Taking risks is encouraged when it comes to style, but are there certain combinations that just shouldn’t even be tried? More specifically, can you wear a suit jacket with khakis?
A suit jacket shouldn’t usually be worn with khakis as they’re designed to be worn with a matching pair of suit pants. In addition, the casual texture of the khakis will clash with the formal texture of the suit jacket. Wear a blazer or sports coat with khakis instead.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
After going through the main reasons why you shouldn’t usually even attempt this combo, I’ll go through a couple of rare exceptions where it might be OK.
Let’s get to it.
3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Wear A Suit Jacket With Khakis
Consider all of these reasons before making your decision. After going through them, there’s a pretty high chance you’ll decide against it.
Suit Jackets Should Be Worn With Matching Pants
A “suit” refers to a matching jacket and pair of pants, both made from the same roll of fabric. They’ll look and feel exactly the same.
Taking it a step further, a suit jacket is supposed to be worn with its matching pair of suit pants.
Wearing a suit jacket with a non-matching pair of pants (eg. khakis) will appear obvious and incomplete.
It’s pretty clear when someone chooses to wear their suit jacket without a pair of matching pants.
Suit jackets are generally more structured and have a more tapered silhouette than blazers and sports coats, for example.
Because of this, when someone chooses to wear a suit jacket with a pair of khakis, the first thing that usually comes to mind is “incomplete suit”.
It’s worth mentioning that there is a specific style called spezzato where the jacket of one suit is combined with the pants of another suit.
It’s a more advanced style that does need to be done the right way.
However, a pair of khakis would have no place in this either.
It Causes A Formality Mismatch
While some suits will look more casual than others, all suits are considered on the more formal end of the spectrum.
Khakis, on the other hand, are not formal. They shouldn’t ever be worn in truly “formal” settings.
They’re a business-casual staple and can also easily be worn in both casual and smart-casual settings.
But khakis should never be worn to settings where a 2-piece suit would be required at the very least.
So, what happens when you try to mix a truly formal item (a suit jacket) with a much less formal item (khakis)?
You’ll usually get a formality mismatch.
To use a more extreme comparison, it’s the same effect you’d get from mixing a dress shirt with a pair of board shorts.
Formality mismatches often look awkward and badly coordinated.
It’s another reason why wearing a suit jacket with khakis just isn’t a good idea.
Blazers And Sports Coats Look So Much Better
It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between suit jackets and blazers.
Suit jackets are structured and generally more tapered. Blazers have a looser and more relaxed fit. In general, they’ll look less structured and a little more casual as a result.
Sports coats will take things a step further. They generally have a very relaxed fit and very little structure. In addition, they’re often made from more rugged and casual fabrics such as tweed.
The main point here is that blazers and sports coats can be paired with non-matching pants quite easily. It wouldn’t look awkward.
It’s easy to wear blazers and sports coats with chinos and khakis – in fact, it makes for a great smart-casual or business-casual outfit.
To sum this all up, only ever wear a suit jacket with its matching suit pants. If you’re looking to wear a jacket with your khakis, go for a blazer or sports coat instead.
Any Exceptions When Suit Jackets Can Be Worn With Khakis?
Wearing a suit jacket with khakis will never be the ideal option. However, if you don’t have much of a choice, it may be OK if the suit jacket is pretty casual-looking.
The more “casual” a suit is, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to wear the suit jacket in isolation with non-matching pants.
Don’t get me wrong – it’ll never be ideal. No matter how “casual” a suit jacket is, the structure and shape will often make it clear that it’s supposed to be worn with matching suit pants.
But the more casual the suit is, to begin with, the less obvious it becomes.
Features of a “casual” suit include:
- Relaxed fit
- Less structure
- Less padding at the shoulders
- Rugged fabrics with less sheen (eg. tweed, linen)
Suit jackets from these more “casual” suits will be easier to wear with khakis and get away with it.
More “formal” suits will have the opposed – more structure, more padding, more sheen (eg. worsted wool), and a more tapered fit.
They’re much harder to wear with khakis because it’ll be so much easier to tell that they were meant to be worn with matching suit pants.
3 Tips For Wearing A Suit Jacket With Khakis (If You Had To)
If you intend to wear a suit jacket with khakis, try and stick to the following tips to reduce the risk of it looking awkward.
1. Avoid Black Suit Jackets
Black and khaki rarely go well together, especially when it’s a black suit jacket.
Suit jackets will always look pretty formal to begin with, but a black suit jacket will look even more formal than lighter colors.
Black is generally considered the most formal color out there.
Trying to wear a black suit jacket with khakis won’t just look bad from a color-matching standpoint.
It’ll also lead to even more of a formality mismatch than you’d get with suit jackets of other, more casual colors such as grey and navy blue.
2. Go For “Formal” Looking Khakis
While khakis could never really be considered “formal”, there are pairs that’ll look more casual than others.
When trying to wear a suit jacket with a pair of khakis, try to find khakis that have a more “formal” looking edge to them.
In general, these may have the following features:
- A more tapered fit
- A “darker” shade of khaki
- Center creases
- Minimal seam details
- No patch pockets
You’re unlikely to find a pair of khakis with all of these features, but the more of these “formal” features you can find, the better.
Picking a relatively “smart” pair of khakis like this should reduce the risk of there being a formality mismatch with the suit you’re trying to wear with it.
3. Brown Dress Shoes Work Best
Another way of reducing the risk of a formality mismatch between the suit jacket and the khakis is by wearing a pair of formal shoes.
Trying to wear a pair of sneakers with a suit jacket and khakis, for example, will lead to even more of a formality mismatch.
The sneakers will just look out of place when worn with a formal suit jacket.
Dress shoes will always work best in this scenario. Khakis are versatile enough to be worn with formal shoe styles.
In general, brown dress shoes would work best. Remember, there’s just something about wearing black and khaki together that doesn’t look quite right.
Brown dress shoes are great because of how versatile they are. They can be worn in casual, smart-casual, business-casual, and formal settings.
In addition, it coordinates very well with khakis. Khaki is essentially a light shade of brown.
In general, avoid wearing a suit jacket with khakis wherever possible, because it’s usually obvious when a suit jacket is worn without its matching pants. A blazer or sports coat would look a lot better when wearing khakis.