Can You Wear a Suit Jacket as a Blazer? (Ask an Effortless Gent)

by Karlton Miko Tyack  |  in Business Attire

The day dawns anew, and you find yourself standing in front of your closet wondering precisely what you’re going to wear.

Whether you’re in a pinch (maybe your go-to blazer is at the cleaners!) or want to try something new, you might wonder, can you wear a suit jacket as a blazer?

It’s a question every guy with a desire, or a need, to dress up in tailored fashion is going to come across at some point. It pays to be prepared.

closeup of man's grey plaid suit jacket blue shirt blue plaid tie and dark trousers and brown shoes
Suit jacket, but worn with tailored denim. It’s all in the details!

But first, let’s take a quick look at the ins and outs of suit jackets versus blazers.

What’s The Difference Between a Suit Jacket and a Blazer?

It takes one to know one, as they say, so before you consider mixing and matching your suit jacket without the traditional suit pants, let’s square away the differences. 

A suit jacket, as the name suggests, is one part of a full suit. It’s traditionally paired with matching pants in the same fabric, often with more of a dressy, formal look or feel. They tend to be finer materials, like soft, tightly woven wools, or even premium cotton-linen blends.  

Suit jackets typically feature monochrome buttons and minimal contrasting details, all the better to match up with their corresponding pants. 

Some suits might be more padded or structured, with a longer or more traditional cut to cover the seat of your pants. 

Blazers on the other hand, are intended to be worn without matching pants. They’re often found in a less structured silhouette. Some are even cut shorter through the seat and perhaps a touch slimmer through the chest and shoulders.

(EG’s advice: Stay away from jackets that expose your butt; you want your jacket to cover your backside no matter if it’s a suit jacket, a blazer, or a sport coat.)

Sport coats are made from more casual fabrics and weaves. Think brushed cotton, linen, or nappier woven wools like tweeds. They also can come in brighter or more vibrant colors or patterns, the idea being that you’d pair one up with a more somber color trouser and shirt combination to offset the jacket’s color and pattern.

These more casual details are why it’s common to see a blazer worn with a T-shirt. On the other hand, it’s usually a bad idea to wear a formal suit jacket so casually. It just looks off

If you’re wondering how a suit jacket should fit, or how a blazer should fit, keep this rule in mind: 

Tailored but not overly tight, without buttons that pull and without divots at the shoulder or chest. Classic, crisp and not skin-tight. 

Sport Coats Versus Blazers… Versus Suit Jackets

Though they’re often used interchangeably, sport coats and blazers have distinct differences.

Sport coats were traditionally worn for sporting pursuits, hence the name, and were made from more rugged fabrics. They have sturdier details, like elbow or shoulder patches. 

Blazers were originally worn by boating club members and are slightly classier and more formal than sport coats.

Both blazers and sport coats are meant to be worn sans matching pants. 

You’ll find both are worn in business casual or smart casual situations. In contrast, a formal dress code is almost always referencing the need to wear a suit jacket with matching pants, and often a tie in the most formal situations.

This still begs the question: 

Can You Wear a Suit Jacket as a Blazer? 

The answer is, ultimately, it depends on the suit jacket. 

What Kinds Of Jackets Can You Wear As a Blazer and Why? 

Here’s your rule of thumb:

The less formal the suit jacket, the more it’s OK to wear as a blazer.

So what does that mean, exactly? Let’s break it down.

What’s the Suit Jacket’s Color?

Suit jackets with menswear neutral hues like navy, gray, or tan have more potential to be worn as a blazer than, say, a fine wool black and white pinstripe jacket.

Fabric Shine, Weave, and Pattern

The smoother and shinier the fabric is, the more formal it is. The tighter the fabric is woven, the more formal it is. And the larger and more contrasted the fabric’s pattern is, the more casual it is.

  • So, a mohair blend suit with a slight sheen is more formal, a cotton twill suit is more casual.
  • A sharkskin jacket is more formal, a corduroy jacket is more casual.
  • A solid navy worsted wool jacket is more formal than a tan glen plaid flannel jacket.

How Much Structure or Padding Does the Suit Jacket Have?

Suit jackets that are unlined and unstructured with little to no shoulder padding are already on the casual end of the spectrum, so the leap to wearing it as a blazer or a suit separate isn’t too far-fetched.

Your Suit Jacket’s Details

Suit jackets with more casual details are more acceptable to wear as a blazer (patch pockets instead of slit pockets, contrasting buttons instead of matching buttons, etc). 

After you take a good look at your suit jacket, make the assessment that it is, in fact, on the more casual side of the formality spectrum. If it is, you can wear it like a blazer! 

Now what?

Outfit IDeas When Rocking a Suit Jacket as a Blazer

Well, it goes without saying, the rest of your outfit should follow suit (pun intended). Basically, everything needs to have a vibe when worn together.

Most likely, you have either a solid navy or solid charcoal suit in your closet. We’re going to show you how to style both as separates!

Navy Suit Jacket

If you have a navy suit jacket, you can’t go wrong with mid-grey trousers, a white dress shirt, and dark brown lace-ups

Wanna take it down one notch? Swap the mid-grey trousers for tailored light beige trousers and the dress shirt for a chambray sport shirt, and the lace-ups for suede loafers.

One more notch down? Slim, dark denim with minimal distressing, a white T-shirt with a dark cashmere crewneck sweater, and neutral-colored suede or leather sneakers.

Wearing a navy suit jacket as a blazer or sport coat (tap to open full size in new tab)

Charcoal Suit Jacket

If you have a charcoal suit jacket, an easy pairing would be black wool trousers, white dress shirt, and black lace-ups.

Taking it down one notch? Tailored navy chinos, light blue or white OCBD, suede chukkas.

Yet another notch? Slim, dark blue denim, fine knit polo, brown suede loafers.

how to wear a charcoal suit jacket as a blazer or sport coat (tap to open full size in new tab)

What to Avoid When Trying To Wear a Suit Jacket as a Blazer

Remember our rule of thumb from a few sections above?

The less formal the suit jacket, the more possible it is to wear as a blazer.

So basically, doing the opposite of that is exactly what you’d want to avoid.

Black wool suit jackets really can’t be worn separately. The color, fabric, and typical styling of these jackets are too far on the formal side of the spectrum.

Same goes for tuxedo jackets, unless you are (or have the confidence and swag of) Ralph Lauren. For most guys, we should leave them in the closet unless it’s a truly formal occasion.

If your jacket has a slit or flap pocket, it may look too formal to wear with anything but tailored trousers. It’s a judgment call, though. Hard to definitively say without taking into account the other factors (fabric, color, patterns, details).

Avoid wearing a pinstripe suit jacket as a blazer. Hard to pull off well, most likely looks weird.

When Shouldn’t You Do This? 

If the event or occasion in question leans formal or calls out formal dress specifically, leave the blazer at home, and stick to the full suit. This could mean anything from a major presentation to a formal wedding.

If the occasion is black tie or white tie or business formal, stick to the dress code. Even better, look up the rules and get your info from several different sources so you’re more certain you’re getting all the info you need.

Basically, other than the most formal of occasions, if your suit jacket can pass for a blazer, then it’s OK to wear it whenever you want.

So, Should You Wear Your Suit Jacket Separately?

To summarize: Yes, you can wear a suit jacket as a blazer, but only if it’s the right type of jacket.

Ready to give it a go, or still have some questions? Our DMs are always open on Instagram, so give us a shout! And stay stylish, as always.