Originally worn for outdoor sports like hunting or fishing, the sport coat is less formal than a blazer. Its patterned fabric makes it the perfect choice for casual office attire.
The best sport coats are made with textured fabrics like wool, flannel, and herringbone. They also feature different patterns from checks to houndstooth. They’re typically single-breasted and 2- or 3-button with visible stitching.
As a general rule, sport coats veer more casual than blazers because they’re often patterned, whether through houndstooth, herringbone, or windowpane designs. They’re also generally lighter in color, which makes them a great choice for jeans and casual shirting like a polo or a button-down.
Fabrics come in a range of options as well, from light cotton flannel to warm wool in winter weights. Leather and suede are unique choices for men’s sports coats, as are fabrics that have a coarser texture and look heavier in feel, like corduroy or tweed.
You can also find sport jackets that have a variety of different details, such as extended tab collars, action backs, pleated pockets, and belted details—all remnants of their country origins. These details add a bit of flair without going overboard. Too many accessories can actually look more costumey than formal, so keep it simple when wearing a sport coat. A few high-quality accessories, like a pocket square or a patterned tie, will go a long way to elevate your style.
As a more casual jacket, a sport coat offers an opportunity to add unique fabrics and colors that may not be available in suits or blazers. Leather and suede are both distinctive options that bring a touch of luxury to your wardrobe, while wool flannel, corduroy, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere can all be used for seasonally appropriate apparel.
Due to their casual nature, sports coats allow for a wider variety of patterns than blazers, and can be worn with non-matching trousers (if they matched, they would be a suit). Houndstooth, plaid, windowpanes and herringbone are common check patterns, and can be found in a range of colors. These can give your outfit a pop of pattern that your business-appropriate attire could never offer.
Unlike blazers, sport coats allow a higher degree of pattern and color variation. Houndstooth, which resembles the teeth of a dog, is an especially classic two-toned pattern that looks great in tweed fabrics. Herringbone, a quieter twill with diagonal lines that zigzag in opposite directions, is also popular. A glen plaid like the one worn by Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall, is another option that’s both casual and smart.
While a solid-colored wool or flannel sports coat is the most versatile, patterned ones can look quite handsome as well. Whether you choose a loud check or subtle herringbone, opt for a twill weave rather than a plain weave; this creates the depth and texture that define a sport coat. Similarly, consider a fabric that combines the drape of wool with the sheen of silk and crispness of linen. This type of fabric straddles the line between dressy and casual, making it ideal for summer wear.
For social events where a suit jacket might be overly dressy, a sport coat is an ideal alternative. It’s a rung or two down the formality ladder from the suit jacket, and it is available in lighter colors like beige, brown, gray, and tan.
The fabrics used for these jackets range from the cotton that makes up the bulk of a twill sports coat, to wool, flannel, and wide-wale corduroy. They also come in a variety of patterns, from solids to bold herringbones and windowpanes.
Brown sports coats work well with khaki and light blue trousers, while tan ones look good with jeans. Pale greens with a low tint, such as olive or sage, also pair well with tan trousers. The neutral colors of these jackets make them suitable for any season, so it’s a smart idea to have one or more in your wardrobe.