What's the Difference? Sport Coats, Blazers, and Suit Jackets

How are sport coats, blazers, and suit jackets different in men’s clothing? Unsurprisingly, the rules are also different for how men wear these garments compared to how women wear them.

Sport Coat

Sport coat…sports coat…sport jacket…all these terms can be used interchangeably. A sport coat was traditionally worn during the day or while doing outdoor “sporting” activities like hunting.

For this purpose, the fit was looser since it was intended to be layered and to allow movement. The fabric was also more rugged, with a rougher texture. A sport coat can be made in an array of pattern and color: tweeds, houndstooth, herringbone, etc. Details like elbow patches, pleats, pockets, and belts also reference the original function of sport jackets.


A blazer is in-between in terms of formality, as is the structured fit. Traditionally, blazers were navy wool with (gold) buttons. A blazer is a great choice for any time a suit is too dressed up. While the fabric is dressy, the colors and the non-matching bottoms make an outfit less formal.

Fun Fact: the term “blazer” originates from the bright red color of the flannel jackets worn by the Lady Margaret Boating Club at Cambridge.

Suit Jacket

A suit jacket always has matching pieces: trousers and a vest for men, or a skirt, dress, and pants for women. While I often recommend that women split up a suit to get the most wear from the different pieces (but dry-clean them together!), that advice does not apply to men.

A suit is the most formal style of clothing of the ones described here. For men, that means the pieces should always be worn together. A suit will be the most tailored, with the jacket fitting more snugly than a sport coat or blazer. The weave is typically more subtle, the fabric typically a fine wool with a slight sheen, and the colors and patterns usually somber.

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