There are always exceptions to every rule. But the below four key differences should help you, in most situations, determine whether or not a jacket is part of a suit, a sportcoat, or a blazer. And yes there’s a difference between blazers and sportcoats, although many guys (and retailers) use the term interchangeably. Blazers by definition are blue. Navy even. And made from wool. Sportcoats aren’t confined to such strict parameters. But where does a suit jacket stop and a sportcoat begin? See below.
STRUCTURE – Suit Jackets have more Structure.
Suit jackets usually have a bit more structure to them. Often fully lined with more padding to the shoulders, Suit jackets are usually “sharper” than a softly tailored sportcoat or unconstructed blazer. Yes, gone are the days of the super-padded, ultra hard shouldered suit jackets of the 80s and 90s. And that’s a good thing. But on average, suit jackets will have stronger shoulders and more lining.
POCKETS – Sportcoats often have patch pockets.
Since a sportcoat or blazer is less formal than a suit coat, less formal touches like patch pockets (pocket sewn directly to the exterior of the jacket) are often seen. It’s a throwback to when men used to wear these things during “sporting” activities such as hunting and shooting, and rugged functionality was a huge reason why they wore a jacket at all.
FABRIC – Sportcoats often have more texture/patterns.
- Spier and Mackay Tweed – $320 (sold out, watch for more of these come fall)
- Vince Camuto Unconstructed Blazer – $196.90 ($295)
- Brooks Brothers Soft Construction Brushed Wool Sportcoat (sold out)
- Jetsetter Stretch Italian Wool Blazer ‘ $288 w/ ECLIPSE20 ($450)
Again, since suits are more formal, they’re usually the most subtle. Smooth fabric, solid colors, etc. Yes there are some pretty wild suits out there, but more often than not it’s the sportcoat where the texture and the patterns come out to play. Think nubby tweeds in the fall, or the uneven texture of linen in the summer. Checks and plaids are often seen on sportcoats, for better or for worse.
PANTS – Suit Jackets come with matching pants.
I know. I know. But hey, it’s a difference. Sportcoats and Blazers don’t come with matching pants. Suit Jackets do, or at least should.
Bottom line: A suit jacket is a suit jacket. But if a jacket doesn’t come with matching pants? Most will be fine with using the terms blazer and sportcoat interchangeably. Unless it’s solid navy wool and has contrasting buttons. Then it’s a blazer. Want to dive deeper into this? Head here.