We use these terms interchangeably and yet know nothing of the subtle differences between them.
To know the difference is to understand its purpose and its fit.
The difference between a suit, a sports jacket, and a blazer was clearly defined many years ago. Unfortunately, the lines have become too mucky. Men were strict in their code of conduct and felt the obligation to change their outfit regardless of how minute the difference was. Today, sadly, to a common man, all of them are used interchangeably for all the wrong reasons. The bar set for being a gentleman is very low and forgiving these days.
A woman’s wardrobe is beyond understanding. We cannot comprehend why she would have fifteen purses while we carry only a couple of wallets all year round. She has more shoes than a rainbow has color. She shops and shops and constantly whines that it’s never enough. Closet space eventually becomes the prime real estate of the house. The only reason a man’s wardrobe isn’t as vast is because we choose to keep it simple. However, in truth, a man’s wardrobe can be every bit as complicated as a woman’s. We quietly spend as much time in front of mirror worrying about our appearance. We could spend as much money, but not as much time (since were decisive), as a woman. If we worry about our appearance as much, why not have a sophisticated wardrobe like that of a female counterpart? We keep only one jacket in our closet for all purposes. We fail to understand that a suit jacket, a sports jacket, and a blazer are meant to coexist in the same wardrobe. Choosing the right outfit for the right occasion is a step closer to being a gentleman. Come on, raise the bar a bit. It doesn’t hurt to know the difference.
A suit jacket, by definition, is a jacket of a suit. It must always be accompanied by a pair of trousers that match. It should be the primary choice when it comes to all formal occasions and, to a certain extent, semi-formal occasions (Such as weddings, business meetings, court hearings). At times people commit a blunder of wearing a suit jacket with a pair of jeans. Don’t make that mistake. It was never meant for it. When you think of a suit, think sophistication and snooty.
A suit should fit the body perfectly. It is not meant to be too tight or too loose. The point of a suit is to appear very presentable at all times, hence the fit. We believe that all suits should be tailored to your body. An off the rack suit defeats the purpose of wearing a suit itself.
A sports jacket was worn in the early 1800s and 1900s for the game of hunting (Hence the name). As a result, most sports jackets would have a leather patch on the elbow which has become a fashion statement today. Since hunting isn’t as popular as it once was, sports jacket is used for casual purposes. Throw it on to compliment the chinos you are wearing. Wear it to attend a nice casual dinner. A sports jacket can really add class to a casual setting. Unlike a suit, the jacket does not have to match the trousers.
We have seen sports jackets and blazers evolve through the years. It is admirable to see how constant the principles of wearing a suit have been. Blazers and sports jackets have always been more loosely fitted due to the physical activities that were performed while wearing it. Today, it is loosely fitted due to casual environment in which it is worn. Blazers and sports coats are quite interchangeable. The same cannot be said about a suit jacket.
A blazer, on the other hand, gained popularity when it was adopted by the British Navy in the early 1900s as part of their uniform. Since then, many institutions across the world, such as schools, clubs and government offices, have adopted it as part of their uniform. Most blazers come in a navy blue and black and are heavily associated with the world of sailing. Today, most people use a blazer in almost the same manner they would a sports jacket. Blazers will always come with golden or silver buttons. There really isn’t much to say about blazers since it is used in almost the same manner as a sports jacket. However, in terms of formal appearance, a blazer sits right between a suit jacket and a sports jacket. A blazer might pass in a semi-formal setting where a sports jacket will probably fail you. You will have a larger variety of fabrics and color when making a sports jacket compared to a blazer.
Even after reading this, most of them will still look the same (we don’t blame you). However, in understanding these minor differences you will understand how one type of jacket is more suited to a particular occasion than the other. It is understandable that rocking such an extensive wardrobe can set you back a few grand. As mentioned earlier, a man’s wardrobe can really cost as much as a lady’s. If you are starting from scratch then we suggest the first jacket you get should be a suit jacket. Make sure you’re always prepared to make an appearance in formal attire. Keep a few neck ties and pocket squares lying around to have a different look despite wearing the same outfit. The blazers and sports jackets will eventually follow. Good Luck!