Trends come and go, but in menswear, the core basics of what comprise a classic and lasting wardrobe rarely change. There are a handful of items that simply don’t wane with the seasons, and for good reason. Chief among them is the classic navy blazer, usually with gold colored buttons. No longer the exclusive uniform of private school boys and old money New England types, this jacket is truly a wardrobe staple for any well-dressed man. Far from being a limiting garment, it is actually quite versatile in its simplicity. Here are just a few of the ways to wear this closet workhorse.
Dress It Up
The easiest way to wear a blazer is to dress it up. When paired with a crisp white shirt, grey dress slacks in almost any shade, shiny black lace ups, and a necktie in a conservative stripe, solid color, or small pattern, you have an outfit that will be appropriate for nearly any occasion that requires a man to look his best.
It is, in fact, the only combination of jacket and trousers that substitutes for a suit in a pinch, other alternatives being too casual. Weddings, job interviews, or just dinner at a nice restaurant, this ensemble will always be appropriate and stylish when done with quiet reserve.
Find the Middle Ground
One step down the ladder in formality, yet still clean and polished, is to pair the blazer with its other natural counterpart, classic flat-front cotton khakis. With a softer oxford button down collar shirt, brown loafers, and the same set of conservative ties, this is a look that is more laid back and comfortable, yet still lets the world know that you are a grown-up who knows how to dress.
Soften this look further still with a knit tie in cotton or silk, or skip the tie, trade the tassel loafers for penny loafers or boat shoes, and leave the socks at home. The navy blazer can do all that, and more.
Opt for Cocktail Casual
Summer is a time for color in a man’s wardrobe, which though fun, can be difficult for some guys. Chinos in Nantucket red (i.e. coral pink), Kelly green, canary yellow, or wild patch madras, like the ones pictured above, are all great pieces for outdoor cocktail parties or dinners on the seaside deck.
Pair the bold pant of your choice with a simple white tennis shirt and your navy blazer to tie the whole look down -- the wildness of the trousers will be anchored by the quiet simplicity of the blazer. Penny loafers or boat shoes finish the look, no need for socks. If you’re daring enough, this can even be done with shorts in similar fabrics, but you might need a yacht to pull that off.
Wear with Jeans (of course)
You can even wear your blazer with jeans. Dark denim has been very popular these last few years, but a well-faded pair works best as the lighter blue provides better contrast with the dark blazer. A double breasted blazer, like the one pictured here, is a dressier alternative to the standard blazer featured in the other outfits discussed so far, but the striking contrast of the dressiness of this blazer with the casualness of the jeans makes for a bold look.
Finish the look with any good dress shirt and brown shoes. A pocket square in brightly colored silk brings things up a notch, while a striped or plain colored t-shirt and a pair of white canvas sneakers would give you a cool, louche kind of vibe.
Make It European
There’s no need to remain rooted in the preppy Northeastern tradition either. This version of the blazer, in soft linen, makes for a great Italian or Continental look with soft linen trousers, a spread collar shirt, a knit tie, and suede monk strap shoes. Hold off on investing in this summer blazer alternative until after you’ve already purchased your classic blazer. Conversely, a similar coat in heavier wool is great in winter with flannel slacks, a wool tie, and a v-neck cashmere sweater or even a turtleneck.
Seriously, Invest in a Quality Navy Blazer
If you don’t already own a navy blazer, consider making one your next investment in your wardrobe. Get the best quality you can, and try not to skimp. It is one of the most useful and versatile garments any man can own, and will last you a lifetime if cared for properly. It might even be one of the few things you’d run out the door with if the house were on fire. Unlike fast and fickle fashion, a navy blazer is a true must-have item. Like old friends, they only get better with age, and the more you wear one the more you’ll come to appreciate the simple perfection of this true wardrobe staple.