There are a few key rules to follow when attempting to get a little extra utility out of a suit jacket. The easiest is to just look at the jacket and see if it can stand on its own. If you put it on or lay it out on the bed, does it look like it’s missing something? Say, a pair of trousers? The worst thing you can do when attempting to wear a suit jacket casually is to look like you are wearing a suit jacket.
You may be wondering what the difference is, at this point. Well, as is usually the case, the difference is in the details. Grab your favorite blazer out of your closet and lay it by that navy suit jacket and see how many details you can see in the blazer that have been left off the suit jacket.
Here are a few hints:
Buttons - Most of the time a blazer will have contrasting buttons. Think of the classic navy blazer with the gold buttons. Look at how they stand out.
Pockets - Patch pockets are by far the most casual of pocket styles. Chances are highly slim that your conservative charcoal grey suit jacket will have these.
Fabric - What is the suit made of? It is much easier to dress down a less formal fabric, with worsted wool being the most formal. It is easier to take a cotton, linen, tweed, or flannel suit jacket and pair it with a pair of jeans or chinos and this is due to the texture of these fabrics. 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. Think flannel, tweed, cotton, and linen.
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 British businessmen. Plus, think back to the beginning- we associate pinstripes with one or two things, a businessman or a New York Yankee. 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.
Look at the fabric in these photos (Click to zoom):
Still confused? Consult the Beckett & Robb Suit Jacket As A Blazer guide below to steer you in the right direction (click to zoom).
Remember, it’s better to be overdressed than it is to wear ill-conceived casual. So if you feel discouraged, don’t be. 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. If you still aren't confident on whether you can wear your suit jacket as a blazer, then check out our current line of suits and read about how we suggest each of them should be worn.
As always, style rules are written in pencil, not ink. Play around with it, be daring, show some personality, and discover your own style.
To your style,
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An interview with Kevin Salsbury, shop manager of Beckett & Robb, Denver, about the changing world of custom tailored suits for the men of Denver, Colorado.
What's your background in menswear?
My background in menswear has been in men's tailored clothing, with an emphasis with luxury brands, most of which were European. My personal drive...
We love our products. Our focus on product development is at the very heart of who we are and what we do. It's for this reason that we've dedicated so much of our time to produce a number of our own product lines, including our own line of shoes, outerwear, and accessories.
When it came time for us to consider adding eyewear to our product mix, we decided to defer to another brand for their expertise.