Sports Jacket vs. Suit Jacket vs. Blazer: Get the Style Lowdown

Man wearing a casual blazer on a statue

A suit jacket is great for professional and formal occasions and can even work well for a night on the town. But there are those times when you are off work, and are going out for a casual event, and just can’t bear the thought of wearing a suit jacket again! The suit jacket may be too formal for the occasion or you may just need a change. At these times, you might opt for a sports jacket or a blazer. This article will take a look at these different types of jackets so you can be prepared to look great, no matter what the occasion is.

Sports Jacket

Probably the most casual of the three, the sports coat is derived from old tweed coats that were traditionally worn for hunting and other sporting activities. Though similar in cut and style to a suit jacket, sports jackets are mainly characterized by the fact that, unlike suit jackets, they don’t come with matching pants, hence their suitability for more casual occasions. They are often patterned and feature eye catching designs.

Common Features of a Sports Jacket

Because sports coats do not come with a matching pair of trousers, there is a bit more freedom in the materials used, the detailing and the outfits you can create with them. As far as materials, they can be found in a wide variety including staid navy wool, camel hair, madras, corduroy and plaid. Finishings can include buttons that are plastic, brass, nickel and low key horn. Interesting pockets and patch pockets can add to the style.

Sports Jacket for Men

What to Wear with a Sports Jacket

They can be worn in a variety of ways. For more casual occasions, you can put them over a tee shirt and jeans and complete the look with sneakers or work boots. To keep the look sophisticated, make sure all clothing is fitted and in good condition. This can be a great look to wear to a night club, for a casual dinner or even if you are running around town and want to add some interest to your outfit.

The jeans and jacket look can even be okay for work if the atmosphere is a bit more casual. Just replace the tee shirt with a dress shirt; tie optional. Depending on how casual you can get, you may want to replace the sneakers with a nice pair of loafers. To take this look to the next level, replace the jeans with a slim or skinny cut pant.

Create another great sport jacket look by throwing the jacket over chinos and a polo shirt. This look can be casual enough for running errands around town or stopping by your favorite local restaurant for dinner.

Though they are easy to wear, instantly adding some style and formality to simple outfits, finding the right pants to go with your jacket can be challenging. Because, you aren’t dealing with a full suit, you don’t have the convenience of having a matching pair of pants on hand. It is important to make sure your pants and jacket match, both in color and style.

While it might make sense to find pants that are similar in shade to your sports jacket, you want to make sure the colors don’t clash and that they are not so similar  that it looks like you were trying for a suited look and didn’t quite make it. Mixing neutrals like browns, grays and navy blues are always a safe bet. If you are wearing a jacket that features a funky print, you will want to pair it with a solid color for the pants. Of course, jeans are always a safe bet.

There is really no hard and fast rule about which whether it is better to wear a lighter shade of sports jacket with a darker shade of pants or whether it should be the other way around. Either look can work.

When thinking of the cut of your pants, you can go with a skinny leg or a wider leg pleated trouser. This will depend on your personal preference and the formality of the event. Pleated pants tend to give off a more formal look while a tight legged trouser is a little more modern and casual.

Suit Jacket

A suit jacket is similar in style to a sports jacket, but its defining feature is that it comes with a matching pair of pants. The full suited look is typically for more formal events including professional and social occasions. If you work in a corporate atmosphere, a suit may also be required as everyday work attire .

Man with big beard wearing a black suit

Common Features of a Suit Jacket

Suit jackets can come in a variety of materials including wool, flannel, corduroy, tweed, cotton, seersucker and linen. The material you choose may vary according to the weather. Cotton, seersucker and linen work well in warmer temperatures while the others are better suited for the winter and fall. Some materials may be more expensive and harder to care for than others. All this should be taken account when choosing a suit jacket that works best for you.

Suits jackets also come in a variety of colors and prints. While you may tend to see neutrals like gray, brown and navy blue most often, they can also be found in light pastels and bold colors. Common prints are fine pinstripes and plaid patterns but, here again, suits can be found in a variety of prints from the most subtle to the most outrageous.

When thinking of suit jackets, the most common defining feature is whether it is double breasted or single breasted. A single breasted suit is more suited for casual occasions while a double breasted suit is more formal. Not sure which is which? Here is how you can tell the difference.

A single breasted jacket is the more common of the two. It features two halves that button together in at the font. It can feature one to four buttons, but in most cases, it will have two to three. It can be worn as every day work attire, for professional meetings and more casual dinners and social events.

A double breasted jacket features four to eight buttons, but more commonly four to six. It has extra fabric that folds over from the left to right. These jackets typically have a peak lapel which is a wider lapel that serves to accentuate the shoulders.

How to Wear a Suit Jacket

The jacket is typically worn at fine dinners, and more formal social events. But just because the double breasted jacket tends to be worn at formal events doesn’t mean that you are limited to wearing it in black. These high fashion jackets can also look great in bold colors, deep blues and dark reds.

Unlike the sports coat, your suit jacket will already come with a matching pair of pants so there will be no stress in finding the right pants to go with your jacket. However, when you are shopping for your suit, the cut of the pants will be something you will want to pay attention to.

In the past, suits have typically featured pleated pants, but today we are seeing a modern twist with pants that are tighter in the leg. This is a style that can work to give your suit an updated edge.

While suits are usually worn with dress shirts and ties, you can also give them a more business casual vibe by leaving the tie at home or putting a plain tee shirt or polo shirt underneath. However, you should avoid making your suit look too casual by pairing it with sneakers or a graphic tee. If you are going for this look, you are better off opting for the sports jacket and jeans look (see above).


The final jacket to look at is the blazer. When it comes to formal or casual, the blazer falls somewhere in the middle. Traditionally, blazers were made of wool and featured a pocket as well as distinct silver or gold buttons, but that tradition has faded over time and blazers are now available in a variety of materials and color and style choices.

Blazers for Men

What is a Blazer?

When thinking about materials for blazers, there are a number of options. These include cashmeres, cotton, linen, polyester, nylon rayon, silk, tweed, flannel, velvet and wool. Those who want to wear a blazer as more of an overcoat as opposed to part of a casual suited look might consider denim, leather or suede.

Blazers are known to be a smart piece of clothing intended to be worn as part of a suit, but this is not true. It can be styled in a smart way without being part of a suit at all. The key is not to confuse it with a suit jacket, meaning the blazer should not be the same colour as the trousers.

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Safe bets for blazer colors are gray and navy but they can be found in a variety of colors including bold and pastel shades. Outrageous prints, like stripes and plaids, are also a possibility.

Blazers are usually single breasted but can come in double breasted varieties as well. For more formal occasions, go for the double breasted look with shoulder pads and avoid adornments like patch pockets.

How to Wear a Blazer Jacket

When thinking of style options for your blazer, there are a number of choices available. For a more casual look, you can wear jeans and a tee shirt under your blazer. Sneakers or work boots will make for good footwear to add to this every day vibe which will work best for fun nights out, casual dinners or just running around town.

To maintain a casual look, but maybe turn it up a notch, you can replace the t shirt with a polo shirt. In the winter months, you think about adding an oxford shirt which can even feature a plaid or striped print. A cardigan or sweater will add warmth, texture and an air of sophistication to your look.

These slightly dressier looks can work well with a pair of jeans but you may also opt to replace the jeans with a pair of chinos or trousers . Again, a tight legged or pleated pant may be appropriate and depend on personal preference. Switch out the sneakers with a pair of loafers or dress shoes and you will have the perfect outfit to wear for more casual business meetings, dinner dates and less formal social events.

When thinking about pants, color is also something to consider. As with a sports jacket, you do not have the convenience of having matching pants to go with this outfit. In this case, just as with a sports jacket, find colors that match but don’t clash. Neutrals are always a safe bet and jeans will always work as well. If you are wearing a blazer that features a print, make sure to pair it with a solid color pant.

A blazer can also make a great spring or fall jacket, particularly if it’s made of leather, denim or suede. If you are wearing your blazer as a jacket, be sure to take account of your overall look. Blazers tend to look best over items like dress shirts, sweaters or tees, but will not look good over bulky sweatshirts or flannels that may hang below the bottom of the jacket. Be sure that you are creating a neat look when wearing your blazer as outerwear by steaming them to ensure that they are neat.

Now that you know the three basic jacket looks for men, you are ready to create an outfit that can be suitable for any occasion. Consider the event you will be attending, the vibe you are going for and what pieces will be most complementary to complete your look. Work from there to create a stylish ensemble that is sure to make a great impression in any situation.

About the author

Jack Prenter

Jack has been fascinated by fashion for decades and spent huge amounts of time researching it and becoming an expert. He's written for many well-known publications and is in the process of opening an online clothing store for men. Jack studied at the University of Nottingham and is now based out of Toronto, Canada.