What's the Difference Between a Sport Coat, a Blazer and a Suit Coat?

A quick answer to a sometimes confusing question.

By: Tim Cornell, Clothier
November 13, 2019

Building a versatile wardrobe that projects competence, leadership, and professionalism in every occasion is made easier by having a variety of jackets that coordinate with different garments in your closet.

When we start working with new clients, we are often asked about the difference between a sport coat, a blazer, and a suit coat.

Let’s explore these differences so you can start pairing these essential jackets appropriately.

Sport Coat vs. Blazer vs. Suit Coat

The difference between a sport coat, blazer, and suit coat comes down to patterns, buttons, and fabric.

sport coat is a patterned jacket that coordinates with trousers that are not made of the same fabric or have the same pattern.

blazer is a solid color jacket with contrasting (often metal) buttons.

And a suit coat has a pair of pants made from the same fabric/pattern as the coat.

Defining the differences helps us understand when to wear each and how to coordinate garments to create a versatile wardrobe.

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Custom Sport Coat

The term sport coat originated in the 19th century when men wore special coats for outdoor sports, such as hunting and fishing. It persists as the most casual option of all the jackets and is the perfect option when dressing professionally in a more casual workplace environment.

Unlike blazers (which are distinguished by a solid color fabric), sport coats are made using a patterned cloth. Like blazers, sport coats are worn with coordinating trousers, typically a solid complimentary fabric. Sport coats also come in different weights and textures for fall, winter, spring, and summer.

Sport coat fabrics offer a wider variety of fabrics, from subtle, classic patterns to more bold options that can help define your unique style. Consequently, a sport coat is the most versatile garment in your closet. Pair it with dress slacks and a tie, or wear it with a pair of jeans. The sport coat offers style and flexibility, extending your wardrobe.

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Custom Suit Coat

A blazer is defined by its solid color and metal buttons. Oftentimes, those buttons feature a nautical motif as the blazer dates back to the 19th century when Britain’s Royal Navy standardized its uniform to feature a simple navy jacket.

Historically, a blazer was a sign of membership in a group. The term, blazer is attributed to the “blazing red” jackets worn by Cambridge’s Lady Margaret Boat Club. They served as a status symbol as rowers began wearing their blazers on dry land and around colleges.

In today’s terms, the blazer is most always a solid color—with blue or black being the most common, adding to their formality. Typically bedecked with silver, gold, or brass metal buttons, the blazer is the perfect option for events that used to be black tie or formal.

The navy blazer serves as an essential “go-to” in a well-dressed man’s wardrobe.


Custom Suit Coat

The easiest of the three to understand, the suit coat is simply the jacket of a suit. It's worn with trousers that are made from the same fabric, with the same pattern.

We are often asked if you can wear a suit jacket as a sport coat. The answer to that is “it depends.” A jacket of today’s bolder patterned suits might work well as a sport coat. However, a jacket from a pin-striped suit would never do worn as a sport coat.

More traditional suits are constructed from patterns that are more subtle, such as herringbone or birdseye and give more of a solid color appearance. Therefore, when we are asked if these jackets may be worn as a blazer, the answer is “no,” because the buttons are not metal. It is best to wear a suit jacket only with its matching trousers if you are unsure.


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It used to take courage to wear a t-shirt in a workplace when everyone else was wearing suits. Now it takes courage to wear a jacket when everyone else is wearing t-shirts. The person wearing a jacket will create a positive impression and distinguish himself among his peers.

With the right selection of sport coats, blazers, and suits, and the knowledge of how to pair them, you can wear your wardrobe to always project professionalism, competence, and success.

Schedule time with a Tom James clothier today to learn how they can help you find the perfect sport coat, blazer, and suit for your wardrobe.

Are you ready to move forward?  Get in touch with one of our clothiers to learn more.

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