Sports Coats versus Suit Jackets

Yesterday I was on my big brother Kelly Pratt’s Facebook page and he had posted a status that said “There’s a difference between a sports coat and a suit jacket.” I often catch myself thinking the same thing. People just don’t care about what they wear these days. I say they don’t care because they don’t take the time to inform themselves on a the differences. And, obviously, the differences aren’t that subtle or I probably wouldn’t be posting on the topic today. So, I decided to throw one more variable in from Kelly’s status. I threw in blazers as well just to remove all questions (hopefully). But if you still have more or would just like to see me post about something else on Well-Dressed Wednesdays, feel free to let me know either via comment or email.

Below are some resources I found from Valet, Esquire, and GQ magazines regarding sports coats, blazers, and suit jackets. Take notes and share. Thanks.

What’s the difference between a sport coat and a blazer?

These days, it’s semantics, really. Especially in the United States, a “blazer” has come to mean any button up jacket with lapels that is worn with pants of a different fabric. But a blazer traditionally indicates a navy jacket, usually with patch pockets (and possibly a patch on the chest denoting a yacht club) fastened with metal buttons. A sport coat, historically, was more of a rustic, hunting jacket. Its pockets usually have flaps and there may be, as of late, a small ticket pocket situated above the normal pockets. They are typically cut from heartier fabric and have a softer shape than a suit jacket. Which, it should be stated, is the most refined of them all—made from lighter and smoother worsted wools, cottons and linens.

How to Buy a Blazer

First you need to tell the difference between a blazer, sport coat, and suit jacket

By Nick Sullivan

How would you explain the difference between a blazer, a sport coat, and a suit jacket?

— Mark Calicchio, San Pedro, Calif.

Fascinating question, Mark. In the U.S., blazer has come to mean anything that has sleeves and lapels and is worn with unmatched pants, but there are key differences between the three items you mention. In Europe and the tonier parts of the States — especially any place where messing about in boats is a big part of summer — a blazer [above, left] usually means a patch — pocket, navy — blue jacket with gold or (occasionally) silver buttons. The landlubberly sport coat [above, center], meanwhile, originally derived from the tweedy, robust coats worn while assisting in the untimely end of feathered or furry creatures. It had pockets with flaps, often an extra flapped ticket pocket, and was of softer construction than a suit jacket. As a modern fashion item, it should still retain the somewhat rustic, earthy look of its forebear (even when made in cashmere).

Finally, a suit jacket [above, right] will always be made of the finer stuff, i.e., worsted wool, and smooth to the touch. Still, all that said, it’s rarely that cut — and — dried. Life’s too short.

Difference between a blazer and a suit jacket?

What is the difference between a blazer (or sport coat) and a suit jacket? Can you ever wear a suit jacket in place of a blazer?

The real difference is that a suit jacket comes with a pair of matching pants. Some suit jackets lend themselves to independent wear, but many do not. For corroborating evidence, check out old Letterman shows. Dave tried to wear glen plaid suit jackets with odd trousers for a long time before kicking the habit. I often wear a navy blue suit jacket as a blazer. Lots of young, stylish actors and fashion designers favor wearing a slim, dark suit jacket with a pair of jeans. More casual suit jackets, such as corduroys or tweeds, are better candidates for moonlighting as separates than pin-striped ones are.

Just to throw my two cents in, I am not a fan of wearing suit jackets with jeans UNLESS, as mentioned above in the GQ piece, it is with a casual suit such as a cordoroy suit (which I don’t own but I suppose if I did, that would be a fitting pairing). And even then, as you can see in Esquire’s graphic representation of the three styles, the cut is different so somene with an eye for this would notice but it would be easier to pull off than a navy pinstripe and some Levi’s. I’m the kind of guy who, if I know you or your parents, I will pull you to the side and politely suggest that you not do it again.

Sources: Valet, Esquire, and GQ

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