed to do.
Now that we’ve got that off our chest, let’s put the case forward for why separates is a concept you should most definitely adopt. The primary reason for taking this styling route is to boost your sartorial options, which is especially useful if you only have a small number of suits. If, for example, you own a charcoal suit, a navy one, and a tan one, splitting them up allows you to create six looks instead of three.
Stylistically, separates offer a more casual approach to suits, too. The mixing naturally breaks up the uniformity of a two-piece and allows for more personal expression, looking less like you’ve just stepped out of a board meeting and more like you appreciate the finer elements of sartorialism, which is never a bad thing.
Don’t get us wrong, spezzato can still look incredibly sharp and polished, but it can also be styled in such a way as to incorporate more preppy references, for example.
When do you wear suit separates?
The ultimate point of spezzato is that it’s meant to be a more relaxed alternative to the suit. There’s no reason why one can’t wear separates in place of an everyday two-piece, but you’ll need to gauge your office dress code and make that decision. Most professional environments will typically call for a suit, but where organisations have done away with the tie, it can be a refreshing change to mix up your suits and re-introduce the tie.
If your wardrobe has a sartorial bent and you simply enjoy wearing tailoring, spezzato is perfect for you, since you can add dressed-down elements such as chambray shirts, knitted polo, repp ties or even a preppy cardigan into the mix. Your footwear choices can also become that touch more informal, incorporating loafers instead of Derbies for example.
Even your accessories can be redefined for spezzato: whereas you may have once carried a black leather attaché case with a charcoal suit, your navy suit jacket and light grey pant combo now opens up the carrying of tan leather bags that would have otherwise been too casual.
How to wear trouser & blazer separates
Pay attention to fit
We’re going to drum home the point that spezzato is meant to be a more casual way to wear tailoring, so with this in mind, it’s important that you don’t start separating your formal suits.
Any jackets that are well structured with full canvassing and padded shoulders, or double-breasted with well-sized peak lapels and flap pockets, are simply going to be too formal to mix up with different trousers. Instead, you want to use the unstructured jackets in your collection, those cut with an Italian bias with natural shoulders and an easy drape.
Jackets that look more like sports coats – e.g. with patch pockets – are much more amenable to being broken up. That the fit of the jacket and trousers should be similar is up for debate. Traditionally, an accomplished separates look would have called for slim trousers to complement a slim jacket, but more fashion-forward runway looks in recent seasons have seen trousers full in the leg being combined with slimmer jackets.
Sartorialists will be spitting coffee at reading this, but we’re merely pointing out that change is afoot in certain style circles. What’s certain however, is that a full-cut jacket teamed with slim trousers is a top-heavy disaster that should be avoided at all costs.
The vital point with colours is to not make the mistake of choosing a jacket and trousers that are too similar. People will simply think you’re either extremely poor of sight or too lazy to pull a suit together. The separation needs to be obvious.
For whatever reason, having the darker colour as your top half seems to be more flattering and easier on the eye (a navy blazer with light grey trousers for example). When both colours are reasonably dark, such as navy and charcoal, then it often helps to have the trouser colour linked with the blazer, either through a check pattern or perhaps by way of a tie.
Given that you’re breaking up the colours, there is no reason to mix up the fabrics. You can add other textural qualities in the form of a knitted tie, waistcoat or even a cardigan/sweater, but the separates should ideally be of the same type of cloth.
If you can imagine mixing up the smooth, fine finish of a super 120s worsted merino jacket with the brushed tactility of flannel trousers, you can see how the individual parts could butt heads.
In the same vein, you must take seasonality in consideration, too. No matter how lightweight your tropical wool jacket is, it should not be matched with linen trousers, full stop. Linen and cotton are much closer in nature and could definitely form a cohesive look, though.
You can use patterns to great effect when dressing in separates. Typically, one would opt for a patterned jacket and plain trousers, and ensure that the trouser colour is somehow found in the design of the jacket, whether that be a windowpane check or similar.
It’s not advisable to go with a pinstripe in either the jacket or trousers since the eye naturally follows it up and down and will be sorely disappointed not to find a matching set.
Top 5 blazer & trouser combinations
Navy jacket and grey trousers
Take a relaxed single-breasted or double-breasted suit jacket and pair it with either charcoal or light grey trousers for an effortless spezzato look. This pairing works nicely with an OCBD shirt and repp tie for a preppy aesthetic, as well as brown or tan loafers to add an additional element of colour.
Flannel works particularly well with these tones, too, offering a softer, textural finish.
Tobacco and cream/ivory
The neutral hues allow you to add pops of colour, such as with a pastel shirt and bold tie combination. Look for a slubby tobacco linen jacket that you can complement with ivory linen or cotton suit trousers.
Charcoal and light grey
Given that this combination involves a more subtle tonal contrast, this pairing is ripe for a check jacket and textural knitted tie, or perhaps even a chambray/denim shirt to offer a different texture.
Keep the colours muted with nothing too bold and you can’t really go wrong.
Navy and sky blue
Tonal blues are one of the easier spezzato looks to pull off, but not everyone has a sky blue suit hiding in their wardrobe. You can work it either way but you may find it easier with a navy jacket and sky blue trousers.
Matching linen halves is a great option for summer, particularly when teamed with a pastel Oxford shirt and bolder striped tie. Light tan loafers or beige chukka boots are a casual way to bookend the look.
Beige and navy
This combination can be worn either way round. While worsted wools work perfectly well, if you have two flannel wool pieces, this can offer a smart textural effect that leans a little bit more casual. Similarly, linen is another good option for the summer.
The neutrality of these two tones does give you more room to add splashes of colour with a shirt and tie combination. Or, on the flip side, you can keep the whole look tonal with a denim shirt and navy knitted tie.