Sports jackets, Suit jackets and the Blazers are the mostly used menswear, but men confuse these three terms terms with one another and use them interchangeably, as do many men’s clothing retailers.
Because of this, the differences between these three classic menswear pieces ends up being a mystery. Are these jackets really all that different? (Yes, they are!) And why should a man even care to take the time to learn these details?
Let me give you three reasons:
1) It’ll save you money. Armed with this knowledge, you can buy the right jacket that will stand the test of time.
2) You’ll show respect to others. Each of these jackets has a slightly different level of formality. You don’t want to try wearing a sports jacket to an event that calls for a suit.
3) You’ll learn a bit of history. Each of these jackets has its own unique story of how it came to be. Understanding this helps you grasp the changes men have lived through over the last 150 years.
The very fundamental difference among the three types of jackets is as under.
01. Suit Jackets:
The only difference between a Suit Jacket and Blazer are that, a Suit Jacket is much resembling to the trouser while for a blazer it is not necessary to be resembling to the color of trouser. Therefore a suit jacket is defined as being such only if it’s matched with trousers made from the same exact swatch of fabric.
For the vast majority of situations, you should wear suit jackets with their matching trousers. Part of the reasoning for this is that if you wear your suit jacket as a blazer — that is, pairing it with jeans or other trousers — it can wear or fade differently than the suit trousers. So the next time you go to wear that suit, it may not look congruous.
Another defining feature of the suit jacket is that it should be a closer and tighter fit than blazers/sports jackets. This is because suit jackets aren’t meant to be layered; at most, you’ll be wearing a dress shirt and thin sweater vest underneath the jacket.
If you are just learning to dress sharp, wearing a suit is the best approach for you to take to avoid the risk of looking out of place, or even worse, not knowing what you are doing.
Different Types of Suit Jackets
Suit jackets come in all shapes and sizes however these three types are very common;
- 2-Button Single-Breasted. The most common variety of suit jacket you can purchase. Timeless versions have a notched lapel and flapped pockets to create structure and definition.
- 3-Button Single-Breasted. Not as common as the 2-button variety. An ideal option for taller men as it helps frame their body well. You generally only want to button the middle button with this option. (Remember to follow the Sometimes, Always, Never Rule!)
- 6-Button Double-Breasted. A much less common version of suit jacket but something worth talking about is the 6-button double-breasted suit. This version is considered highly formal and best used for special events. Just remember to leave the bottom buttons undone.
Blazer is most common jacket ever being used by men. Actually it is the jacket of choice of the British Navy, which was adopted in the early nineteenth century. The blazer exploded onto the scene after British royalty gave their approval of the garment in 1837.
Navy was the only color used at that time, and it was originally double-breasted with 6 buttons.
The single-breasted blazer has no ties to the British military and was used mostly by rowing clubs in England. These jackets only had two buttons to allow rowers the freedom to move around without restriction.
Today, you can find many varieties of the blazer jacket due to the way it highlights a man’s build. It is also one of the most versatile jackets you can own. It is often mistaken to be one and the same as the sports jacket. However, there are some subtle differences between the two that make each of them unique.
What type of Fabrics Used for the Blazer?
Fabric plays the most crucial role in the differentiation of the blazer compared to the suit and sports jackets.
The main fabrics used for the blazer are:
- Worsted Wool. Common, easy to find, but can make a blazer look like an orphaned suit jacket.
- Serge. Usually clear finished, serge has been a staple fabric in military uniforms for many years. Typically has a flat, diagonally-shaped rib pattern.
- Cashmere. Soft and luxurious, a 100% cashmere blazer is a great option to pair with chinos. Durability is a small issue but quality of the cashmere plays a role in this as well.
- Flannel. Most often created from wool or cotton, flannel is a soft weave usually woven in twill.
- Fresco. A rare fabric, created from multiple yarns in wool, the fresco fabric is usually created in a plain weave. A great fabric for the summer due to its thin lining but not recommended as an all-season fabric.
Colours of a Blazer Jacket
Navy blue is the color of choice for the blazer. They can also come in lighter shades, but past a certain point they start to resemble sports jackets. If you only own one blazer, make it navy.
Blazer jackets can also come in bright, vibrant colors, especially when associated with clubs and boating events. Green, red, and bright stripes are occasionally seen and have significance, as they identify the wearer as a club member or part of a team.
Following colours are often used for a Blazer Jacket.
- Navy blue
- Bottle green
- Regatta stripe (varies widely)
Different types of a Blazers
- 2-Button Single-Breasted. Pretty common among blazers. Quite possibly the most versatile piece you can own, especially if you get one in a foundation color such as navy blue.
- 3-Button Single-Breasted. 3-buttoned blazers are slowly gaining acceptance in menswear to compete with its two-button counterpart. The 3-button blazer is ideal for men taller than 6 feet. Pairing a 3-buttoned blazer with different color trousers will provide further balance for taller men as well.
- 6-Button Double-Breasted. A 6-button double-breasted blazer with jetted pockets is synonymous with formal wear. You will generally find peaked lapels on blazers over the notched variety, but this feature is anything but exclusive.
03. Sports Jacket:
Last but definitely not least in our comparison today is the sports jacket.
Back in the day, gentlemen used to wear “morning” jackets paired with trousers of a different color. These jackets, along with full suits, were strictly used for sporting activities such as shooting. Such outfits were not yet considered appropriate formal wear.
Over time, a new type of jacket was designed specifically for men engaging in active pursuits. Termed the “Norfolk jacket,” it had a distinct fabric and build, and was in essence the very first version of the sports jacket. The Norfolk jacket was made from thicker material and was unique in having a belt with a fastening buckle around the waist to raise the comfort level of men participating in the sport of shooting.
It was not until the 1920s that the sports jacket as we now know it came to be. It offered many similarities to the Norfolk jacket, minus the belt and buckle around the waist.
The sports jacket was actually first viewed as a luxurious item, as most men could only afford a traditional suit, rather than one that had to be worn with different colored trousers. Over time, as clothing became more affordable, the sports jacket became known less as a jacket for shooting and more as a staple of sharp, casual style.
So what sets the sports jacket apart?
First off the sports jacket comes in a large variety of colors and patterns. It also isn’t as structured as suit jackets or blazers, and has a generally looser fit. A sports jacket should allow you to layer a sweater underneath and perhaps engage in slightly more rugged pursuits (comparatively speaking, of course). It also will sometimes have elbow patches on the arms, as well as a slit and pleats in the back. These design details once had a functional purpose: the patches protected the elbows from wearing out while the sporting gentleman traipsed through the countryside, while the pleats allowed him greater mobility. Today they serve simply as style statements.
The sports jacket is an extremely versatile piece, going with jeans and many types of trousers, such as ones made from corduroy, moleskin, and the ever popular grey flannel.
Plus, thanks to Italian design, the sports jacket is much more lightweight than it used to be.
Fabrics Used for the Sports Jacket
Sports jackets can most easily be identified by their use of thicker fabrics when compared to the suit jacket or blazer (although many sports jackets use lightweight fabric as well). The thicker fabric traditionally protected the wearer from the elements when these jackets were worn by gentlemen who were hunting or shooting.
Fabrics used for the sports coat can overlap the blazer and suit jacket. However, there are many that are unique and have distinctive patterns. The most common fabrics are:
- Herringbone. A classic pattern. Look for sports jackets in this fabric to be made in browns, tans, dark grays, light grays, and blues.
- Houndstooth & Shepherd’s Check. Both are “busy” fabrics with distinctive patterns classically worn in the UK, Europe, and Northeastern United States.
- Flannel. Soft with a napped surface, flannel sports jackets are distinguished from blazers by the use of non-navy fabrics and the interweaving of other colors to create accents that bring out those same colors in a man’s shirt and accessories.
- Tweed. The perfect fabric for the sports coat given its thick and rough weave. Different colored weaves are used to make some truly unique looks. Tweed comes in a wide range of colors and are especially hard-wearing.
Colours of a Sports Jacket
There is not limit for the colors of a sports jacket. Sports jackets come in an endless variety of colors, patterns, and fabric types.
Most Common Types of Sports Jackets
- 2-Button Single-Breasted. Visible stitching is one of the unique and acceptable features of the sports jacket that differentiate it from the blazer. Pockets and similar features have more detail to enforce its casual roots.
- 3-Button Single-Breasted. Flap pockets are the prominent feature of the 3-button single-breasted sports coat. As with all 3-buttoned jackets, the middle button should be the only button fastened. A variation often seen is the 2 1/2, where the top button is designed not to be buttoned due to a low folding of the lapel. You also see the 2 1/2 set-up in suits.