Can I Wear My Suit Jacket as a Sport Coat?

It can be hard to pull off, but yes, there is a way to wear your suit jacket as a sport coat.

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Here’s one of my pet peeves: when guys wear a suit jacket in place of a blazer or sport coat.

Let’s face it: a lot of us don’t know the difference between a suit jacket, a sport coat, and a blazer. I see way too many guys at dinner wearing suit jackets paired with my other pet peeve—boot-cut jeans and loafers. I feel my eyeballs burning when I see dudes at the airport wearing a suit jacket with a T-shirt and khakis.

Please stop.

I get it. We all want to maximize the value of our clothing, and finding more uses for a piece really lowers cost per wear. In the case of the business traveler, multitasking pieces offer a practical solution for minimalist packing. One suit, a pair of jeans, a pair of khakis, and a few shirts and ties, and—at least in theory—you’ve got approximately 54 possible combinations for your trip. The problem is, the combinations don’t look right. They look (not surprisingly) like you’re wearing the jacket of your suit with jeans and khakis. It all looks weird.

So, that said, can you wear the jacket of your suit as a sport coat or blazer?

The answer is yes—but there’s a proper way to pull the look off. It’s all about finding the right brands, construction, fit, and finish. Super-formal suits with a lot of padding and sheen tend to work poorly, while deconstructed brands can work exceedingly well. In general, making sure that (1) your casual clothes and suit jacket follow the same cut, (2) the suit isn’t a power suit with sharp shoulders and chest padding, and (3) the fabric has a more dressed-down feel will ensure a fluid transition from dress-up to dress-down.

 Follow these rules to for successful incognito-suit-jacket action:

1.       Look for less construction. Among my favorite suit designs for my clients is what we call the “utility suit”—a suit that can dress up or down, with pieces that can be worn separately or together. The utility suit is the single most useful suit for any closet. The key to the suit jacket rests in deconstructed soft canvas and unpadded (chest or shoulder) construction. Quite common in Southern Italy, this type of tailoring makes the suit feel more like a shirt, with a softer, less formal drape. Ready-to-wear brands like Brunello Cucinelli and Isaia are good examples of this type of tailoring.

2.       Match the silhouette. My tailoring philosophy is based on proportions, meaning that the lines of your suit should follow the lines of your body to create the most flattering fit. That said, engineering a fluid transition from suit jacket to sport coat stand-in requires that your jeans and trousers share the same general cut. If your suit features a slim, slightly tapered leg, your casual pants should too. This rule means that, unless your suit has boot-cut trousers, you should not pair the jacket with boot-cut anything. And please—have absolutely no bedazzling or contrast stitching on your jeans if you’re pairing it with a suit jacket.

3.       Fabric = textured and matte. Buy a jacket that features fabric with a plain weave, a medium to heavy texture, and a flat, no-sheen finish. This simplicity and weight allows the jacket to pair effortlessly with casual fabrics like denim and cotton, as well as with a pair of wool slacks.

The Cutting Room is a bespoke design studio based in Southern California.

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