When it comes to coats or jackets for men, we seem to see the term ‘sports jacket’, ‘blazer’, and ‘suit jacket’ interchangeably more often than not. While these jackets are very similar, there are, however, a few notable distinctions that should be learned to tell them apart. Knowing the differences between these three classic menswear staples, for instance, will save you from unwanted wardrobe mishaps. Best of all, you'll also know not to wear a sports jacket to a formal event -- and also, to not try to layer a thick sweater under a tailored suit jacket.
If you can’t tell the difference between a sports jacket, a blazer and a suit jacket, continue reading to learn about the roots of each jacket, as well as their main distinguishing features, functionality, and style potential.
1. The Sports Jacket
A sports jacket, also known as a ‘sports coat’ is the least formal of the three jacket staples. It is usually less organised and more casual. A sports jacket used to serve a particular purpose, as its name suggests: it was what men wore primarily while they were engaging in athletic events like hunting. A man would often wear a sports jacket in the mornings or when the season or event did not call for a suit. Sports jackets were once considered a luxurious commodity since many men could only afford a standard suit and had no other choices. Distinguishing Characteristics
Comes in a wide variety of colours and patterns
Less structured and fitted, providing the ability to layer
Sometimes features elbow patches, slits, ticket pockets, and/or pleats
How to Wear? The sports jacket, as the least formal of the three jacket types, should be your go-to when you want to dress up a pair of denim trousers. Conversely, any pair of trousers that isn't the same colour or pattern as your sports jacket would still look good with it. Since the sports jacket is usually the loosest-fitting choice, it's ideal for layering over sweaters, turtlenecks, and other bulky layers. At the same time, they will also look sharp with any standard tee or button-up, making it a versatile piece for your wardrobe.
2. The Blazer The blazer is a good ‘middle ground’ piece that elevates outfits beautifully without going overboard. It's a less dressy option than the sports jackets but is also not as formal as a suit. The modern blazer dates back to the early 1800s, when the captain of the warship HMS Blazer ordered small, double-breasted navy jackets with brass buttons for his crew in order to look presentable for Queen Victoria, who paid a visit to the ship in 1837. To his surprise, the queen favoured them so much that their popularity skyrocketed, and they were quickly adopted as regular uniform piece. Distinguishing Characteristics
Highly versatile -- can be dressed up or down with ease
Traditionally in navy blue or in dark hues but today, there are brighter colour options with interesting texture herringbone, flannel or high-twist wool.
Come in 2-button single-breasted or 6-button double-breasted varieties
Has a bit more shoulder structure and more tailored than a sports jacket
Feature buttons that are traditionally gold, silver, or mother of pearl (though both casual and formal button varieties can also be found today)