It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself the king of casual and think you have no room or need for formalwear in your closet – we’re here to tell you that no matter what, you should be prepared for any event life may throw at you, and that means you gotta have a few formalwear options in your wardrobe. While we’re not telling you to run out and purchase enough suits to fill Barney Stinson’s closet, we are telling you that it’s important to have options when it comes to formal jackets, like sport coats and blazers.
To the untrained eye, it may seem like blazers and sport coats are essentially the same garment; however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there are many subtle differences between sport coats and blazers, and knowing the differences can totally save your ass when it comes to putting together a stylish and sophisticated outfit for any event.
What is a Sport Coat?
A sport coat is a jacket that is considered the least formal when it comes to dressing up for an event, and ironically, they were once considered a luxury item. Sport coats can now be worn in place of a traditional suit coat and are often patterned, but can come in a variety of solid colors as well.
Historically, men wore sport coats while they were hunting or doing other sporting activities, as sport coats are designed to be less structured than your traditional overcoats, meaning you can move a bit more freely while wearing them. A sport coat will not only streamline your silhouette by making your shoulders appear a bit broader and your waist appear smaller, but it will also keep you warm. Plus, if you’re stepping out to a business casual event on an extra-cold day, you can layer a sweater and a long sleeve button down underneath and not feel like you’re suffocating.
What is a Blazer?
A blazer is dressier than a sport coat but can still be dressed up or down, depending on what you wear it with and what type of event you’re going to. Typically, blazers come in a solid color – the most popular being navy blue – however, in today’s day and age, you can find blazers in all sorts of different colors in order to fit your personal style and aesthetic.
Blazers usually come in 2-3 button single-breasted or 6-button double-breasted varieties and almost always feature metal buttons in silver, gold, or brass.
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What Are the Main Differences Between a Sport Coat and a Blazer?
There are a few key differences between a sport coat and a blazer, with the most important being that a sport coat is not as formal as a blazer: aka, you shouldn’t wear a sport coat to a black tie or formal event, but if you’re going to a business casual event, getting together with your partner’s family for the holidays, or going out to a hip, nice restaurant for date night, you’ll want to grab a fun, patterned sport coat.
Sport coats often feature funky elements or design details on them, too, like leather elbow patches, ticket pockets, or pleats, and come in an array of lightweight and heavy fabrics, like houndstooth, tweed, wool, cotton, linen, and more.
Blazers can be worn to black tie or formal events, and unlike sport coats, blazers usually come in a solid color; however, patterned blazers are becoming more mainstream and acceptable as formal wear. A navy blue or black blazer is a must-have item in every man’s closet, though, and blazers are typically made of wool, cotton, or a poly-blend. Blazers are also a little more structured than sport coats – the hem of the sleeve should hit around the thumb knuckle and cover your butt – and you should definitely get it tailored to ensure it fits properly.
Let’s not get either of these confused with the most formal jacket you can wear, though: a suit coat. Suit coats differ from blazers and sport coats in the sense that they have a matching pair of trousers and slacks – the entire suit is made from the same material – and if you pair a suit coat with a random pair of slacks or jeans that you have lying around in your closet, then you’re going to look sloppy and mismatched at any event you go to.
Long story short: only wear a suit coat if you have trousers that match.
How To Wear a Sport Coat
The best thing about sport coats is you can really pair them with anything and still look like a classy, sophisticated dude in any situation you find yourself in. A patterned sport coat will always look good with a solid pair of trousers, chinos, or slacks, and depending on the colors in the pattern, you can either play up your look with a bold color like salmon, red, oxblood, or cerulean blue or keep your look more classic with a neutral color bottom.
Sport coats can also be worn with denim, and if you think you can pull it off (or plan on going to the Kentucky Derby), a fitted pair of shorts that hit right above the knee. If you have a crisp, white t-shirt made from quality material, you can totally get away with wearing it under a sport coat – as long as the event you’re going to is more on the casual side; if not, stick with a button-down shirt in the color or pattern of your choice.
And while we’ve made it crystal clear that sport coats can be dressed up or down, your best bet when it comes to picking out a pair of shoes to wear with your ensemble is to avoid your everyday sneakers and super casual footwear – opt for leather loafers, oxfords, or even desert boots for a hipster edge.
How To Wear a Blazer
Every man should have at least one blazer hanging in their closet, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one formal wear coat. Start building your collection of blazers by investing in a go-to garment that’ll pair well with multiple items in your closet and work across multiple seasons, then slowly add blazers in a variety of colors and patterns, as well as blazers that are made from different fabrics.
Like sport coats, blazers can be dressed up or down. You can typically wear anything from a nice white t-shirt to a sweater underneath a solid blazer; however, you can never go wrong with a classic button-down shirt in a fun pattern or color to give your formal outfit a subtle pop of flavor.
As far as bottoms go, you can wear fitted denim, slacks, trousers, or chinos, and add a pair of leather slip-ons, loafers, oxfords, or boots to give your look a sophisticated and classy finish. It’s important to note that what you wear with a blazer depends on the formality of the event you’re attending since it can be worn to both casual and black tie events alike.
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