Definitely Not A One-Trick Pony
A brown double-breasted flannel suit may not seem like the perfect candidate for our popular 1 Piece, 5 Ways series, but it’s got a lot more to offer than you may think. I’ll talk about this in more detail later in the post but suffice to say, it checks off that big versatility box on my “should I add this to my wardrobe” list. And here are five ways I’m wearing it.
1. Formal Leanings
While I wouldn’t necessarily consider a brown double-breasted flannel suit a garment tailor made for formal events — I’d generally choose a navy blue chalk stripe or charcoal gray double-breasted chalk stripe — it can certainly be dressed up for more formal occasions.
In those situations, I will always go with a simple, tried and true, no-brainer solution: white poplin dress shirt, black grenadine tie, white pocket square, and black Oxfords. It’s a combination that just works and lets you think of the suit as the main attraction. And, yes, you can wear a black tie and shoes with a brown suit if it is done with intention.
However, as you can see from this set of photos, which were taken in the late morning, there is a bit more contrast between the brown and black that you may be comfortable with. I get that. And it’s why I think you must be selective about the occasions you’d wear this outfit to. Because this look feels quite elegant, I would reserve it for evening events of the cocktail party variety or perhaps a date at a dimly-lit restaurant. Much easier to photograph in natural light though . . .
2. Relaxed & Chic
It’s very easy to pigeonhole a double-breasted suit as a garment that can only be worn more formally and buttoned up. I understand the reasoning behind that thinking, however, relegating it to that category denies it the opportunity to shine as go-to attire for chic and relaxed outfits.
I will say that if you are unaccustomed to wearing a double-breasted suit unbuttoned and without a tie, you may find it a bit strange at first. There’s a bunch of extra fabric and you’re going to be like, “what do I do with all this?” Should you just let it hang? Should you try and sweep it behind you? There is definitely a “way” to pull of this look — a hand in pocket casually brushing one of the panels back is nice — but it really all starts with confidence. If you go into the whole scenario doubting yourself, it’s not going to work. So if you’re going to do it, own it.
I will not wear all of my double-breasted suits in this manner, but a brown flannel double-breasted suit is, in my opinion, the perfect suit to do it with. It feels more casual. It has a warm and luxe vibe. Throw on a tan cashmere turtleneck and pair of loafers and you’ve got a look that oozes style and sophistication.
3. All Business
Here we have a good old fashioned classic business outfit. This is how to wear a double-breasted suit, right? Well, it’s one way and it’s definitely an easy way! One of the reasons I love a brown double-breasted flannel suit is the interplay between formal and casual. The style of the suit is formal but the color and fabric is more casual. It’s a fun bit of interplay that you can use to your advantage when putting an outfit together.
When wearing this suit in a business setting, I do like to lean into the casual side of things just a bit. A bengal stripe shirt is not a casual shirt but with the addition of a grenadine striped tie, we’re tempering the formality a bit and also engaging in some easy pattern matching — similar patterns, varying scales.
You’ll also notice my shoe choice leans more casual as well. Instead of Oxfords, I’ve gone with a pair of split toe derbies.
4. Pants Separate
The best part about any flannel suit is that you always have the option to break it into separates. While I’ve neglected to style the jacket as a separate in this post, it is certainly possible to wear a double-breasted jacket as a separate. Try it — unbuttoned, of course — with a cream-colored brushed cotton shirt, light wash jeans, and some penny loafers and you’ve got a wonderful casually tailored outfit. But I digress, because here, we’re talking about the fact that with a flannel suit you also always end up with a great pair of fall and winter trousers.
Speaking of casually tailored, I find that brown really enables that style of dressing due to the fact that it is warm, earthy, and generally seen as more casual (see: next outfit for more context). It has a way of appearing much less stuffy and buttoned up than blues and grays. Imagine this outfit with a navy blue Glen plaid jacket, light blue OCBD, and medium gray trousers, and you have to agree that it’s certainly more business casual than casually tailored.
In addition to being soft (brushed cotton shirt and flannel jacket) and tonal (all shades of brown), this look is a nice illustration of how to put a good outfit together. One of the goals of wearing tailored clothing is to guide your eyes upward and frame your face. You can see that here. The darker trousers and shoes serve as an anchor. The patterned jacket provides some slight visual interest and a tonal transition to the cream-colored shirt, which frames my face.
5. Brown In Town
I’ve been thinking about starting a “Stupid Rules Of Style Worth Breaking Series” — chime in below if you’d like to see that — and top of my list is the so-called “no brown in town” rule. As someone who wears a lot of brown, especially in suit form, I’ve discovered there are more than a few men’s style rule-toting extremists out there who seem to be quite willing to fall on their swords over this one. Seriously, though, passion is one thing, but this is clothing, people.
For those unfamiliar with this superannuated sartorial statute, it came into being as brown was considered a color to be worn in the country on the weekend. During the week, when men worked in the city, they wore black, blue, or gray — in the darkest tones available, of course. Because of the business dress code of the time, brown was seen as more casual and off-duty, and “no brown in town” became perhaps something of a snide remark — or reminder — spoken by menswear mean girls to those who dared stray from tones stark and severe.
Now that you know where it came from, the next (and honestly only) thing you need to know about the no brown in town “rule” is that it is completely out of date. As long as you are dressing appropriately for business — in town or elsewhere — it no longer matters if you limit yourself to black, blue, or gray. And a dark brown double-breasted flannel suit is certainly dressed up enough for any traditional or classic business situation, even with a brown tie and brown shoes.
The Bottom Line
A brown double-breasted flannel suit is far from being a one-trick wonder. There are myriad ways to style it while always retaining its chic sophistication.