Whether they're starting from scratch, or just restarting their wardrobe, many of our clients ask us about wearing their newly commissioned suit jacket as a blazer. We have some great tips on how to get a little increased versatility out of your investment, but before we begin, we cannot stress enough how much guys appreciate a good sport coat or blazer. It should always be on your radar for purchase.
Here are our tips for using your suit jacket in a more casual outfit. If you're a more visual learner, or just need a quick refresher, you will find this flowchart helpful.
Now lets get into the details as to what elements of a jacket allow it to double as a blazer or sport coat.
Buttons - This is the one detail that you have control over, after the suit has been bought. One of the most identifiable features of a blazer is contrasting buttons. Think of the classic navy blazer with the gold buttons. Look at how they stand out. Depending on the color of the suit, you can also go the opposite direction and contrast in the opposite direction -- darker buttons on a lighter colored cloth.
Pockets - Patch pockets are by far the most casual of pocket styles. This is a difficult choice, because it has a big impact on the overall look of the suit, but can certainly work if the cloth has enough texture. And remember, it's just not a good idea for your basic navy or grey suit.
Cloth - What is the suit made of? Worsted wools are the most formal (The finishing of the cloth. Twills, sharkskins, etc.). Inherently casual cloths such as linen, cotton, tweed, flannel, and blends (wool with silk, linen, or cotton) are easier to separate from their matching trousers. The downside to these, is that they are seasonal, or not appropriate for more formal occasions (interviews, business meetings, some social events). The rule of thumb here is that if the fabric is very fine it may not work as a separate blazer and should only be worn with its matching trouser. The more texture a solid cloth has, the easier it is to wear it casually.
Pattern - Is there a pattern on the suit? This one is tricky. Generally, if there is a pattern, you are in good shape. The more bold the fabric, the easier you can dress it down with flat colored pants. However, there is a big caveat here, as pinstripes are actually quite formal. This is mostly due to the history of the pattern and its relation to the very formal dress of businessmen or bankers. As a general rule, avoid wearing a pinstripe suit jacket independent of its matching trouser. Plaids are much safer in this regard and are commonly used on blazers. Taken to the other extreme, a bold plaid worn as a full suit can be too much, but as a blazer it will always work.
Okay, now it is time to give some real life examples. Below each example we list the primary reasons why each suit jacket does NOT work as a sport coat or blazer.
What not to do:
Finally, it’s better to be overdressed than it is to wear ill-conceived casual. If you get discouraged, be bold; go with the suit, but follow our tips for dressing down a suit in other blog posts, and be the best looking guy in the room. But keep that grail sport coat or blazer at the top of your shopping list. It will make your life so much easier.
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