Blazers and sports coats are some of the most popular items of men's clothing, but have you ever wondered what the difference was between the two? Although the terms are often used interchangeably, blazers and sport coats are two (subtly) different things.
Blazers have a history at sea. Blazers have nautical roots, and the details of a blazer reflect it. Think sea captain: brass buttons, decorative crests on the chest, and fabric of either navy blue or something bright that would make a sailor easy to find if he were to fall overboard.
Sport coats have their roots in hunting. The time-honored muted tones of tweeds and wools have a woodsy, fox-hunter look, and the traditional leather patches on the shoulders (decoratively matched on the elbows) were there to protect the jacket from shotgun kickback.
Today, it doesn't matter what you call it. The details and colors of blazers and sport coats aren't limited to their pasts. Unless you're wearing a navy blue blazer with brass buttons on your yacht or a leather-patched tweed sport coat in the woods, you can call it whichever you like.
And then there are suit jackets. Likewise, the difference between a sport coat and a suit jacket is also subtle but worth noting. The main difference: A suit jacket has a matching pair of pants and a sport coat does not. After that, the sport coat is often made of more casual fabrics than a suit jacket, and sometimes a sport coat has a looser, more casual fit.
Whatever you call it, be sure to buy one that fits you. For more information about how to choose a blazer or a sport coat, read our Men's Blazer Buying Guide. The information there can be applied to both.
Both need to be dry cleaned. Unless you've spilled something on your sport coat or blazer, try to only dry clean it every five or six times you wear it. Otherwise, just brush it off before you hang it back in the closet. Make sure you have quality hangers for your blazers and sport coats, like wooden ones with a wide shoulder bar. Avoid wire hangers; they won't support the shoulders well enough.
Wear something nice underneath either one. A blazer or a sport coat needs some kind of men's shirt to be worn underneath. For a casual, downtown look, try a blazer over a T-shirt. When you're headed uptown and need a more dressed up look, wear it over a dress shirt.
Published May 22, 2012
Updated February 10, 2015