In the world of menswear, not all jackets are created equal. The terms blazer, sport coat, and suit jacket are often mixed up and misused as a result. This causes confusion amongst men and makes their lives more difficult than they need to be. In the interest of offering some guidance, here’s Henry A. Davidsen’s quick, easy-to-understand breakdown of these terms.
This term is the most self-explanatory of the bunch. At their most basic, suits are comprised of a jacket and pants made of matching fabric. A suit jacket is simply the top half of this combination.
Like many sartorial terms, the word “blazer” has British origins; the term come from the bright red jackets worn by the Lady Margaret Boat Club, the rowing club of St. John’s College at Cambridge. Many prep schools and clubs have members that wear blazers with a particular insignia on the breast pocket to indicate membership and nowadays are generally found in solid colors with metallic buttons to indicate their boating heritage (think brass or pewter). The classic navy blue blazer is a staple in every man’s wardrobe and goes well with just about everything from grey flannels to khakis. Andy Warhol famously wore his navy blazer with Levi’s.
When we think of sport nowadays, we think of baseball, football, hockey, and basketball. All of these require players to wear a particular uniform. English outdoor sports like hunting, on the other hand, didn’t have such rules, and men were still expected to dress well. Less formal than blazers, sport coats are often more heavily patterned and are intended to stand on their own stylistically. They can be made of wool, corduroy, tweed, leather, linen, and even denim.
While these guidelines should break down some confusion, they’re just that: guidelines. Some suit jackets, for example, can take the place of a blazer in a pinch. Though blazers are technically more casual than suit jackets, they can be dressed up with a tie and pocket square. Always use your good judgement and you’ll be a sharp-dressed man.