If you’re like most guys, the answer to the title question when you were growing up was “huh?”
Before you ever needed to think about dressing up, all men’s jackets and coats looked similar. Solid colors. Similar fits.
But then you wore a sports jacket to the first wedding you were invited to and boy, did you look out of place.
Don’t be like the author of this article - I mean hypothetical man. Know what to look for and what to wear when you’re picking out coats to round out your outfit.
We’ll start with the style you almost definitely already own (or, at least, will own very soon): the suit jacket.
This style is usually the easiest when getting your outfit in order, since the fabric, color and pattern on your suit jacket almost always needs to match with your suit pants. Blue suit jacket? Blue pants. Dark suit? Dark pants. You get the idea. Suit jackets make life a little more simple, even if it is the most formal of the three options.
So what’s the difference? Well, suit jackets tend to come on the slimmer side and eschew flashy patterns for solid colors.
As always, there’s a great “best of both worlds” option when it comes to men’s clothing. The blazer occupies that space in the jacket world, with lighter fabric for comfortable settings but not flashy enough to be out of place at a formal event.
You’ll notice when you put on a blazer that even though it looks slim, the blazer’s fit is looser than its suit jacket cousin. That serves a dual-function: it doesn’t look too tight when you keep it buttoned up and it doesn’t get in the way when you go un-buttoned. If you find matching pants with those suit jackets is a hassle then you might enjoy the blazer life more. Most blazers come in blue, which happens to go well with many combinations of dress shirt and non-matching pants.
Back in the old days people would wear sport coats when they were … well, playing sports. And now we wear those “uniforms” as stylish dinner party wear.
That’s right: in 100 years we’ll all be wearing football helmets to our wine-tasting events.
But for now, you can opt for the comfiest and loosest fit of these three jacket styles. The sport coat is intended for layering up: the loose fit and heavier fabrics provide a nice layer of warmth over a classy sweater. Most sport coats come in more drab colors like brown, grey or dark green, so you’ll need to add the color of your outfit elsewhere with accessories or undershirts.
If suit jackets are at the formal end of the men’s coat spectrum, sport coats are at the casual end tossing a football around in the backyard.