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The three types of men’s suit jackets and how to wear them

Gather round gentlemen, we have a lot of important ground (or should I say shoulders) to cover today.

We will be exploring the world of jackets. For the purposes of our discussion today, we will focus on three main iterations of the jacket: the suit jacket, the sport coat and the blazer.

Before we dive in to each specific type of jacket, I want to take a moment to discuss fit. You could have the perfect jacket, but if the fit is wrong, the jacket won’t be right. So what key factors are you looking for in fit?

  1. A shoulder that lies flat. The seam connecting the shoulder to the jacket should not hang down on your bicep and it should not sit up too high; you want a shoulder where the seam sits right on top of the bend in your shoulder.
  2. A jacket that closes correctly. When you stand, your jacket should be buttoned with one button (even if the jacket has more buttons). What you don’t want is a jacket that flares out like a skirt when you button it — this indicates that the jacket is too tight. You also don’t want the lapels hanging off the front of your body — this indicates that the jacket is too loose. The button should close without a struggle and you don’t want to see wrinkles coming from the closure.
  3. The right sleeve length. Your jacket sleeve should allow a little peek at your shirt — about a half an inch is a good length of 4shirt visibility to aim for.
  4. Good jacket length. A good way to tell that the length of your jacket is in the right region is to use your hands. When you are standing with your arms in a naturally relaxed position, your jacket should fall in the middle of your hands, right after the fingers meet the palms.
  5. Just the right tightness of collar. Your collar should be fitted, but not tight. You want a jacket collar that sits against the collar of your shirt, which in turn sits against the back of your neck. A collar that is too loose will leave lots of extra fabric on the back of the jacket. A collar that is too tight will create wrinkles in the back of your jacket, and probably your shirt, too.

Now that we have discussed your jacket fit, let’s talk about what types of jackets you should have.

First up, let’s explore the suit jacket. This type of jacket usually comes with a pair of pants, but it can be worn as an individual piece. A suit jacket is generally made to fit slimmer than other jacket types and has less details, as it is more formal. Some style experts might frown upon wearing your suit jacket with anything other than the pants with which it was made, but if you are an adventurous dude, you can be a bit more creative. A suit jacket should never be worn with a less formal pair of slacks (say no to jeans, chinos and khakis). If you are going to mix and match, I would recommend going with another pair of dress slacks.

A suit jacket can definitely be a piece that helps you mix it up, but if you really want to have some fun in a business casual or casual setting, I would steer you toward the sport coat and blazer.

Let’s start by discussing the sport coat. This wardrobe piece was developed in the English countryside to be worn during sporting events such as horseback riding and fox hunting. It is therefore, considered a casual piece of clothing. Sport coats are usually made of less formal materials such as wool, tweed and corduroy. They often have informal features such as elbow patches, sleeve cuffs and pockets.

This type of jacket definitely works better in the colder weather, although lightweight versions do exist. This type of jacket is great to wear with jeans, chinos, corduroys or any type of pant that is less formal. A sport coat will suit you well for a business casual environment, a casual night out or a daytime wedding.

Now you might be scratching your head wondering how a blazer is any different than a sport coat. The difference is in the origin story: Blazers originated on the water. The history of this jacket is disputed, but it was either created as part of the British navy or for a rowing club. You might be more familiar with the blazer as key element to that classic Baltimore prep school wardrobe. Blazers are most commonly made in a navy color and usually have metal buttons.

A blazer has similar wearing rules to a sport coat, it just evokes a slightly different aura. A blazer makes a statement that is a bit preppier than a sport coat. Just like a sport coat, I would recommend wearing this in more casual or semi-casual settings.