Sport Coat vs. Blazer vs. Suit Jacket: What’s the Difference?

by Brian Adee  |  in Smart Casual

Wearing a jacket can take your wardrobe from casual to classy in a heartbeat. But if you don’t know the right type of jacket to wear, that outfit might not come together well. 

So today, we’re going to break down the differences between the three major types of men’s jackets: Sport coats, blazers, and suit jackets.

By the end, you’ll know exactly which one to wear in any situation.

What Is the Difference Between A Sport Coat vs A Blazer?

The origins of the sport coat are given away in its name: They were made for outdoor sports, usually hunting and horseback riding.

The blazer, on the other hand, is a slightly classier jacket that was originally worn by boating club members.

Both sport coats and blazers are meant to be worn on their own, without a matching pair of pants. The formal suit jacket is always meant to be worn with matching trousers.

Blazer vs Sport Coat: Which Is Shorter?

Both sport coats and blazers can be made in a wide range of cuts, fits, and sizes. So neither type of jacket is always shorter than the other; you’ll have to look for individual garments to see how long they are.

In general, though, keep in mind that any jacket should fit at a length that’s appropriate to your body.

This usually means that the back of the jacket should cover your butt, and the hem should end roughly where your hamstrings meet your glutes. 

How Should Blazers and Sport Coats Fit?

Blazers and sport coats should fit similarly to suit jackets: Form-fitting, but not overly tight, with no pulling. The jacket in general should have clean lines from top to bottom.

There are plenty of fit distinctions we could nitpick, but in general, observe these five major markers of a good fit:

  • Neither too snug nor too loose
  • No shoulder divots
  • No gaps between your jacket collar and shirt collar
  • Clean lines from the neck to the shoulder (no ripples)
  • Sleeves shouldn’t have wrinkles when your arms are at your sides.

We’ve taken a look at each of these in-depth in a full-length article on fit mistakes for sport coats, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

When to Wear A Blazer vs A Sport Coat

Sport coats are the least formal of all the jacket types discussed here, and can be dressed down with something as casual as jeans, a t-shirt, and minimal leather sneakers.

You could also go the opposite direction and wear your sport coat with formal trousers, dress shirt, and a tie. This is arguably the most flexible jacket you’ll own.

man in navy jacket, white shirt, dark blue jeans, and brown loafers
jacket part of a suit (but designed in a way that can be worn separately) from Spier And Mackay

A blazer can feel slightly dressier—especially the traditional navy double-breasted blazer with gold buttons—but is not completely formal wear.

If you do have a traditional navy blazer, try breaking one out with your best pair of dark wash blue jeans, brown brogues, and a button-down.

Suit jackets are the most formal option, and you should always wear them with a matching pair of slacks.

suitsupply custom made - 3 piece suit jacket over shoulder and closeup of suit lapel and shoulder - effortless gent
B commissioned this custom made suit from SuiTSupply (check out the review)

Is it OK to Wear A Suit Jacket As A Sport Coat?

It depends!

We wrote a whole article about wearing a suit jacket with jeans, chinos, or odd trousers.

The biggest differences between a suit jacket and a sport coat are the fabric and pocket construction. Typically, suit jackets are made from finer, tightly woven fabrics. This gives the jacket a slight sheen, and overall, a more formal vibe.

Suit jacket pockets can be jetted (most formal, often found on black tie attire), or perhaps flap (most business suits have this), while sport coats usually have patch pockets, which is the least formal pocket style.

So if your suit has a slight shininess to it, and is made from a fine tightly-woven fabric… or has jetted or flap pockets, you shouldn’t wear it as a separate.

If you have a casual cotton suit, or a winter wool suit with a nappier fabric, you have more leeway, in terms of wearing the jacket and trousers separately.

Make sure to check out our article on wearing a suit jacket with jeans (or anything that aren’t the matching trousers) here.

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