A Little Odd: Can I Wear a Suit Jacket as a Sport Coat?

A versatile garment is a coup for a man's wardrobe, though it generally requires a little tacit deftness to avoid encountering any fashion faux pas. Many of my favorite articles of clothing check a couple of different boxes, which was invaluable when I was first building my collection. While commonly dealing with finite resources, one of the most intuitive questions we get asked is whether a suit jacket can be used as a sport coat.

More often than not, the answer is no. However…

To understand which suit jackets make appropriate candidates as a separate, we should first look at what criteria defines a sport coat and, by extension, a blazer.

Fabric

Commonly referred to as an “Odd Jacket” due to the absence of a matching set of trousers, an Odd Jacket should be just that - a little odd.

Naturally less formal than a suit, a sport coat eschews the smooth finishes of a worsted wool for more texturous fabrics such as tweed, flannel, linen, hopsack, et al. Such materials are more apt to be paired with casual trousers such as denim, flannels and chinos.

Pocketing

Though not entirely delimited, a sport coat often will employ patch pocketing stemming from the sporting heritage of the garment - large exterior pockets with easy access to additional rounds, tools, and the like. A patch pocket tempers the formality of the jacket and can similarly appear on a casual suit, such as linen, gabardine or corduroy.

Pattern

Checks, herringbones, donegals, houndstooths - all serve to tone down the formality of the garment and are often featured in sportcoating. A patterned jacket is complemented by a plain trouser and generally works better as a separate than a solid.

The critical exception to this guideline is a stripe, which is more formal by nature and should be avoided.

Buttons

While suits tend towards a natural, more-subdued button treatment, sport coats will often boast a contrast in fasteners and will stand out from the fabric.

Anatomy of a Blazer

While it may intuit that a navy suit jacket could act as a blazer substitute, there are a few germane details that curtail its fitness for the task. A formal blazer - often navy - is a serge fabric with the aforementioned contrasting buttons, usually metal. A navy suit jacket will typically have a subtle navy button treatment and look like you're merely wearing a suit jacket.

Casual blazers expand beyond the constrictions of its traditional counterpart, exploiting a wider range of textured fabrics, patch pockets and non-metal (though still contrasting) buttons.

At The End of the Day

Since the majority of suits the average man owns is likely to be a navy or grey worsted, his accompanying jackets will look out of place matched with a casual trouser or denim jean. He is best served to invest in a sport coat or blazer that will both look appropriate and extend the life of his existing suits.

A Tricky Endeavor - The Blazer Suit

One novel approach to breaking up a suit is to design the suit jacket specifically to pull double-duty, in essence a blazer-suit hybrid. Due to the polymorphic function of the jacket, it is near-unlikely to achieve a perfect unison and thus require some sacrifice, preference and ingenuity to the blueprint. This approach works well with either a size-constrained wardrobe (where additional garments are imminently out-of-reach) or larger wardrobes which already house the orthodox plain navy and plain charcoal suit.

I opted for a lighter shade of blue in an open-weave wool fabric for a summer blazer/suit option (pictured). The jacket is unlined with patch pocketing, contrasting burnt brown buttons and a soft construction, making for both a more casual suit and blazer, respectively. As a blazer, the jacket pairs effortlessly with a grey trouser, stone chinos and natural linens.

Ryan W.A. Clark


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