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Smart separates: the best buys for the changing season

Nick Carvell,
GQ Contributing Fashion Editor

Look the part wherever you’re bound in quality pieces showcasing interesting fabrics with pops of upbeat colour

Male model in a floral shirt

One of the side effects of being a fashion editor is the tendency to develop a magpie approach to shopping. I see a vast array of trends and tend to get rather carried away. This reaches fever pitch during the festive period, when fancy shindigs and tempting things in the shops combine to form an impulse-buying perfect storm. But as fun as it is to fill your seasonal armoury with upscale evening suits, this shouldn’t be at the expense of getting your separates in order. What you need are clothes that will have you covered for a host of events, from mulled wine at your neighbours’ to festive outdoor markets to something to wear on the big day itself.

A smart-casual coat and choice of jackets will serve you well, particularly a blazer in an interesting fabric and a dressier bomber style. At this time of year, knitwear comes into its own, with colourful versions in shades of brown, orange and rust all very now. And you may be surprised to hear that cord is back as a standout fabric – yes, really. So, as Christmas approaches, gift yourself not only those zingier after-hours items, but also ones that’ll bring comfort and joy to even the most everyday situations. Here are a few of my trend-ticking favourites.

Model in rollneck and cords

Slimline corduroy

Somewhere between the 1970s and today, corduroy got a bit of a bad rep. Not helped by baggy cuts, dull colours and a tendency to be worn by your teachers, the fabric boasted zero cool factor for a generation. Now that’s changing, as labels look to undo all those negative connotations. The latest cuts are slimmer and colours are brighter – which makes cord perfect for party season. Go for a simple knit-and-trousers combo, adding a blazer if a jacket is required, showcasing cosy textures and autumnal shades.

Model in shower proof mac

Cosy layers

Sometimes you need a coat, sometimes a jacket – this mac can be worn either way. With a layer of padding, it adds extra warmth over T-shirts and knitwear without feeling cumbersome – plus it’s super-light to carry if you need to take it off. Demonstrating the transformational powers of the right coat, simply do up the press studs and you’ll smarten any outfit in an instant.

Model in grey cashmere jumper

Elevated textures

Over the Christmas period you’re likely to be spending a lot of time indoors. This is where relaxed, upscale pieces come into their own, offering comfort without compromising presentability. Tailored drawstring trousers perfectly capture this vibe. Team them with tonal cashmere – shades of grey, beige and navy are a perennially elegant choice that could even work on Christmas Day.

Model in grey slim fit blazer

A contemporary blazer

With dress codes loosening up for guys, a blazer has become the trump card in any wardrobe, proving invaluable when a dressier event crops up last minute. Putting on a sharp jacket, even with something casual such as jeans and trainers, means you’re instantly smart enough for that impromptu Christmas mixer. Choose a slim fit and an interesting fabric, such as this black-and-white weave, for an extra dash of contemporary flair.

Model in grey bomber jacket

Smart casuals

Look at streetwear brands right now and you’ll see plenty of materials and patterns that would once have been reserved for the sleekest of Savile Row suits are now being used for casual items. The easiest way to incorporate this trend into your wardrobe is with outerwear: take something that you’d usually wear on your off-the-clock time, such as a bomber jacket (like the one pictured above, £129, John Lewis & Partners, available in store), and choose it in a fabric that you’d more likely see in the office – a pinstripe, Prince of Wales or plaid. Simple.

Model in Reiss Floral Shirt

The party shirt

The upcoming celebrations are an excellent excuse to add something a bit brighter to your wardrobe, and a party shirt is the easiest way. A floral print might seem bold, but this season many of them have grounded a multicoloured design against a black background. Slip one on with black jeans and loafers, or undo a few buttons and wear it with a tuxedo and trainers.

Male model in a denim shirt

The denim classic

Sometimes it’s the little styling tips that really make a difference from season to season. This winter, it’s not so much about the design of your shirt, more how you wear it. On the catwalks, one of the more popular ways was simply to leave more buttons undone than you usually would. The most wearable iteration of this trend is to expose a sleek, solid-colour T-shirt underneath.

Male model in joggers

The casual separates

Make your suits work hard over Christmas – they’re not just for the office. Those wool trousers can be worn with hiking boots and a denim jacket, while the blazer can be rendered smart-casual when worn over a knit.