Blazers. It’s the universal catch-all term reserved for everything from formal suit jackets to the more casual sports coat. Most men, and menswear retailers, use these terms interchangeably, adding to the ambiguity of it all. It’s no wonder that many sports coats, blazers, and suit jackets are mischaracterized. We’ve all seen it, the off-putting blazer with jeans combination that doesn’t quite work but should. The sports coat and slacks at a wedding that somehow feels underdressed. These are classic mix-ups that can be caused by many factors. But knowing is half the battle, so let’s look at the differences between blazers, sports coats, and suit jackets and identify how each are commonly used.
What is a suit jacket?
The suit jacket is the most formal of the 3 options. It is also the most common. But did you know that a suit jacket is only classified as such if it is paired with trousers made of the same exact material? But that isn’t the only difference between suit jackets and their contemporary kin. Suit jackets also tend to fit closer. This is because suits are not meant to be layered. The only things that should be put underneath one is a dress shirt and thin vest.
Suit jackets come in 3 common styles. The first is the 2-button single breast with notched lapel. This is the standard style. Only fasten the top button with these. Then there is the 3-button single breast option which is less common, but perfect for taller men. Only do the middle button when going this route. Finally, we have the 6-button double breast suit jacket. These are highly formal and great for specialized events. Just remember to leave the bottom row of buttons undone.
The most common suit jacket fabrics by season:
Summer/Spring – Linen, seersucker, and silk.
Winter/Fall – Wool, cashmere, and wool/cashmere blends.
- Pro-tip: Get in the habit of using your suit jackets only as suit jackets with their counterpart pants. Doing so allows your jacket and pants to wear down at the same rate, reducing the chance of mismatched coloring over time.
What is a Blazer?
Blazers have their roots in British naval history. At the time, around the early 1800s, these garments were of the 6-button double breasted variety. This particular style was then adopted by British royalty and saw a surge in popularity. It wasn’t until rowing clubs, with their need for mobility, started wearing 2-button single breasted blazers that the style unseated its formal predecessor as the common favorite. Although they share very similar cuts respectively, blazers and suit jackets have one glaring difference by which to tell them apart – the fabric.
The most common blazer fabrics by season:
Summer/Spring – Serge, fresco
Winter/Fall – Cashmere, flannel
- Pro-tip: Blazers and casual pants like chinos or khakis are a tried-and-true combination. When in doubt, upgrade to slacks for a more formal appearance.
What is a Sports Coat?
This modern offshoot of the Norfolk jacket was originally viewed as a luxury item. Most men could only afford a suit in the early 20s and having a separate jacket that one wore with multiple trousers of varying colors seemed a waste. But over time, the rugged construction, pairing options, and loose-fitting style of sports coats won out. They were perfect for layering and easy to dress down or up as seen fit by the wearer. 2-button single breast varieties are by far the most common, but 3-button single breast sports coats are becoming increasingly popular. The interesting thing to note here is that sports coats can run the gamut between fabrics used in suit jackets and fabrics used in blazers, but the weave is where sports coats stand out.
The most common weaves for sports coats
Herringbone – A classic pattern that can usually be found in brown, tan, grey, or blue.
Houndstooth – A “busy” pattern that is popular in the United Kingdom and Northeast United States.
Tweed – Thick and tough and most known for its scholarly professor look.
- Pro-tip: Sports coats can take a beating. If you’re looking to get active and don’t want to worry about wrinkles, then this is going to be your best bet.
Most Common Construction of Suit Jackets, Blazers, and Sports Coats
There are two main styles to be aware of here. The structured jacket gets its name from the cut of the shoulder. The shoulder pad sits just past the sleeve head, giving the jacket a crisp silhouette that compliments the body's natural shape. This is where you’ll find most traditional suit jackets and blazers. An unstructured jacket, however, is one with minimal canvas, very little lining, and a thin shoulder. The resulting jacket is lightweight and breathable and has a more casual look. This style of suiting has become common in recent years and makes for a summer suit or sports coat option.
At Original Stitch, we offer a fully customizable collection (yes, even the collar type!) of premium quality shirts. Customers can create a shirt completely unique to them. Our high-quality yarns are hand-selected from and tailored in Japan to be extra resistant to wear and tear while maintaining a softer feel than regular button-up shirts.