Most guys, when starting to build upon their personal style, see a sport coat and think “Oh sh*t! Dressed up.” It’s natural to associate any jacket with two buttons in the front and vents in the back to be more dressed up.
In fact, it kinda is, but in a good way. Don’t let that scare or intimidate you. Use it to your advantage. Just think of it as another layer, like a basic light jacket you’d normally wear.
Side note: Still unsure of the differences between a suit jacket, sport coat, and blazer? Check out this Esquire article.
The sport coat works well in plenty of casual situations, and will give you a nice “dressed-up” aesthetic (again, advantageous to you) compared to the other schlubs around you (just kidding! Those are your boys, I know.)
So think casual summer get-togethers, mid-day cocktail parties that involve fruity, refreshing concoctions, an outdoor weekend brunch, a visit to the farmers’ market with yo boo… you get the idea.
If you’re reading this weeks or months after this article was published, it’s possible these specific examples are no longer in stores. I wouldn’t worry so much about finding these exact models. If you know the characteristics of the jacket you’re looking for, that’s all you need to know.
In reality you can find the summer-weight sport coat in many different stores (assuming it’s in season) and across many different price points.
You want a sport coat with less structure, something that’s more slouchy and giving. It should have light shoulder pads (not super structured like a business suit), and could be fully-lined, half-lined, or not lined at all.
What’s lining? If you look on the inside of your sport coat, there’s often an inner layer that separates your body from the outer shell of the jacket. Here’s some more information, in case you’re curious.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in breathability, a non-lined jacket might be the best option. But, to be honest, that’s not your biggest concern (and honestly, not always true).
In case this isn’t obvious, stay away from the heavier fabrics traditional sport coats are made from. So tweed, winter wools, heavier twills? Save those for the chilly months.
You want something light and airy, like a nice Hawaiian breeze. What?
Check out Joshua from Street Etiquette in the above photo. He has the right idea. You might not be comfortable wearing shorts with a sport coat, but focus on the look and feel of just the jacket, and you’ll get a better idea of the slinky, slouchy, slightly wrinkled, casual cool material you want.
So basically, choose something in lightweight cotton or linen, for starters. Summer weight wool. Madras. Seersucker is great as well.
Also something lighter, preferably. Think a light khaki, light gray, light blue.
Dusty shades work great (think less saturated versions of your basic colors), so do vibrant colors (fully saturated colors, basically the opposite of a dusty shade).
Standard navy is always a good basic choice.
Plaid madras is great if you’re feeling dandy or daring.
What to wear underneath
You could always opt for your standard light sport shirt or oxford cloth button down collar. If it’s a casual event, most likely your shirt won’t be very stiff, probably worn untucked (though make sure your shirt is designed to be worn untucked, and if a standard collar, without collar stays.
You could also wear a polo shirt. Or try a slouchy v-neck or crew neck tee. This look is definitely laid back, so make sure you’re not headed to a summer wedding or anything where you need to step your style game up hardcore.
You could go with no shirt at all, but that’s just tasteless.
You could wear a harrington jacket, a windbreaker, or a sweater, but why? Step up that style game of yours and let your outermost layer be a cool sport coat. And I mean cool both literally and figuratively.
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