Various kinds of jackets were created back in the 18th century. As you would expect, they all came from the United Kingdom—the land of afternoon tea, the royal family, and formal etiquette. Since then, these pieces have been used for sport, casual wear, and many formal events.
Fast forward to the 21st century, “Suit up!” is how Barney Stinson would approach every situation. Before the 2010s, it took courage to wear a t-shirt in the workplace as everyone was suited up. Now, with work environments becoming increasingly casual, it takes more guts to wear a jacket in the office. The elevated and polished look is worth the extra styling effort to make the formal pieces work for you.
So, are you stuck trying to figure out what kind of coat to buy? From which fit is best, the type of fabric to use, to what occasion to wear which, we’ve got you covered. Here is the ultimate guide on the sport coat, blazer, and suit jacket.
Decades ago, sport coats or sport jackets were worn by men when they participated in sporting activities such as hunting and fishing to keep them warm. It was first viewed as a luxury item as most people could only afford a suit jacket. Over time, this became more affordable and the sport coat’s popularity trickled down to the masses. Different colored trousers were often paired with it, so this wasn’t considered formal wear.
The sport coat is the most casual among the three. This comes in a variety of colors and patterns. It isn’t as structured as the suit jacket or blazer and has a generally looser fit. Some varieties have elbow patches, along with a slit and some pleats in the back.
Types of Sport Coats
This sport coat has two buttons on the front. It has a more distinct, deeper V shape in the front so it exposes your torso more. This type is frequently used among wearers and is often a good fit for every body type.
Meanwhile, flap pockets are the prominent feature of this three-buttoned coat. With these kinds of jackets, you should only fasten the middle button. A variation you can do is the two and a half, where the top button is intended to be left unbuttoned. You can also do this for the suit jacket.
This fabric has a classic pattern. Jackets in this fabric are usually colored brown, tan, dark gray, light gray, or blue. You should look for these colors when buying a sport coat in this fabric.
Herringbone has a distinct V-shaped pattern in the weave, arranged in a zigzag. It’s a luxurious material that shows class in corporate environments, where it is more commonly worn casually.
Houndstooth and Shepherd’s Check
Both are fabrics with distinctive patterns that are popularly associated with a black and white color palette. These are usually worn in the UK, Europe, and the US.
The pattern and checks make sport coats in this fabric look very refined from morning to afternoon. It doesn’t quite look as good as other options at night though, so keep that in mind.
The use of non-navy fabrics and the interweaving of other colors that accents your shirt and accessories is what differs flannel from other fabrics being used for sport coats.
Flannel fabric actually looks formal on a sports jacket, but it’s soft and cozy enough to work well in casual settings.
This is the perfect fabric for the sport coat given its thick and rough weave, as the different-colored weaves make your coat unique-looking. This comes in a wide range of colors and is especially durable.
The blazer has its roots from the 1800s during which the crew of a warship, HMS Blazer, wore it when Queen Victoria visited their ship. The queen liked their attire so much that its popularity surged and became a standard uniform. The blazer then grew in popularity throughout Europe and the US. Traditionally, it came in navy blue but now comes in a variety of colors.
The blazer is dressier than your sport coat but less formal than the suit jacket. It is also more form-fitting and offers you more shoulder structure compared to the sport coat. It is highly versatile as you can easily use it to elevate an outfit or make it look casual. Its buttons come in different kinds from expensive types such as gold or pearls, to more common varieties.
Types of Blazers
This is pretty common among blazers. It can be the most versatile piece you can own, especially if you get one in navy blue which is its most common color.
This is slowly gaining popularity to compete with its two-button counterpart. The three-button blazer is ideal for taller men. Pair this with pants of a different color to provide balance to your look.
Bang! This blazer means you’re in for business. This six-button double-breasted blazer is the most formal of the three. You will generally find peaked lapels more common than notched lapels. Peaked lapels are pointed while notched are sewn.
Worsted wool is common and easy to find. It is lighter and more durable compared to the other fabrics, but isn’t as breathable especially on hot days. Considering how blazers line between semi-formal and casual, durability is a big factor to think about.
Just keep in mind that worsted fabric is processed more than traditional wool, so it can be pricier.
Serge, which is usually clear-finished, has been a staple fabric in military uniforms for many years. It typically has a flat, diagonally-shaped rib pattern. French serge is soft and finer, which is more ideal for a cleaner look.
You can sport this durable fabric for more outdoor occasions. A testament to its durability is in its use on trench coats and military wear.
Cashmere is soft, luxurious, and is a great option to pair with your chinos. Durability may be an issue so be sure to choose only good quality cashmere. Also, cashmere has a natural shine to it because of its high-quality fabric.
This makes it a less-than-ideal choice for outdoor wear. That being said, cashmere will look great on a blazer for work and indoor semi-formal events.
This is a soft weave woven in twill which is most often made from wool or cotton. Aside from the casual texture, flannel is perfect for winter due to its soft and cozy feel.
If you’re thinking about giving leather and denim jackets a hard pass this December, try out a flannel blazer instead.
Fresco is a rare fabric created from wool. It is a great fabric for summer due to its thin lining. It’s high-twist yarn helps make the suit repel water, in case of splashes or sudden rain, but also makes it more rigid.
This helps resist wrinkles around your blazer. Fresco is generally sewn in an open weave, which makes it feel airy and breathable.
The original suit jacket or suit coat was invented in the 1800s by the original hipster, Beau Brummell. He changed the menswear game forever by favoring simple jackets and pants over more extravagant fashion popular at the time.
As a style trendsetter, he then influenced British society to wear his invention. Yes, he was an influencer before it was cool. These eventually became the suits that you see being worn today.
The dressiest and most formal of the three, the suit jacket is basically a jacket paired with matching pants. Both of which are made of the same fabric. Another distinguishing feature of the suit jacket is that it is more form-fitting and snugger than a blazer and a sport coat. This is because suit jackets aren’t meant to be layered. At most, you’ll be wearing a dress shirt and a thin vest underneath your jacket.
Types of Suit Jackets
This is the most common type of suit jacket you can have. The most versatile version has a notched lapel and flapped pockets to create structure and definition.
It isn’t as common as the two-button kind but also widely used. This is an ideal option if you are tall to help frame your body.
The Ferrari of suits, the six-button double-breasted suit is a much less common version of the suit jacket. This is considered highly formal so you should reserve using this for special events. Remember to leave the bottom buttons undone. You’re not dead yet.
Worsted wool is created by aligning fibers and turning them into yarn. This is an excellent fabric to protect you from cold weather. This fabric is known to be stronger and finer than normal wool, so I’d definitely recommend this yarn for party boys.
Being light and smooth is another quality where worsted wool shines. Think of it as semi-silk and semi-wool. Getting to this texture requires more processing, so the price for this is higher than normal wool.
Cashmere isn’t originally a common fabric as it is expensive, but it’s slowly gaining popularity due to its soft and luxurious feel. This fabric is only harvested from a certain breed of goats, cashmere being the most familiar.
These jackets feel very breathable but do come with a bit of shine. Cashmere shines in warmer climates, since it doesn’t retain heat well enough to be a winter classic.
Linen is an extremely lightweight material meant for spring and summer use. This fabric is ideal for outdoor wedding events as well. The only downside is it’s prone to wrinkling.
Since wrinkling can easily break an outfit, wearing a linen suit is more for practical reasons than fashion. Outdoor weddings or formal events can be hot and humid, so linen’s breathable and lightweight fabric easily combats that. However, wearing it any more than several hours and you’ll start seeing wrinkles. Not ideal.
This is an extremely thin form of cotton also made for the spring and summer weather. Feeling adventurous with your wardrobe? Then this is for you as it works well with pants of different colors.
The seersucker fabric already addresses wrinkles before it happens. By not being smooth from the get-go, seersucker suits continue to look the same through hours of use—and that gets rid of the wrinkle problem! Best used with long outdoor formal activities.
The most luxurious fabric out there, silk, should be your go-to if you’ve got the budget. Suits made of pure silk are very soft and breathable. Perfect for formal events, silk will make you look classy and polished.
Silk is more closely associated to a feminine fabric than to men, which only gives it an esteemed sense of elegance. If you can afford suits like this, they’re the best for year-round use and will never look out of style.
Knowing is half the battle. Now, let’s use your knowledge and put it to good use. The sport coat, blazer, and suit jacket can be styled and used for different occasions. Want to upgrade your look? Here are some style tips to help you look as sharp as James Bond or Eggsy in Kingsman.
Let’s start with the most casual. For your sport jacket, this should be your go-to if you want to elevate your everyday look. Likewise, you should pair your other bottoms with your sport jacket. It is the most loose-fitting option so it is ideal to layer over a sweater, turtleneck, or other thick garments. You can also look as polished even with just a t-shirt.
Sport jackets might feel formal due to today’s casual standards, but because of its history as a uniform for Anglo-Saxon sports, it’s actually considered casual wear. These would look best with a pair of loafers and jeans, or even chelsea’s if you want to look a bit more refined.
Again, avoid wearing jeans that are too baggy and don’t pick out an under shirt that’s longer than your jacket. Sport jackets are ideal for semi-formal first dates or in a semi-casual job setting.
Meanwhile, your dressier blazer can be paired with jeans, khakis, or chinos for a more casual look. For a more formal approach, it can go along with your slacks or flannel trousers. The blazer is flexible, you just have to choose the right clothes to go with it.
You can also pair the blazer with a turtleneck underneath, since both are considered semi-formal clothes. This surprisingly still shows a level of class and finesse that looks just as good as a polo shirt.
What you’ll want to avoid is looking too casual in a blazer. Don’t untuck your shirt, that looks too messy. Don’t wear a size that’s too big for you, that completely takes out the class of a blazer.
Bringing your ‘A’ game? The suit jacket is your dependable wingman. It should always be paired with its matching pants and, optionally, a vest. You may match your suit jacket with nice denim or slacks in certain occasions, but only if you don’t have a sports jacket or blazer for such events. Avoid doing so in formal events though. Always go for the pants the suit jacket came with.
In terms of layering, the most you could do is stick with a dress shirt and a thin sweater vest. Suit jackets are generally simple, with the touches of personality left only to the tie, pocket square, and color of socks.
Check out the multiple ways you can fold a pocket square, because that small level of detail adds a ton of class. Similarly, feel free to experiment with socks that show the most of your personality too. But avoid looking too blown out, like cartoon socks which can seem tacky.
Now, the interesting part is what footwear to choose. Your blazers can go well with many types of shoes. You just have to pick based on how formal your pants are. Wearing flannel pants or tailored slacks? Then put on some monk straps or oxfords. For your chinos or jeans, you can wear a dressy casual shoe. Meanwhile, you can wear more casual shoes for your sport coat. For your suit, leather shoes such as oxfords or brogues will do.
You can wear these pieces interchangeably on most occasions, though it is important that you note the differences. For example, if you’re attending a formal company event, you might want to reach for your full two or three-piece suit unless your company’s dress code allows for a more casual attire. In which case, you can wear a blazer or a sport jacket instead.
Lastly, never fasten the bottom button. It ruins the tailor of your jacket.
As always, the fit of your clothes can make or break your look. Have your jacket fit too tight and you run the risk of looking like a corporate sausage. If it’s too loose, you might be mistaken as a basketball player attending the NBA draft in the 90s.
The fit also determines how casual or formal the jacket is. The sport coat is loose to allow for movement in laid-back settings. Then, the blazer should fit just right to be versatile. And the suit coat should hug your form nicely to look sleek when you have to dress posh. Understanding this, you can layer the sport jacket with turtlenecks and sweaters but not the suit coat.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sport Coats and Blazers
Is it okay to wear a suit jacket as a sport coat?
For some events, you may use your suit jacket as a sport coat if you don’t have one. You can’t do this for formal occasions though. Also, you can’t layer your suit jacket since it is more tight-fitting compared to the sport coat. If you did, then you’d probably look like the Michelin Man.
Which is better, a blazer or suit?
A blazer is generally more versatile, but it really depends on the purpose. Are you attending a strictly formal event? You should probably wear a suit. If the event allows for a more casual attire, then go ahead and wear your blazer.
However, if you’re on a budget and want your blazer to imitate a complete two-piece suit, then buy pants that have a material that closely resembles your blazer. You can also opt to purchase the pants and blazer at the same time or bring the blazer as a reference when you shop.
Is it okay to wear a suit jacket with different pants?
Your suit jacket stays loyal to its matching trousers, especially for formal events. Could this be the reason why it’s used in weddings? Who knows? Meanwhile, the blazer is a player and will gladly be paired up with different trousers.
Is it okay to wear a sport coat with jeans?
Of course, it is! You can do this for more relaxed or casual events. Sport coats are meant to be paired up with different kinds of pants, especially denim, so you’ve got nothing to worry about.
A Final Word From The Trending Man
In the end, a jacket, whether it’s a sport coat, blazer, or suit coat, definitely improves and polishes your look. Trends may come and go, but the jacket is a timeless classic. Nothing compares to looking sharp, especially if you aim to impress. If you pick the right pieces, you might just end up with more than what you bargained for.