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Blazer vs Sports Coat vs Suit Jacket - A Complete Guide

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Section: Everything Else - Blog

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Our clients often ask us - what is the difference between a men’s blazer, a men’s sport coat, and a suit jacket? These days, these terms are used interchangeably, but it’s important not to get too caught up in the sartorial semantics- especially when talking about men’s blazers or sports coats.

Just like a suit, it is not one size fits all. However, knowing the subtle nuances that make each one different can help you coordinate your outfits better and ensure that you don’t look mismatched – for instance, by accidentally pairing a suit jacket with a cotton chino (they really don’t work well together).

Building a versatile and stylish wardrobe that fits you perfectly and is fit for every occasion is easier once you understand the variety of suit options available to suit your lifestyle. Gone are the days of off-the-rack, ill-fitted men’s suit jackets worn for every occasion that does not compliment your style or body shape.

You may ask why understanding the difference between men’s blazers, sports coats, and men’s suit jackets is important. The answer is that understanding their different features is essential to know how each can coordinate with different garments in your closet. A modern wardrobe with multiple jacket styles is essential to create a multipurpose and adaptable wardrobe, and understanding the differences will help you avoid those wardrobe mishaps. For instance, showing up to a formal event in a sports jacket or layering a thick sweater under a fitted tailored suit jacket (you may feel hot, but chances are you may not look it!). It helps to know the variety of essential men’s suit jackets and classic menswear staples that cater to seasonal demands and the occasion.

So, let’s begin by exploring the differences and distinctive features of each to start levelling up your styling potential.

Are suit jackets and blazers the same?

No, suit jackets and blazers are not the same. Men’s blazers are less formal than men’s suit jackets and are typically unpadded and unlined without edge-stitched lapels. Therefore, blazers are very light and comfortable and can be worn with a layered ensemble or in warmer weather.

What’s the difference between a blazer, a sports coat, and a suit jacket?

Sports coats can be coordinated with trousers that are not made of the same fabric or pattern, they can also be paired with pants that are of the same matching fabric or pattern. That makes them very versatile and a staple for any weekend or holiday wardrobe. Another difference is whether they have a matching pair of trousers - a suit jacket does, whereas a sports coat and blazer generally do not.

Sports coats are also patterned jackets, whereas blazers are a solid colour.

It’s all about the structure. Suit jackets also have a more rounded and structured shoulder, whereas blazers have a more laid-back fit with simple, softer shoulders and are less formal than the classic suit jacket. Blazers are often seen as a wildcard whilst sporting a casual style that can be worn in both casual business meetings and in casual contexts or as a perfect companion for weekend activities.

Blazers: How to look blazing hot in a blazer?


What is a Blazer?

Blazer jackets are typically characterised by a solid colour fabric with contrasting buttons and are unpadded or unlined.

Historically, men's blazers in Australia were a sign of membership in a group. They often featured some sort of ornamentation, such as a crest or nautical motif and feathered either metal buttons or very light-coloured buttons, such as Mother of Pearl.

Colours for blazers

The term ‘blazer’ stems from the ‘blazing red’ jackets worn by Cambridge’s Lady Margaret Boat Club members, which were made in red flannel and meant to stand out. There are striped versions of the boat club blazers called Regatta Blazers, which are also very bold and eye-catching. Blazers became a symbol of prestige and exclusivity as rowers from the club started wearing their blazers outside of the club.

What is the most common blazer colour?

Nowadays, the most common blazer colour is solid navy, although this has now expanded to a range of popular colours, including (but not limited to) cream, blue, wine, and camel-coloured blazers.

If you’re getting a blazer for a business casual or a smart-casual look, we recommend avoiding maroon and grey because these colours are often used for school uniform blazers.

Traditionally the most common fabrics for blazers were worsted serge wool, flannel or hopsack. But, just like the expansion in the range of blazer colours, there has also been an expansion in the range of fabrics for blazers, such as cashmere, silk, velvet, tweed and linen.

Suit fabrics hot and cool for seasonal changes

Which fabric you choose depends on the season.

What’s hot for winter/ cooler months

For the cooler months, you may opt for thicker, warmer, heavier fabrics like velvet, flannel, cashmere, tweed, or winter-weight wool.

Often people will refer to flannel, cashmere or tweed blazers generically as ‘wool coats’ – they are technically all wool coats, but there are differences between each material in terms of the look, feel and behaviour.

Flannel is a soft, mid-weight cloth with a slightly fuzzy texture called ‘nap’. It can be used to make a standalone flannel blazer or can also be used to create a whole 3-piece flannel suit without feeling overly heavy (of course, this would be a suit you could only wear in winter).

A velvet blazer can be pretty versatile in terms of occasion – it can be worn as part of a formal tuxedo ensemble on black trousers or dressed down and worn smart-casually on chinos or a pair of jeans.

Cashmere is also a mid-weight, super soft cloth with an exquisite lustre and is up to eight times warmer than sheep's wool. Unfortunately, it is also quite expensive due to its super luxurious look and feel. Cashmere’s high price is also down to the method by which the raw material is harvested, which is painstakingly obtained by combing the hair of the Kashmir goat. It can take four to six goats yearly to produce enough fibre to make a single cashmere blazer!

Tweed is on the other end of the spectrum. It features quite a rough, thick and heavy cloth with a lot of nap. Tweed blazers have a more structured stiffer look and are popular in colder climates such as England or Canada (due to their heaviness, tweed is not as common in Australia).

What’s cool for Summer or warmer climates?

For the warmer months, you may opt for lighter fabrics such as serge, hopsack, linen, cotton, silk or summer-weight wool.

Linen blazers are quite popular in summer as they breathe really well - the crosshatch weave allows air to pass through and provides ventilation. Although many love the crosshatch texture, some don’t like the crushed look, as it can look like you forgot to iron your linen blazer.

For those that like the crosshatch texture of linen but prefer a smoother, non-crushed look – fortunately, there is now a blend of wool, silk and linen that combines the softness, smoothness and crush-resistance of wool with the lightness, breathability and crosshatch look of linen, and has the lustre of silk.

As you can see in the image above – the model is wearing a light-blue blended wool, silk & linen blazer – something that conventionally would not be categorised as a blazer, but the sartorial style has evolved, and we don’t really like sticking to convention here. 

What Blazers are in Style?

Blazer jackets can come as single-breasted blazers with 1, 2 or even 3 buttons, as well as double-breasted blazers with various button configurations. While single-breasted blazer jackets are more common in Australia due to the relatively warmer weather, a well-tailored double-breasted blazer can look super sharp.

There are two things to consider when deciding to purchase a double-breasted jacket:

  • Keep in mind that with double-breasted jackets, you generally always need to keep them buttoned up, as they don’t look good when the buttons are not fastened – the jacket flares out, and it’s not a flattering silhouette when unbuttoned. If you like wearing your blazers unbuttoned, then better to go for a single-breasted blazer.

  • Double-breasted blazers are not flattering on gents with a larger midsection or belly. If you have a belly, a double-breasted blazer can make you look bigger than you are.
  • One reason is that since you need to keep the buttons done up to ensure the buttons don’t pull or strain, you need to allow plenty of room in the jacket. In a single-breasted jacket, you can potentially go a little tighter in the middle and leave the jacket open to create the illusion of a slimmer waistline.
  • The second reason is that the V made at the neckline when the buttons are done up on a double-breasted jacket is much shorter than the V created at the neckline with the top button fastened on a single-breasted jacket.
  • Why is this important? Well, a deep V neckline can help elongate the appearance of the torso and also helps the slimming illusion. A shorter V-neckline can make you look more stocky.

Blazer Outfits - how to wear a blazer?

Blazers are to be worn with contrasting trousers, cotton chino or denim jeans. The Italians like to call this style “Spezzato”, which literally translates to “broken” but effectively means to mix and match. Here are some simple guidelines to create a great-looking blazer outfit and ensure you look blazing-hot in your blazer:

  • Don’t wear pants that are the same colour as the blazer unless there is a large shade (and/or fabric) difference – e.g. dark navy blazer with medium blue jeans would be acceptable.
  • If the blazer fabric is flannel (a mid-weight winter cloth), don’t pair it with a trouser in linen (a light summer cloth). Instead, keep the cloth weight consistent between top and bottom, e.g. a flannel blazer paired with a stiff cotton chino, denim jeans or mid-weight wool trouser is acceptable. Or pairing a linen blazer with a lightweight cotton chino or summer-weight wool trousers works.
  • Ensure the colour of your shirt also contrasts with the colour of the blazer. If you want to play it safe, a white or light-blue collared shirt is usually a safe option. However, for the more adventurous, you could consider something like a white with navy pinstripes shirt or a gingham or check shirt. To wear a blazer casually and to add a little more flavour to your style, you could even throw a navy blazer over a white polo or t-shirt with light-blue jeans and white sneakers.

Sports Jackets- how to hit all the right goals when sporting a sports jacket

What is a Sports Jacket?

A sports jacket or sports coat is a casual jacket worn on informal occasions and is made in textured or patterned fabrics.

Historically, as the name suggests, sports coats were worn while sporting - hunting, clay shooting, horse riding, and so on. So, in many ways, the sport coat is the exact opposite of a suit jacket.

Nowadays, people tend to use the terms ‘blazer’ and ‘sports coat’ interchangeably, but there are some differences.

Colours & Fabrics for Sports Jackets

What are the most common sports jacket fabric and patterns?

Probably the most common choice of fabric for sports coats is wool. The most common pattern is a check pattern which comes in many varieties such as windowpane, glen check, Prince of Wales, gingham, plaid, tartan, madras, and houndstooth.

As mentioned earlier, sports jackets are made in textured or patterned fabrics, which covers a broad spectrum. They can be made in many of the same materials as blazer jackets, such as flannel, cashmere, tweed, linen, or wool.

 

What colour to avoid for a sports jacket?

Sports jackets can also come in a wide spectrum of colours and patterns. But there is one colour that is definitely not in the range for sportscoats – and that colour is black. A common error is referring to a black suit jacket as a black sports jacket – there is no such thing as a black sports jacket if we’re being technical. Furthermore, black is such a formal colour that it doesn’t make sense in the context of a casual jacket like a sports coat.

Sports Jacket Style

Sports jackets generally have less structure (usually unstructured and light or no shoulder padding). However, this is up to personal taste and also body shape. For example, if you are on the bulkier side, you may need additional structure and shoulder padding to create a more complimentary silhouette.

Another common feature of sports jackets is that they often come with patch pockets which is a more casual style of pocket rather than the usual flap pockets you would find on blazers or suit jackets. Having said that, you will also see sports coats with standard flap pockets as well.

Sports Jacket Outfits - how to wear a Sports Jacket?

Sports jackets, like blazers, should be worn with contrasting trousers, cotton chino or denim jeans. Here are some simple guidelines to create some great sports coat looks and ensure you hit all the right goals when sporting a sports jacket:

  • If the sportscoat is a check pattern, the trouser should always be a solid colour with no pattern or, at most, a very subtle pattern or texture. You should avoid wearing check-pattern trousers with a different check-pattern jacket as this will look quite odd and disjointed.
  • Similarly, avoid wearing a check shirt with a check sportscoat, as the patterns could clash. Although, there are some exceptions. For instance, the shirt could be a micro-check or gingham print which would match fine with a sports jacket with a large check pattern.
  • A striped shirt with a check sportscoat is also generally a faux pas, as stripes can clash with checks. Although, if the stripe pattern on the shirt is subtle, then you may just get away with it, but why risk it when you could just wear a plain shirt which would look better anyway?
  • The type of shoes you wear with a sports coat can vary, from lace-up oxfords, boots, loafers, and boat shoes to sneakers. It really depends on the type of pants you wear. And remember- the more casual the pants, the more casual the shoe.
  • Depending on the specific pattern, colour, and styling, a sports jacket could be part of a suit or just worn as a separate. In fact, we find many of our clients opt for this kind of versatile fabric choice to have the option to wear the jacket separately in a more casual setting.

Suit jackets: What suits, what’s hot and what’s not.

What is a Suit Jacket?

A suit jacket is exactly what it sounds like - it is a jacket that is part of a two or three-piece outfit with a matching pair of pants and, in the case of a three-piece suit, a matching waistcoat as well. All the pieces are in the same fabric making up the suit. And that is why that jacket is called a suit jacket.

Typically, a suit jacket is the most formal style of jacket of the three. It has the most structure and is generally more conservative in terms of colour - think of your classic suits like Navy and grey. Suit jackets can also have a pattern.  

What is the most common jacket pattern?

The most common suit jacket pattern you'll see are herringbone, pinstripe, Glen check, Prince of Wales check and windowpane.

Can you wear a suit jacket as a separate?

And the answer is - it depends!

It mainly depends on the fabric. A suit jacket made in a fabric that has a bit of a sheen will not work as a separate as it will look disjointed and odd - especially if you pair it with more casual pants like chinos or jeans.

Suits made in fabrics like hopsack, linen or tweed are much better suited for wearing the jacket as a separate, especially if they are styled in a more casual way with patch pockets, maybe a half-canvas construction and a more natural, unpadded shoulder.

So if you wear your suit jacket as a separate, does that also make it a blazer?

Technically, no, but this is an instance where we can get too wrapped up in terminology when it really doesn't matter so much. So if you want to call it a blazer, go for it.

Choosing the Right Jacket: Sports Jackets vs Blazers vs Suit Jackets?

So now that we have described each of the three jacket types individually, let’s compare the three and sum up what we’ve explored on differences between men’s suit jackets, men’s sport coats and men’s blazers.

Well, one difference is the level of formality – a suit jacket is typically the most formal, a blazer is somewhere in between, and a sport coat is the most casual of the three jackets.

Another difference is whether they have a matching pair of trousers - a suit jacket does, whereas a sports coat and blazer generally do not.

Choosing the right jacket ultimately comes down to the occasion you need it for. While a suit jacket, a sport coat and a blazer all have their differences, the bottom line is that they are all men's jackets, and what they all have in common is that if you're wearing one, you're going to look well put together and stylish.

And remember: every impression counts. Especially the first one. Like it or not, those around you judge you based on how you look.

So be confident, knowing you’ll look damn good in the perfect blazer, sport coat, or suit jacket perfect for the event you’re at.

Looking for more styling advice?


Contact Montagio today. We know how to dress to impress, and we'll even throw in a healthy dose of personal style advice to boot. Of course, a perfect fit is guaranteed.

It doesn't matter what image you want to project, we offer a truly personalised experience, specialising in custom-designed, perfectly-fitted suits, blazers, sports coats, shirts, and shoes.

Whether it is for the races, garden weddings or even if you’re trying to nail the Miami Vice look (we won't ask why), Montagio can create a smart casual look that's perfectly tailored to beat the odds. 

Our expert stylists will help you to design a look that's a perfect match for your occasion and personal style. Our showrooms are visually packed with designs that inspire, plus thousands of fabric options, making it easy for you to get the look you want.

Frankly, we won’t let you walk out until we’ve tailored your perfect garment.

Since 2010, we have custom-tailored looks for thousands of happy customers. To experience the same red-carpet service, book your personal appointment today.

 

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