The right jacket can make or break a man's look.
Luckily, there are three types of jackets for men that can all be called timeless, iconic & can instantly make the wearer look better.
These three jackets are:
- The Suit Jacket
- The Blazer Jacket
- The Sport Jacket
The trouble comes when trying to distinguish between the three.
This article is aiming to once and for all highlight the main differences between them.
In typical Real Men Real Style fashion, you will also learn a great deal about the history of these jackets and how best to wear them.
So continue to read on gentleman and learn how all three jackets can have a place in your wardrobe.
Suit Jacket – What Makes It Unique?
Suit Jacket History
Before diving into the differences, let me first give you a brief intro on the suit and how it came to be.
I would define a suit jacket as any jacket that has a matching pair of trousers made of the same material for formal & semi-formal events.
The suit jacket's origin is set in England in the early twentieth century and was mainly used in informal settings. It was also quite common during this time to wear a suit jacket with different colored trousers and vest. Most of the time, different fabrics were used for all three!
It was not until the mid to late 1930s that the suit became a staple in formalwear and office environments
Times have changed and it's safe to say that the suit jacket when paired with matching trousers is the most elegant outfit a man can wear.
If you are just getting into men's style I suggest you keep the suit together and not wear the sports jacket with different colored trousers or jeans. This 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.
However, you can pair the suit jacket with jeans or different colored trousers if you have more experience with men's style.
Most Common Fabrics Used for the Suit Jacket
Fabrics used for suit jackets are more smooth compared to others and fully compliment the matching trousers they come with.
There are many fabrics used for the suit jacket and I’m going to list the most common one you can find.
- Worsted Wool – Created by aligning fibers and then turning them into yarn. More thin and rough than woolen wool. An excellent protector from cold weather
- Cashmere – Not originally a common fabric for the suit jacket due to its durability and the fact that these jackets can be quite expensive. Great cashmere fabric on a suit jacket can be extremely soft and luxurious
- Linen – An extremely lightweight option and ideal use would be in the summer months or countries that have high heat. Tend to wrinkle quite easily is its downside
- Silk – Quite possibly the most luxurious fabric you can buy. A suit jacket made of 100% silk is extremely soft and very breathable.
Given its formal nature, the suit jacket is mostly found with foundational colors with the most common being the following:
- Navy – A very versatile color selection and along with charcoal, my ideal choice for the suit. Navy actually makes you look a little younger, which is a good thing for the older men who are reading this
- Charcoal – Equally as versatile as the navy, the charcoal suit is a worthy addition to your closet.
- Black – Black used to be the most common suit color men wore but that is changing as they gain greater education in style. Black is always a classy choice but best used for only the most formal of settings.
Types of Suit Jacket
There is no doubt many different type of suit jackets to choose from. Ideally you will stick to the three most common varieties that I'm going to outline below:
- 2-Button Single Breasted – The most common variety suit jacket you can purchase. Classic versions have a notched lapel and flapped pockets to create structure and definition. These jackets usually come equipped with two side vents and may also have one in the back.
- 3-Button Single Breasted – Suit jackets are the most common variety of the three that contain 3 buttons. However, they are still not as common as the 2-button variety. An ideal option for taller men as it helps frame their body well. Only button the middle button with this option.
- 6-Button Double Breasted – A style that is once again gaining in popularity. The 6-button double-breasted suit is considered highly formal and best used for special events. Double breasted suit jackets contain two side vents and typically none on the back.
What to Pair With a Suit Jacket
- Shoes – More formal shoes look best with a suit jacket. Stick with either close-laced Oxfords or brogues in either brown, black or burgundy.
- Trousers – Trousers should match their suit jacket for in terms of color and material. There are exceptions but this was the original intention of the design.
The blazer jacket 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.
The jacket of choice of the British Navy 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 originally was 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 the man's figure. It is also one of the most versatile jackets you can own.
Most Common Fabrics Used for the Blazer
Fabric plays a crucial role in the differentiation of the blazer compared to the suit and sport jackets.
Unlike the suit jacket, the blazer thrives when paired with denim or classic chinos. This is mainly due to the fabrics used to construct the blazer.
As far as fabric is concerned, you can't go wrong when choosing any of the following for the blazer jacket:
- Worsted Wool – Currently a popular choice for blazers given it durability and abiliy to retain heat.I great alternative to blazers made in serge.
- Serge – Thought of to be the original fabric for the navy blazer. Usually clear finished, serge has been a staple fabric in military uniforms for many years. Typically has a flat, diagonally shaped rib pattern.
- Hopsack– This pure wool fabric is tough and durable. It has been popular throughout the years for its versatility as it pairs well with trousers of different fabrics.
- Flannel – Most often created from wool or cotton, flannel is a soft weave usually woven in twill. Not as durable as the other fabrics mentioned here but its lightweight feel makes up for this shortfall.
The first key factor that separates a blazer from either a suit jacket or a sports jacket is the blazer is always solid in color. No questions asked.
Navy blue is the color of choice for the blazer. I would go as far as saying the navy blue blazer is the most versatile piece of clothing a man can own.
Thanks to American influence, blazer jackets are known to come in bright, vibrant colors as well. Still, you will find the most use of your blazer for everyday use if you stick with these colors:
- Navy Blue – Over 85% of blazer in worn by man today are in Navy. With good reason. It is the original and most iconic.
- Bottle Green – Great option during the fall and colder months as it pairs will with other fall colors.
- Regatta – Used as a identification piece in various sports and clubs in England, the Regatta pattern can also make the everyday man look dapper when worn properly.
What to Pair With a Blazer Jacket
- Shoes – Given the versatility of the blazer, many shoes can be worn with them. They look best when wearing semi-formal shoes such as penny loafers or double monk strapped shoes.
- Trousers – Grey flannel trousers look excellent when wearing a navy blue blazer. Classic chinos is another alternative, which is an American classic.
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. It was still another 5 to 10 years until suits were used more for formal settings.
Over time, a new type of jacket using distinct fabrics hit the market termed the “Norfolk Jacket” which in essence, is the very first version of the sports jacket. The Norfolk jacket was unique as it had a belt with a fastening buckle around the waist to raise the comfort levels of men participating in the sport of shooting.
It was not until the 1920s that the sports jacket as we know it came to be.
The sports jacket offered many similarities to the Norfolk jacket minus the belt and buckle around the waist.
The sports jacket was first penned as a luxurious item as most men could only afford a traditional suit and not one that can be worn with different colored trousers.
In more recent times, the sports jacket became known less as a jacket for shooting and more synonymous with casual style. The sports jacket is usually not as structured as a tailored suit jacket or blazer normally are.
So what sets the sports jacket apart?
Well, first off the sports jacket comes in a large variety of colors and patterns.
Surprisingly, the sports jacket is also extremely versatile, going with many type of trousers such as ones made from corduroy, mole skin and the ever popular grey flannel trousers.
Plus, thanks to Italian design, the sports jacket is much more lightweight than it used to be.
Most Common Fabrics & Patterns Used on a Sports Jacket
Sports jackets can most easily be identified from its thicker fabric when compared to the suit jacket or blazer. Here are a few fabrics and patterns most commonly found on the sports jacket.
- Traditional Tweed – The fabric most deeply rooted in the sports jackets history, Tweed comes in many variations with the most popular being the shepherds check & harris tweed.
- Houndstooth – More of a busy pattern and a little harder to pair up with trousers. A classic design that comes in a wealth of colors.
- Herringbone – Another classic pattern for sports jackets. The herringbone pattern is the most versatile when bought in either brown, light grey or green.
What to Pair With a Sport Jacket
- Shoes – Brown would be my shade of choice for shoes as they pair well with the wide selection of colors that the sport jacket comes in. Loafers again are my shoe of choice for the sport jacket as they pair well with the complex texture of the sports jacket.
- Trousers – Blue jeans work very well with a sport jacket. This pairing is an equal balance of stylish and casual. It's considered one of those combinations that are difficult to screw up.
Although not entirely different from each other, each of the jackets discussed today offered enough subtle differences to set themselves apart.
There is no one jacket that is better than the other.
Instead, each offers its own unique advantages that will help you look sharp based on the environment you are in.
I recommend having at least one on hand of each in your closet!
Read next: what to wear with a navy blazer!