The differences between a suit coat and a sport jacket may seem subtle at first. They are both tailored jackets worn in settings that require more than just T-shirts and jeans, and are generally made with more expensive materials than everyday casual clothing. Discerning the subtle differences between suit jackets and sport coats, in particular, is important when choosing the most appropriate clothing for business or professional settings.
Sport Jacket or Coat vs. Blazer
While it might be easier to tell the difference between a sport jacket (or coat) and a suit jacket (or coat) with a few basic tips, blazers are often confused with sport jackets. According to "Esquire," a blazer is a patch-pocket, navy blue jacket with gold or silver buttons usually worn while boating. A sport jacket has pockets with flaps, usually an extra flapped ticket pocket, comes in a variety of colors and is not the traditional boating jacket. Sport jackets were originally tweedy, robust garments created to be worn while performing certain undesirable farm work; modern styles still maintain a mildly rustic, earthy look. (ref 2)
Suit coats follow conservative specifications and quality examples are not only matched with pants, but all components of of the suit are tailored to the wearer's body. Expert tailoring can create illusions of elongating or compressing body shape or adding or subtracting weight. The lapels form a triangle that draw vision upward toward the face.
Quality suit coats are meticulously matched in color and fabric to accompanying pants, and are worn with a complementary neckties. Suits are viewed as awkward or sloppy when this matching, coordinating and tailoring is not done well; many experts, such as those at specialty men's shops like "A Tailored Suit," advise buyers to leave this process up to the professionals.
Sport Jacket Styling
Sport jackets do not need to follow the conservative specifications of suit coats, meaning their styling and tailoring can be more relaxed and looser fitting. They usually have slit and flap pockets like suits, but may also have patch pockets. Sport jackets do not need to match pants precisely.
Generally, suit coats are made of finer materials than sport jackets--usually worsted wool--and are softer to the touch. Suit coats are also more limited in fabric coloring and design, as they are traditionally more conservative. Common suit fabric coloring/patterning include solid dark colors, windowpane patterns and chalk stripe patterns. Sport jackets, on the other hand, come in colors and fabrics ranging from bright reds, to navy blues, to camel hair, to corduroy and plaid, with a variety of button styles and colors.
If dry cleaned and hung on hangers that mimic the natural slope of the wearer's shoulders, sport jackets and suit coats can better maintain ideal shape. Leave room between garments to avoid wrinkling. To avoid inconsistent fade, wear and launder suit coats together in their original set.