History and rose-colored memories cause quips about the “good ol’ days” to fall flat. But, the notion that suits made dressing – and dressing well – far easier transcends most observations.
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When a jacket and pants go together – and just require a collared button-front shirt – you’re quite literally good to go. Just find your shoes, and pretty much, you’re all set for work and social occasions.
T-shirts and jeans – or business casual staples like khakis and a polo – have replaced these basics in recent decades. A suit, for the most part, sits ready for job interviews, weddings, and special occasions.
You don’t have much reason to wear it – and if you do don it, you come off as too much of a try-hard or someone who doesn’t understand modern dress codes.
This pattern, toward casual-or-bust style, likely reached its peak in 2018, with elevated streetwear trends on the runway and athleisure being the default way of dressing. There’s only so much you can do with a hoodie and joggers, though. And it’s clear, based on Spring/Summer 2019 presentations, that designers feel the same way. Who knew that clothing seen as freeing could end up being so restrictive?
Change means setting your sights on something different. In this year’s case, it’s the casual suit. Still, though, double-breasted jackets don’t go everywhere – and that risk you’ll look like a pretentious doofus looms large.
Thus, the co-ord – sometimes called a “set” or “coordinates” – offers not so much a compromise, but a relaxed, dressed-down version. The simplicity and polish remain – no peak lapels needed.
So, with summer already here, how can you tackle wearing co-ords?
Although casual two-pieces have existed in some form throughout the 20th century, from women’s playsuits in the ‘40s to ‘70s leisure suits, the current trend started emerging all the way back in SS16.
At the time, this workwear-suit hybrid seen in presentations by Versace, Berthold, and Wooyungmi felt fairly tame: Matching tops and tops – usually in T-shirt or jacket form – in monochrome, perhaps with a pocket or two added to enhance the utilitarian character.
Three years later, and this seemingly futuristic trend – one that wouldn’t look out of place in a ‘70s sci-fi movie – has shed its mysterious, cold façade. The result is far more approachable, if not more realistic for everyday wear.
Camp shirts or bomber jackets join shorts that fall just above the knee, while full-length jeans and a matching jacket – in the same pattern or level of distressing – make the Canadian tuxedo less of a fashion faux pas. Bold Hawaiian patterns, uneven candy stripes, or solid pastel hues offer a summer-ready upgrade.
How to Wear Men’s Co-Ords
At the same time, co-ords are less of a man’s item, and more a unisex trend that builds upon the concept suit separates introduced. From the workplace and now to casual wear, men’s matching shorts and top give you a ready-to-go outfit that eliminates the whole “what will I wear?” question.
It makes it easier to get out the door without looking like you threw over two dissimilar items. For a guy, all you really have to do is find a solid-color shirt and shoes, and your outfit is all set.
Yet, when you’re looking to have some fun and experiment a little, co-ords are less a novelty item, and more men’s matching shirt and shorts set that seamlessly flow into the rest of your wardrobe. Denim is self-explanatory, even when the material’s heavily distressed, while those floral print shorts easily pair up with a solid polo or camp shirt.
While men’s co-ords’ core concept centers around the straightforwardness of a suit, understand that its character and wear overlap with ‘90s sportswear. Think a tracksuit, without the louche or gangster connotation or – from an early ‘00s evolution – implied overt laziness. There’s a line between seeking comfort and not caring a bit, and ill-fitting polyester garments clearly go over it.
Elevated casual style – not to be confused with smart-casual – gives your T-shirts, shorts, and jeans the same crispness of a simple white button-front, and co-ords are no exception. Too baggy a fit, and suddenly, they resemble pajamas – or oversized children’s clothing. In this sense, men’s co-ord short sets might as well be called “athleisure 2.0” – clothing meant strictly for relaxing, but with a smarter, more structured upgrade.
Styling Your Co-Ords
Colors and Patterns
How adventurous are you? In many cases, if you’re just dipping into the world of co-ords, solid colors make a reliable starting place. While black and grey are fine, if not the most versatile and minimal choices, they’re rather understated.
These days, you can find solid co-ords in neons (perfect for the music festival), dusty pastels, and deeper, bold hues like royal purple or emerald green.
On the other hand, why stop there? It’s Hawaiian shirt season, so now’s the prime time to dabble with landscape, floral, and postcard prints. Or, as a colorful middle ground, consider stripes, from stark beach chair and nautical varieties to multicolored, uneven combinations.
Understand Your Pairings
As we mentioned, steer clear of anything looking like a velour tracksuit or pajamas. Yet, beyond this obvious point, consider the following three basic types of co-ord silhouettes:
- Pants plus jacket: Think suits – only with a bomber or trucker jacket, instead of a blazer. As with your finer threads, go slim and structured – you don’t want this two-piece enveloping your frame. If the matching shirt and shorts set involves a pattern, keep your T-shirt or button-front solid and neutral. If your co-ord is in a solid shade, pair with a contrasting, color-block friendly solid or a print.
- Shorts plus jacket: You might have visions of short suits, which are still kicking around. On the other hand, this pairing weaves between suit vibes and tee-and-shorts. In this case, keep the silhouette slim, if not fitted, with the shorts falling above the knee. And, to go with the overall character, keep your T-shirt or button-front untucked.
- Shirt and shorts: It’s the easiest out of all possibilities here – essentially, all you need is a pair of shoes and an accessory or two of your choice. In this case, fit is still paramount. Avoid anything baggy and too oversized, and instead, aim for slim or spacious yet structured.