Suit Jacket Vs. Blazer Vs. Sport Jacket

In the previous article, we debunked several myths about owning a suit. All the facts point out to why one should consider a tailored suit as opposed to ready-to-wear suit. In this article, we are going to explore the suit jacket, the blazer and the sport jacket. To the untrained eye, all three look the same. They seem to have a similar cut and come with either two or three buttons. Hence, many may mistakenly assume that each piece is interchangeable (e.g. wearing a suit jacket as a blazer). This is simply not the case. Suit jacket, blazer and sport jacket have distinctively different cuts. The selection of colours and patterns for each jacket is dependent on its functionality: business formal, semi-formal or casual. So, when and where should you wear each jacket? Read on as we share some pointers on choosing the appropriate jacket for every occasion.

suit jacket
Men and women in suit, formal business attire.
Image by Pressfoto of Freepik

Suit Jacket – The Modern Gentlemen’s Armour

By definition, a suit is a set of matching jacket and trousers, made from the same swatch of fabric. Technically, both pieces are to be worn together and not as separates. A beautifully tailored and styled suit jacket is the peak of menswear. It projects an image of confidence and commands respect, which explains why it is the go-to attire in any business-formal occasion.

The suit first appeared in the wardrobes of the elite in the mid-19th century. Its exact origins are debatable. But tailors of the famed Savile Row played a big part by introducing elements of military dress uniforms and evening wear into day wear. Thanks to them, the modern suit was born.

Generally, the suit jacket comes in three varieties: two-button single-breasted, three-button single-breasted and six-button double-breasted. Given its formal nature, it is the simplest in terms of colour and is devoid of fancy pockets and extra details.

More often than not, suit jacket comes in neutral colours. Charcoal grey or navy blue in solid colours are some of the more popular choices. However, should you wish for a patterned suit jacket, pinstripe, chalk stripe, windowpane and plaids are safe options. The less elaborate the pattern, the more formal the suit.

Portraying Elegance And Sophistication

Putting on a suit has a powerful impact on the way we think and act. A study by California State University, Northridge discovered that wearing formal clothing, such as the suit, makes people think more broadly and holistically. Psychologically, it encourages people to use more abstract processing rather than concrete processing.

Charcoal grey suit jacket with matching trousers
Perfect for the boardroom; charcoal grey suit with a white shirt and purple-pink striped tie. Complemented with black Oxford shoes.
Image by Gent’s Prop

When the event calls for a “standard / International / Western business attire”, one should attend wearing an industry-appropriate business suit. A charcoal grey single-breasted suit with notch lapels, paired with a white shirt and striped maroon tie will work fine.

Choose either Oxford or Derby shoes. Make sure to match its colour with your belt to get a more cohesive look.

This simple yet sharp ensemble conveys a subtle but powerful message that you are there to focus completely on the business at hand.

Blazer – The Multipurpose Jacket

To some, a blazer and a suit jacket are the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Indeed, they may look similar, but a blazer is less dressy than the suit jacket. Thus, blazers are more suitable for business informal events.

The origins of blazer started in the early 1800s. Allegedly, it was worn by the crew of the HMS Blazer, a frigate in the Royal Navy. The short, double-breasted navy jackets with brass buttons greatly impressed Queen Victoria who visited the ship in 1837. The popularity of the blazer grew, making it a staple in the gentlemen’s wardrobe.

Similar to the suit jacket, blazers also commonly come in three varieties: two-button single-breasted, three-button single-breasted and six-button double-breasted. Traditionally, blazers are navy blue. While still a popular choice, nowadays we can find it in various colours and patterns. Charcoal grey or dark brown are some of the popular colour selections. However, if one only owns one blazer, it is wise to make it a navy blue.

The distinctive feature of a blazer is its buttons, as it is the only jacket that can take metal buttons. Of course, nowadays there are hundreds of variations from which to choose — from plain brass to pewter, or solid gold. No self-respecting tailor would dare to recommend metal buttons on suits or sport jackets.

Dressing Up Or Down With Ease

It is not an exaggeration to say that the blazer is a multipurpose jacket. It is versatile enough for both semi-formal and casual wear. One won’t go wrong with a blazer when attending client meetings or attending sporting events. A good rule of thumb: if you wish to dress up but a suit is not appropriate, then wear a blazer.

Peak lapel blazer with grey high waist pleated pants. Red printed stripes and printed silk pocket square
Peak lapel blazer with grey pleated pants. Red printed striped tie and printed silk pocket square. Image by Gent’s Props

A plain yellow shirt with dark red tie goes well with a navy blue blazer. This way, the wearer looks relaxed while still maintaining a professional image, making it a suitable pairing for semi-formal wear. For casual outings, a blazer with an open-collared printed shirt is a good option.

The selection of trousers to match a blazer is also quite flexible. Flannel or tailored slacks are great choices for business lunch. On the other hand, chinos or khakis would make one blend in nicely in a casual environment. Make sure there’s enough contrast between the trousers and blazer. Failure to do so may make you look like you were trying too hard to match a non-matching suit together.

Pair it with monk-straps (semi-formal) or loafers (casual) and you are good to go.

Interestingly, the attire is also worn as part of a school uniform or by members of a sports club. Usually, these organisations opt for the single-breasted blazer, with a badge sewn on the breast pocket to show membership of affiliation.

Sport Jacket – For The Business Casual Look

Fundamentally, the “Norfolk jacket” is the very first version of the modern sport jacket, popularly attributed to the 15th Duke of Norfolk, hence the name. The jacket comes with a full belt and buckles around the waist. It offers a great range of movements, making it the perfect attire for shooting and fox hunting activities in the English countryside.

It was not until the 1920s that the sport jacket as we now know it came to be. By then, tailors have left out the belt and buckle. Over time, as clothing becomes more affordable, the sport jacket became less known as a jacket for shooting and hunting. It grew instead to be a staple of casual yet sophisticated style.

Compared to the suit jacket and blazer, the sport jacket offers a more rugged appearance. Sport jackets are generally heavily textured and/or patterned as it is expected to be able to take a gentle beating. Ideally, it should be loose enough for you to layer a sweater underneath. These details traditionally offer the wearer protection from the outdoor elements and give a greater flexibility in movement. Today they serve simply as a stylish yet casual statement.

The sport jackets usually come as either a two-button or three-button single-breasted jacket. It is an extremely versatile piece with a larger variety of patterns and textures.

Partying With Style

Given that it is the least formal among the three, sport jackets should be the garment of choice for business casual or informal social events. You should be able to wear it in the office on casual Fridays, then take it straight to the golf course, or for drinks at the bar.

Linen sport jacket with casual patch pockets, mock-turtleneck sweater and medium wash denim.
A breathable linen sport jacket with casual patch pockets, mock-turtleneck sweater and medium wash denim. Perfect for a weekend brunch at the country club, yet appropriate enough for any off-hours business meetings.
Image by Jonathan Woo, courtesy of Solarex Imaging

A dark red sport jacket goes well when paired with blue denim. A sport jacket is still a prime example of tailored clothing, hence ripped or faded denim is not preferred. For an extra crisp look, a white shirt is recommended. But for those who are bold, they may pair it with a polo or round neck t-shirt. Men with muscular pectoral muscles can even opt for V-neck t-shirt for that macho look.

As for footwear, both chukka and chelsea boots are excellent choices.

Executed well, this pairing will result in a sharp look while staying casual and comfortable.

Searching For Quality Bespoke Tailoring?

Even with the points given above, one should still ask for advice from experienced tailors. Skilled tailors would usually start by assessing their client’s needs in a suit, as well as other factors (e.g. jacket length, sleeve length, pocket styles, vents, etc.). He or she would then recommend a suitable fabric and cut for the suit.

It is best to seek a tailor who is experienced, always exemplary dressed and passionate on guiding clients to achieve a stylish look in classic menswear. These traits describe Sky Ng perfectly.

Sky Ng, bespoke tailor of Gent's Props
Sky Ng, bespoke tailor of Gent’s Props

Sky Ng honed his skills under the tutelage of many experienced tailors, one of whom is his father before taking up bespoke tailoring apprenticeship. It was during his apprenticeship that he was exposed to the finer aspects of classic menswear. This fueled his passion and drove him to study in depth about the art before starting Gent’s Props.

You can browse their Facebook or Instagram pages to get more information or make enquiries while checking out their latest collection. Alternatively, Sky Ng can also be contacted at +6012 280 0812 should you wish to make an appointment.

Coming up in the next chapter, we shall explore why classic menswear is waning in popularity, particularly in the tropical climate. Is looking good really that impractical in the warm weather?

What further information would you like to know about classic menswear?
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About Muhammad REZA

An avid reader, who enjoys history and personal development. Takes on everyday as a new learning experience. Dreams of opening a sanctuary for strays one day... until life threw him a curveball... fatherhood. Now all leisure is channelled to raising a happy and well learned princess.

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