The Difference Between a Suit Jacket & Sportcoat

September 16th, 2014

Last week we received the same question from three different readers: can a suit jacket be worn as a blazer (say, with jeans) and what’s the secret to pulling it off?

The answer is YES…IF it’s the right type of jacket. Here everyone’s favorite smooth criminal Wes helps us break it down.

    WesDB (1 of 33)

    Some traditionalists will tell you that a “sportcoat” needs to have patch pockets, notch lapels and elbow patches – while a “blazer” must be navy blue, single-vented, and have gold or silver buttons.

    Let’s not get bogged-down in definitions. In today’s menswear landscape a sportcoat/blazer/suit jacket is simply a garment with sleeves and lapels. It’s not that black and white.

    WesDB (4 of 33)

    With that said, there are design elements to a suit jacket that can make it more versatile and appropriate to wear as a blazer. Wes showcases these details beautifully by including them on one of the most conservatively formal garments: the double-breasted suit.

    First, the fabric should have some texture. I like basket-weaved hopsacks and seasonal fabrics like donegals and flannels, but here Wes keeps it ultra-versatile with a “year-round” birdseye worsted. Just a little roughness to the eye/hand to take away some of the sheen and “sleekness” of a traditional suiting fabric.

    Secondly, the pocket style can make a big difference. Here Wes went with patch front pockets, which – in my opinion – are both more functional and versatile.

    WesDB (9 of 33)

    Thirdly, consider an alteranative button. I wouldn’t wear shiny gold or silver on a suit, but I do have a couple with gunmetal and brushed brass. I also have a handful of suits with bold tortoiseshell buttons, which give the jacket a more “weekend blazer” feel.

    Here Wes is rocking the white mother-of-pearl buttons, which make the jacket more playful and summer-y. He changes the buttons with the seasons and will be swapping them soon for a dark brown horn which is more Fall/Winter-appropriate (your tailor can do this for a few dollars).

    Next, check out the the 1/4″ top-stitch. Rather than being pic-stitched by hand (creating delicate “dimples”) the lapels and pockets are machine stitched, creating a thread ditch that contours the edges. Just another little touch that makes the jacket a touch less elegant or formal.

    This is not necessarily related to the topic, but check out the quality of that handmade Milanese buttonhole. This is often a tell-tale sign of quality handwork in a jacket. That buttonhole alone takes more than 45 minutes to sew by hand (as opposed to about 6 seconds on a machine).

    WesDB (10 of 33)

    On another side-note, it may still be warm enough to go sockless, but you can start introducing some Fall-friendly suedes into your footwear line-up.

    WesDB (11 of 33)

    As promised, Wes got himself a perfect navy suit and a perfect navy blazer, all rolled into one.

    Here’s one of countless ways you could wear this jacket on the weekend.

    WesDB (14 of 33)

    WesDB (20 of 33)

    WesDB (28 of 33)

    WesDB (32 of 33)

    Thanks, as always, for reading.

    Yours in style,

    Articles of Style

    Photography by Alex Crawford. 

    • akb427

      There are areas of menswear that have clear rules, like black tie, and clear ways in which some of the rules are widely ignored or disputed, such as colored cummerbunds and bowties. My takeaway from this article is that this topic isn’t one of those clear areas; to traditionalists, you can’t pull this off (that jacket is not a blazer or sportscoat). To non-menswear afficianados, I suspect machine stitching will actually be more formal, not less. The message being sent here is going to be much less uniform (so to speak) than that of the traditional forms.

      Last month I was wondering about this question, so I wore a navy pinstripe sb suit jacket out to a couple of social events to see how it felt. I got compliments, but decided it looked a little weird; whether or not I can pull it off depends more on who I’m trying to give what impression, and on my own attitude about it, than on the buttons, stitching, vents, or pockets, though the material clearly would have an influence.

    • Latashia Blackburn

      Love that Cap and shoes and that upper coat is very nice just shows the better quality of there stuff they used in the dress….

    • Miguel

      Love this post, great insides, great looks.

    • Tom

      Wes looks like someone kicked his dog

    • Miguel

      Wes’ widow’s peak refuses to be outdone by his peak lapels. Well done sir.

    • Herbert Morrison

      Yes yes the big homie Wes…is that a number 5 guard you used to shave your head? Looks proper.

      • Daniel Moretz

        Looks more like a #1.5/2 in the photo with a shorter guard for edging. I have a cut similar to Dan’s with a #2 shelf on the upper sides so I know Wes’s cut is definitely shorter.

    • AFH

      I think you’re missing the key thing; length. If a jacket is too long, then it doesn’t work as a separate. Almost everything else is debatable (as long as it’s not a worsted charcoal pinstripe or somesuch), but length can be an auto deal-breaker.

      • John B

        I agree, although you can get away with a longer DB jacket. The opposite is true too, a short jacket looks inherently casual.

      • Samsonite

        Shut up

        • AFH


    • Alex

      How do you get that perfect pocket square line?!?!?!?

      • Daniel Moretz

        I have a piece of beveled acrylic (you could use cardboard) cut to the size of my breast pocket that I wrap the fabric around after ironing it. I’m not sure what Wes uses but with my method I set it and forget it.

    • Ryan

      I’ve been looking for an off-the-rack shirt like the first one Wes is wearing for quite some time. Still no luck.
      Love the first look, especially the white buttons!

    • cam

      Sweet loafers in both looks

      Fyi..this editorial only showing on mobile devices which is prob indicative of lack of comments.