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What should I pair with my houndstooth sports jacket?

The question

My wife had a brown houndstooth sports jacket made for me. It's beautiful but sits hanging in a closet for two reasons: I'm not sure what to pair it with, and I don't know if it's suitable for the office. What are your thoughts?

The answer

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Now that's what I like to hear: people spending lavishly on an impractical garment – hand-made, no less! – just because they think it's really cool.

It's true that houndstooth, a woven wool pattern that originated in Scotland, is rather flashy, even loud, if the checks are large enough. Very fine black-and-white houndstooth check can be formal with dark trousers and a tie, but it still has enough pizzazz to look faintly Italian. I had one I wore to a summer wedding once but wouldn't wear it in winter months on this side of the Atlantic.

Brown houndstooth, on the other hand, is a pattern that is quintessentially British: I associate it with arch-conservatives who like scotch and grouse-hunting; I picture Evelyn Waugh in brown check suits and bow-ties being funny at smoky country-house breakfasts.

In other words, it would be fantastically cool against the right backdrop: rural, preferably, or at least casual. You could wear it with jeans and a blue denim shirt and brown suede oxfords for weekend gallery-hopping or with charcoal wool trousers and a (non-brown) tie for business lunches.

The question of what is wearable to the office is unanswerable as there are so many varieties of offices. In a law office that deals with high finance, such an item would only be acceptable on casual Friday; in an business that appraises livestock, that might well be your dressiest apparel.

But there's one general rule that applies here and everywhere else: If you have a beautiful item of custom-made clothing, you should wear it. Find a reason.

Novelist Russell Smith's memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail

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