Q&A: How to Wear a Black Jacket

It’s time to answer another question from a reader!  We’re going to look at how to pull off an orphaned black jacket.  It’s pretty tricky, but it can be done!

The Question

Hello Ethan,

I recently purchased a 1930s 1×4 DB jacket, and it fits like a glove. However, sadly, the jacket is orphaned. I also purchased a 1940s neck tie with greyish cream and dark blue diagonal striped neck tie. I want to wear a full outfit with the jacket, the tie, a white exploding pocket square, and black shoes, however, what color pants should I wear? Should I go for cream/white colored pants? Light Cyan/blue? If you can help me out I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

My Answer

Oh dear, I hope you didn’t get a tuxedo jacket by mistake!  While 4×1 double breasted jackets did exist in the 1930s, it was much more commonly found as a configuration of tuxedo jackets.  Make sure that you have an actual sport coat or orphaned suit jacket instead of a tuxedo.

Now I normally don’t recommend people buying black sportcoats or black suit jackets.  The color is inherently formal, which makes it hard to match with other pieces.  If you’ve looked at my blog, I like to wear my suit jackets as sport coats with denim or with chinos; sportcoats really make up the bulk of my wardrobe.  Black doesn’t allow that versatility which is why I adhere to navy, grey, or brown jackets since they naturally work with colors.  A black jacket typically only goes with black (again) and white.   However you can use this to your advantage and create some outfits while you look for a navy jacket! Just note that a navy blue jacket is preferred in this situation, but you can still wear black.

Please refrain from any colored pants.  It simply won’t work with a black jacket; the contrast is much too odd.  I also want to say that you need to wear black shoes.  As I keep reiterating, black is a formal color, so wear the most formal color of shoe: black.  If your jacket was navy blue, you could get away with brown, but not when you’re wearing black.

My main recommendation for you?  Wear either cream/white pants or grey.   Don’t believe that it can work? Just check out the following examples; we’re going to use vintage illustrations from the 1920s-1940s as inspiration!

White/Cream Pants

My first recommendation to you is to go with white/cream pants.  It provides a great “in your face” contrast without going the route of saturation.  It’s inherently classic and is pretty simple.   I think that the outfit on the left (above) will work best since you have those items!

Note that these are illustrations from the 1920s-1940s.  White/cream trousers are not a modern Pitti Uomo affectation.


Image result for laurence fellows

As you can probably tell, wearing white/cream pants is a pretty summery look.  Since your jacket most likely made from wool, I’d probably wear brushed cotton, flannel, or wool trousers for texture!

Here’s something that could apply to outfits with white/cream pants in general.

I’m the kind of guy who likes to take off his jacket and if you are too, be sure to consider the look that you’re going to create when that happens.  Sure, wearing a white shirt looks good under the black jacket, but when you take it off, you might be a whole “block of white” with a splash of color in the tie.  It’s not an entirely grotesque look, but a light shade of grey or blue will do wonders to offset the bright nature of the white/cream pants.

White shoes can work as well, but they are a more dandy option.

Grey Pants

Grey is the alternative to white pants since its in the same “monochromatic” family.  It’s a bit more formal and business like, but it gets the job done.  Now black and grey together (like white pants) is nothing new.  As a matter of fact, they have their roots in two distinct types of  dress that you can definitely model your outfit after.

Morning Dress

Image result for laurence fellows

If tuxedos are meant for the evening, the “morning dress” is for the day time!  This is the most formal you can be during the day.  It’s very similar to the white tie/tailcoat ensemble but with grey trousers (usually striped).   The jacket is black  (with a contrasting grey waist coat), but there is usually playfulness with the shirt and tie.  See how the man in the morning suit has  a pink contrast colar shirt and a very bold grey/red gingham tie.  Pretty odd, but there’s some inspiration to be had! It definitely makes a case for pairing a black jacket with grey trousers.

Stroller Suit

Image result for laurence fellows

The stroller suit (and its copycats) is the business suit version of morning dress. Instead of a tail coat, the black jacket is in the form of a regular suit jacket in both a single and double breasted configuration.  The pants can be plain, striped, or plaid just as long as they are grey.  Like with the morning dress example, you can see that guys still had fun with their ties even if a majority of the outfit was rather monocrhomatic.

Image result for laurence fellows

Image result for stroller suit


Image result for laurence fellows


Overall, I think that white/cream is the best option for you.  It’s a bit of a “dandy” choice, but it allows you to have so much more fun with colors!  Wearing spectators with them (black and white only) is also an extra touch that shows more intentional style.  I do have an issue with wearing white shirts with white trousers, since it’ll be one block of white once you take off your jacket!  In that case, grey would be the “safe” choice, especially if you aren’t too confident with going out with white trousers.

Just know that morning dress attire and a stroller suit are specific garments; they are specific pieces meant to be worn as daytime formal wear.  They aren’t really applicable in today’s society (where the business suit is standard) but they can still serve as inspiration for your outfits.  Grey trousers are a great way to ground your black sport coat in a great way, not too formal (since it is separates) yet still monochromatic.  Just remember too have fun with your ties!

The fact remains that a black sport coat is a hard piece to wear separately; you’re mainly confined to the two choices: white/cream and grey.  In the future, try to find sportcoats in navy blue, brown, or grey!  These choices allow you more versatility in matching with different colored trousers, which then leads to a multitude of outfit options.  However, I hope you’re able to create a few outfits with what you already have!  Just be sure to have fun with your shirt and ties.  It’s the 1930’s way.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza  


  1. Val · February 3, 2017

    Thank you for posting this!!

    I decided to follow your advice!!
    A few days ago I spent a few hours thrift shopping and I came across a brand new Nordstrom, classic collection black 100% cashmere jacket with tags and receipts while thrift shopping (paid 10.00) although not a vintage piece I was stunned to find it.

    Your post will make it easier to wear after a few modifications, THANK YOU!


    • Ethan W. · February 4, 2017

      Don’t forget to send me pictures! I can’t wait to see what you come up with!


  2. Pingback: Brown Jackets and Navy Trousers | STREET x SPREZZA
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  4. Bruzek · September 15, 2018

    I must encourage that you carry on your fantastic articles, possess a great saturday and sunday!


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