Blazers, Sport Coats, & Suit Jackets: Same?

*Feature image via Esquire magazine. From left to right: blazer, sport coat, suit jacket.

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A reader asks:

When I asked my friend about what I should wear to her outdoor fall wedding, she said that it was appropriate for guests to wear sport coats. Is this the same as a blazer or should I opt for a suit jacket?

How do I answer this without ruffling the feathers of fashion purists? Today, it’s an issue of semantics, and many people use the terms sport coat, blazer, and suit jacket (correctly and incorrectly) interchangeably. However, they are all technically different and each has its own unique roots in fashion history. Let’s start with the simple and then move on to the muddy.

Suit Jacket

This is the easiest to define. Suit jackets are more formal and always have a matching pair of pants made from the same materials, which are usually finer than the materials used for blazers and sport coats. You can certainly get more mileage out of your suit investment by breaking it up and using the jacket in different outfits. For example, The Style Blogger shows how to wear one three-piece-suit seven different ways. However, be sure to give the other parts of your suit (vest, trousers) equal play, lest you wear out your jacket before any of the other pieces.

Blazer vs. Sport Coat

Here’s where things get a bit blurry. In the U.S., the term blazer has come to mean a jacket that resembles a suit jacket, but has no matching pants. However, to really distinguish between sport coats and blazers, you need to know about their heritage.

Image via Valet

According to GQ, blazers have their roots in school and military uniforms, whereas sport coats have their roots in hunting and fishing. A blazer is traditionally solid blue or black, has patch pockets, fastens with metal buttons, and is smooth to the touch. Since sport coats were worn for fishing and hunting, they are a bit more rustic, robust, and tweedy; may have patterns (e.g., herringbone); and have pockets with flaps, and sometimes, but not always, a small upper ticket pocket. Think preppy, private country club or navy nautical (blazer) vs. country sporting and horseback riding (sport coat).

FOR OUR AUDIO/VISUAL LEARNERS

Shoo-be-doo-be-doo…Oh, hi! You’re back. This all seems simple, right? So, what’s the fuss? I’ll give you a tricky blazer/sport coat scenario. I own a gray and tan tweed sport coat that cannot be mistaken for anything else. I also own a traditional navy blue blazer with metal buttons. But, what about that khaki “blazer” I bought? The tag says “blazer,” it has a patch pocket, but it’s not blue or black and doesn’t have metal buttons. Hmmm. You’ll often find that sport coat and blazer are used as synonyms, even in the fashion industry.

What I am more concerned about is whether your friend knows the difference between a suit jacket and a sport coat/blazer, because the latter should only be worn for:

  1. Informal weddings (daytime or nighttime);
  2. Semi-formal weddings (daytime only – wear a dark suit at night); and
  3. Business and dressy casual (NOT business formal) events.

A tux or suit is standard etiquette for anything more formal.

If your friend confirms that the event is in fact any of the three levels of formality listed above, then I recommend wearing a blazer or sport coat. That is, unless you don’t own one, in which case GQ gives you the green light to wear your suit jacket and swap out the suit pant with a nice pair of less formal (but matching) trousers.

I put together some inspiration for you:

INFORMAL DAYTIME COUNTRY GATHERING

 INFORMAL NIGHTTIME HIPSTER SOIREE

INFORMAL AFTERNOON DANDY WEDDING

1 Comment

  • gabby evans says:

    You have some great information. I think they are really different, but blazers are my favorite. They are the most versatile. I got the best blazer at Berlington Coat Factory. They had a great price and it looks really nice.

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