The Ever-Underestimated Gray Odd Jacket
"Gray jacket" sounds ordinary, even boring.
After all, there is no apparent story behind those two words put together, at least not as interesting and extensive as for, say, a blazer [LINK]. While just the very mention of the latter could provoke a lively discussion about the origin of the name and how it should look to be considered “proper”, the former is hardly anything specific at all.
For many, this just sounds too general, like any jacket possible, defined only by color, devoid of any cultural associations that could translate into a fairly universal image, widely perceived archetype. Some will project it as a fairly formal, suit jacket, others will think of some fuzzy tweed sportcoat. There is not even a shade of gray that is agreed on as “standard”.
Author: Mateusz Tryjanowski
I think that's probably why I used to be so far from the idea of having any kind of gray odd jacket in my wardrobe. After all, there were so many other, luring proposals that were constantly being mentioned around and talked about - and I felt encouraged to add all those notable navy blues, tempting tweeds and captivating checks to my wardrobe first.
I don't really remember if anyone back in the day - during the early heyday of #menswear blogs with all their guides and articles about building the wardrobe etc. - really pushed the concept of having a gray sports jacket, at least here in Poland. The dominant narrative was that gray is for suits, mainly business ones, definitely not the first which should necessarily be a navy blue one - and for trousers, both winter flannels and summer high twists, both meant to be easily paired with navy sportcoats.
Alright, sometimes there was some weird advice about wearing gray-on-navy instead of the standard opposite - but mainly presented in the context of building a capsule wardrobe, having two suits that can be worn in at least 4 ways… something like that. Still, I don't remember being really convinced by those examples.
However, I remember perfectly what finally made me look at gray differently.
There were two pictures that changed my perspective once and for all - and, as usual, these were examples of someone wearing the thing and looking absolutely stunning.
The first one was THIS COVER of Plaza Uomo, an issue I saw (and bought) while in Stockholm in 2017 or 2018. The picture featured Yasuto Kamoshita wearing gray tweed with a brown-ish turtleneck - even though it was a full suit, I thought how cool it would be to mismatch it and wear the jacket on its own or get something similar.
Soon after, there was the second, even more impactful one - a few months later I came across a lookbook photo (on Instagram probably) from one famous British brand beginning with the letter “D”. I cannot find it now for you to see it, but I can easily describe it - believe me, I remember almost every detail, that is how memorable the look was. Tan cords, gray houndstooth sportcoat (in hairy Harris Tweed fabric), university stripe OCBD, purple woolen tie… everything looked so well-put together and fresh at the same time. If I could, I would immediately copy the look - I even had almost all the pieces to do it. The only one missing was, well, the jacket. I was now on the quest to get one.
Truth to be said, it was more to the look that attracted me to this idea - the fact how harmonious the color palette appeared on picture, with all the bright colors tied together by the cold, big patch of gray, made me realized that, in fact, having such a gray odd jacket would help me to get good use of many more pairs of trousers I have, not only the tan cords.
After that, I looked further and started to notice a logical pattern - almost all the tailored looks with trousers or knitwear in unusual, hard-to-pair colors that I liked, incorporated the gray jacket. It turned out it complimented not only the earth tones, but also bright, saturated shades like yellow or light green and the majority of colors that are notorious for being difficult to pair with navy blue - such as dark green, dark brown and black.
Gray comes with help wherever navy blue is no longer a good option - because there is already too much of it in the look or it could not provide enough contrast - and where brown would be too retro, too "country" or too informal. And this is what probably no other jacket color can do - finish off the look not by adding something extra, but by optically softening other parts of it, providing a solid foundation.
Oh, and by the way, I also have my own specific color theory about combining "urban" and "country" colors, mixing them with each other, balancing each other, etc. - I will probably write about it eventually. Who knows, maybe one of the lookbooks will be a good opportunity for this?
But well, back to my personal story - I was on the hunt for the perfect gray odd jacket for myself and it was serious.
There were several approaches - I was trying on available RTW options, going through different fabric bunches with MTM in mind, even looking for some vintage jacket length coupons that I could maybe turn into a bespoke creation - but nothing ever seemed just right.
The furthest I got was actually a finished MTM jacket, cut from a rather nice herringbone tweed… but as a result of some, erm, unforeseen complications, it had to find a new home with a better-fitting new owner. I was back to the starting point.
Frustration grew, because after all, it was getting harder and harder for me to cope with the lack of any gray sportcoat in my wardrobe - not that I was obsessed, but I kept thinking a bit too much about all the phenomenal looks I could wear if only I had such a piece in my collection
A sensible - and as it turned out, final - solution appeared as unexpectedly and accidentally as the original fascination.
One day, I was just strolling around the center of Warsaw, hanging around downtown, passing by - yes, you guessed it - the new Poszetka store. It was late, so the place was already closed, but the store window itself was enough to make me stop. Right there, I spotted a jacket that I hadn't seen before...
Within a few days, I talked to the Poszetka team and confirmed my suspicions - no, it wasn't a sample or someone’s MTM, it was an item from the newest collection, not available online yet, but already in store. So, I dropped by for a visit, got a close-up look, tried on my size and ended up buying it.
Frankly, it was the first time since long ago when I spontaneously got myself such a large thing to wear. I completely weaned myself from impulsive shopping, having my own long queue of ideas and already selected fabrics, waiting for the next MTM or bespoke commission. Still, I don't regret straying away from my path, it was worth it.
It all sounds a bit like an improbable coincidence, but it happened!
You have to take my word for it. In the end, I like simple solutions, I also like to make sudden decisions, especially when they end up with such a long time of waiting and consideration.
I also like it when summarizing the article I can not only talk about “what would I get if I had to choose something from the collection”, but about what I actually got myself and give advice based on what I wear on a daily basis. That is a win-win situation - I have a jacket and you have a first-hand recommendation.
Now that I mentioned that, it is time to finally give you some tips on what to wear your gray sportcoat with.
First of all, as I mentioned in my story, treat it as the best companion for unusually colored trousers (especially those in the autumnal, earthy color palette) - a calm counterbalance, ballast protecting you against sinking too deep into the depths of the overcolored world (sounds weird, I know). This option is useful both for seasoned players, allowing, for example, to wear your favorite-yet-unusual pair of pants in a business-ish vibe, as well as for beginners who would like to play with a bit of color, but are afraid (and rightly so) that they will overdo it if they start to wear all the vibrant colors at once and want to start with safe options.
My favorite looks that qualify into this category are definitely those pairing a gray jacket with a black turtleneck and colored cords - for me it's usually tan, green or purple, but if someone is a fan, brick red, burgundy or chocolate will also work. Alternatively, one can make the look smarter by replacing the turtleneck with a white shirt and a black knitted tie. Personally, I also like to replace the bottom part of the outfit with my yellow cavalry twill trousers - or, much subtler, heavy woolens in various shades of green and brown - then, to make it even smarter.
Secondly, I encourage you to use a gray odd jacket in monochrome sets, preferably in combination with dark gray (I mean contrasting enough), graphite or black trousers and a whole array of various shirts, sweaters and polos that come in white, black and practically every shade of gray in between. It is easiest to start with this range of colors, later on you can switch to more difficult tonal transitions.
It will be absolutely easiest to compose these looks when the layer under the jacket is either white or black, and the pants much darker than the top. I also absolutely insist on wearing black shoes, so as not to introduce additional color at the very bottom - but white sneakers, in more casual sets, also may work.
Thirdly, I would like to remind you about the absolute no-brainer, i.e. the combination of a gray jacket with jeans. It's really hard to miss here - as long as you match the shade of the top with the bottom.
Among my personal favorites in this category, there are looks with a pink OCBD shirt (if you have dark complexion plain pink will work, for pale blondes like me I recommend white and pink stripes), either unbuttoned at the neck or tied with black (or navy blue) knit, alternatively grenadine. I also have a soft stop for combinations incorporating a colorful sweater (yellow and green look great - many people also choose red, I'm not a fan, though) worn over a shirt or even replacing it.
Just to make it clear - jacket that I bought is this one. However, my advice on what to wear is definitely not limited to it - most jackets in a similar shade of gray, with a regular, not too flashy pattern (i.e. preferably herringbone/houndstooth/delicate check) will do the same. In fact, it seems to me that even some technically black and white jackets (e.g. classic Harris Tweed herringbone, which looks gray from a distance, usually turns out to be woven in this way up close) will do the job.
And speaking of other jackets, there is something more to say.
I am very happy that Poszetka did not stop at one gray jacket this season. Instead, they have three. I think all of them deserve at least a bit of the spotlight - the more so that each one of them can play a slightly different role in one’s wardrobe. Maybe you would prefer to go with a different one over the classic herringbone that I chose?
The first alternative is Ferla (name inherited after the mill where the fabric comes from) - sometimes described as "gray, but navy blue", or "navy blue, but gray". I am really glad that Beniamin, who showed me the pre-release photos, said that, because after seeing it in person, I think it is the absolute best short description of this jacket that can be made! This also refers to the way one should consider wearing it - I recommend it especially to those who may be looking for a gray jacket, but still love navy blue and want to stick to it, or are simply unwilling to reach for very dark grays and blacks.
As for potential limitations: with this piece, I would avoid gray-gray and gray-black monochromatic sets - it's easy to mismatch the shades - I'd be careful with some trousers and sweater combinations - greens are especially risky - and I'd also replace any black elements from my suggestions with dark navy equivalents - especially ties and sweaters.
From the potential advantages, in this case, you can risk combining a jacket with navy blue chinos or tailored trousers, because there is an increased chance that it will turn out well and look natural and easy, not overly studied. Blue shirts might look better with it, too.
The other is Carlo Barbera (as I am writing this, I don't know the official name yet) - I haven't seen this jacket in person yet, I haven't tried it on, I only have seen the photos. All in all, maybe it is a good thing, because if I had seen it side-to-side with my choice, the decision might not have been so easy… It's actually more like what I saw a few years ago in a lookbook (the so-called PHOTO NUMBER TWO), closer to dark gray, with a slightly richer, more nuanced texture of the fabric, in a mid-scale houndstooth.
In that case, I would pay special attention to contrasting combinations in sets - this jacket looks clearly darker, so I recommend choosing pants in brighter, more vivid colors, so that the bottom and top do not appear as one, big muddy patch. Avoid very dark shades of green and brown, those are extremely hard to pair. It can also be tricky to combine this jacket with some denim colors, especially some mid-wash jeans - sometimes those pairs that cannot be objectively classified as either dark (like new, rich in color) or light (washed, worn, beaten-up), can look dull with a dark top.
As you see, all those three gray sportcoats are different, still falling into the same category - and we are not even close to covering all the possible options, if you were to start digging into the depths of Instagram or fabric swatches! Ultimately, I believe that anyone could easily find the right choice for oneself. That is the true beauty of gray - it comes in so many forms (and shades), that the options are endless. Just switch your perspective and start believing in the versatility of gray odd jackets - let's finally appreciate them properly
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