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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Birdseye Worsted Suit in Navy

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.

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Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

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