Fashion

How to master the broken suit

More than simply putting on a pair of daggy trousers with a clashing jacket, the subtle sorcery of elegant mismatching is a life skill worth learning

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to interview the Italian fashion designer Stefano Pilati for a piece in a less salubrious publication than this. At that time Pilati had just started a new job at Milanese tailoring powerhouse Ermenegildo Zegna, shortly after finishing his tenure at Yves Saint Laurent (as it was then known), where he was as famous for his distinctive slouchy brand of menswear as he was for the lack of colour in his collections (Anna Wintour famously reduced Pilati to a quivering wreck in 2009 documentary film The September Issue for that very reason). At Zegna, however, Pilati seemed to enjoy a new lease of energy. His collections married the elegance of the dresses he produced at Saint Laurent with the tailoring prowess of his new home.

Jacket, £399. Jumper, £119. Shirt, £99. Trousers, £179. All by Boss. boss.com

© HIGH CONTRAST

I distinctly remember the moment when, about halfway through our time together, Pilati began espousing an idea he had recently thought up – that of the “broken suit”. To be fair, this might be a shoddy recollection of his actual words but he said something along the lines of: there is little more elegant in the world of menswear than separates worn in the style of a suit, when a jacket and trousers look similar enough to seem the same but are in fact cut from different fabrics or are finished in ever-so-slightly contrasting colours. It’s a point on which I’ve come to agree with Pilati wholeheartedly.

Jacket, £399. Jumper, £139. Trousers, £179. All by Boss. boss.com

© HIGH CONTRAST

Although a suit, in the traditional sense, can look incredibly chic, the matchy-matchy-ness of the whole affair has the potential to look a little bit, well, basic. A pair of considered separates that look similar but don’t match perfectly – a pair of stone chinos, for instance, worn with a taupe jacket in a silk/linen mix – suggests effort and care and a little bit of what the Italians like to call sprezzatura (studied carelessness, to you and me). It’s a point on which our friends at Boss have picked up, as the German brand this summer launches an all-new range of easy-wearing tailored separates designed to be worn together, apart or broken.

Jacket, £369. Shirt, £79. Trousers, £179. All by Boss. boss.com

© HIGH CONTRAST

Consisting of a series of single-breasted corduroy suits in caramel, stone and midnight blue, in addition to a number of more traditional styles in shades of navy, charcoal and chalk stripe, each trouser and jacket in the collection is sold separately (meaning that they can be as switched up – or switched down – as you like) and what’s more, the deconstructed cut of each piece is such that it speaks to the soft-wearing mood of the entire collection – if not enforcing the notion of the broken suit then at the very least encouraging it. Fabrics are sourced from Italian mills (natch), trousers come finished with sporty details, such as drawstring waists and carrot-esque cuts, while the silhouette of the resulting get-up is narrow enough to look chic but relaxed enough to feel comfortable. The best thing about this new collection, however, is that the separates within look almost better worn with T-shirts and trainers than they do with smarter shoes, meaning you can see Pilati’s sprezzatura-soaked legacy through, all summer long.

Jacket, £399. T-shirt, £65. Both by Boss. boss.com

© HIGH CONTRAST

Styling: Sam Carder. Grooming: Elliot Forbes. Model: George at Next Model Management

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