I’m sure you’ve had people (mothers, girlfriends/wives, etc) tell you at various times in your life that you need to coordinate the colors of your outfit. You may not, however, have been chided about mismatching textures. But, just because you haven’t been admonished for this doesn’t mean it’s not important. I started noticing texture coordination issues when the “sport coat and jeans” trend really came into it’s own about 10 years ago. I saw men making the very understandable mistake of wearing their jeans with an orphaned suit jacket rather than a proper sport coat. This is understandable because sport coats and suit jackets look pretty much alike. The major difference between them is that a suit’s jacket is, by nature, a more formal garment and therefore made of more refined cloth. Sport coats on the other hand are less formal (think about it, it’s called a sport coat, dudes actually played sports in these things a hundred years ago) and therefore made of casual and more durable cloth.
The difference between formal and informal cloths is simple, casual cloths were designed to take abuse, formal cloths were not. Broadly speaking, formal cloths are made of worsted wool or finely woven cotton, both of which have smooth textures and often come in sober colors like navy and charcoal–think Wall Street investment banker. In contrast, informal cloths are rough and uneven and come in loud or mottled colors–think English country gentleman.
Think about the way classic menswear works. When you buy a suit, the cloth of the suit and jacket match, in fact they are exactly the same. You don’t buy a suit and get a worsted wool jacket and Carhartt duck pants, that would look silly. This brings us back around to the jeans with the orphaned suit jacket. The problem with this pairing is that it looks like you couldn’t decide if you were going to the bar exam or to the dive bar. The solution? Match your textures. Think of your casual clothing like you’d think of a suit. Jeans, for instance, are made of denim, a textured and quintessentially casual cloth. You should be pairing them with sport coats made of a similarly rough and knobby fabric, tweed, corduroy, cotton twill, and linen are all great candidates. Jeans also do well with the waxed cloths used in outdoorsman’s jackets from manufacturers like Barbour and Filson. The same concept applies when matching your shirts to your trousers. If you want to wear your jeans with a collared shirt, consider oxford cloth in fall and winter, and chambray or end-on-end in the summer. All of those cloths are less refined than the more common poplin dress shirts, sporting idiosyncratic textures better suited to the informality of jeans.
Texture matters, it’s how you make garments from all corners of the menswear world work together. Remember, rough and casual with rough and casual, Smooth and formal with smooth and formal. Done.