Q And Answer: How Useful Are Navy Trousers?

July 14, 2016

Q and Answer: How Useful are Navy Trousers?

Oliver writes to ask: How useful are navy trousers? I recently bought a pair and can’t seem to match them with any of the sport coats in my closet. Do you have any suggestions?

On face value, navy trousers seem like the most useful things you can own. After all, blue jeans go with everything, so why shouldn’t a pair of sharply tailored trousers in the same color?

In fact, navy pants are a little trickier to wear with tailored clothing. A few reasons:

  • It’s Not a Traditional Color: Simple and plain, navy trousers aren’t traditionally done. For guys who are sticklers for “the rules,” a pair of navy trousers will always look a little off with a sport coat.
  • Navy Makes a Statement: By the same token, navy trousers also make more of a statement – much like patterned trousers or white jeans. Our friend Greg Lellouche, founder of No Man Walks Alone, says this is why grey and tan are more versatile. “They sort of fade into the background and allow the emphasis to be on the top half of your outfit,” he says. “And most guys want the attention on their jacket, shirt, and tie – not their trousers.” 
  • Lack of Contrast: On a fundamental level, navy is hard to wear because it often doesn’t lend enough contrast. Most sport coats you’ll find on the market – and in men’s closet – are dark, which means trousers usually do better when they’re lighter in color. Once you get dark trousers, you suddenly find yourself needing light-colored jackets, which aren’t always easy to find (or wear with your more staple trousers). 

That said, navy can make for a great trouser color, so long as you keep a few things in mind: 

  • Possible Jacket Pairings: Navy trousers go well with olive, tan, and grey jackets. I also really like the combination above on George Wang, founder of the newly opened menswear shop BRIO. His cream-colored sport coat, bold-striped shirt, and dark-blue linen trousers have a nice, casual feel for summer. 
  • Aim for Spring/ Summer Materials: Since navy trousers often require a lighter-colored jacket, aim for warm weather materials. Think: open-weave worsted wools, breathable linens, and even lightweight cottons (for the latter, get something tailored and sharp, not workwear-ish).
  • Options for Winter: If you want to wear them in the winter, Greg suggests teaming a pair with a light-grey or rust-colored tweed. "I like navy winter trousers that have a slight mottling in the yarn and a pronounced weave,” he says. “Covert twills can be good.” 
  • Modern Appeal: On the flip-side of them not being traditional, navy pants can also give tailored clothes a more modern feel. Maybe not something for the conservative trad, but good for guys who like contemporary takes on Italian style. Again, George Wang above shows how to wear classic, tailored clothing in a way that doesn’t look like you just came from the office (or out of a 1950s catalog). 
  • Go Casual: If you’re open to wearing something more casual, navy trousers will go with almost anything (much like blue jeans). Wear them with light-blue linen or brightly-colored madras shirts in the summer, or with cream-colored sweaters and chunky, dark brown cardigans in the winter. I also like them with non-tailored outerwear, such as a beige safari jackets

If you’re just starting to build a wardrobe, stick to traditional trousers colors such as grey and tan. They’re easier to wear and more versatile, which is useful if you’re don’t have too many things in your closet. Once you have the basics, however, lighter colored jackets and darker pants can help mix things up, so long as you’re willing to think outside of “traditional rules.” 

(photo via George Wang, owner of BRIO in Beijing)