BLAZERS FOR MEN
Your final style guide to blazers for men
Thursday, 14 January 2021
Great style starts with a blazer. This is your ultimate guide to select the right blazer.
Blazers for men have become an essential weapon in your smart-casual arsenal. They’re relaxed, but still refined, sharp but casual at the same time, structured but not overly formal. Whenever you’re invited somewhere fancy, but not fancy enough for a two-piece suit, a men’s blazer is going to be your best friend.
Don’t worry if you’re just starting out with casual blazers. We’re going to run you through fits, materials, colours, occasions, and the difference between blazers and sports coats. You also don’t need to rush out and buy seven blazers right away—one or two key styles should be more than enough to get you through cocktail parties, work functions, summer garden weddings and pretty much everything in between.
What is a blazer?
Let’s start with the basics. A men’s casual blazer is a type of jacket that’s suitable for formal, semi-formal and formal occasions. Unlike a suit jacket, blazers don’t come with their own matching pair of pants (in fact, that’s one reason why you shouldn’t wear your suit jacket with jeans or chinos—washing your suit jacket more often than your suit pants can fade the colour). Blazers are usually a slightly looser fit than suit jackets, with less structure on the shoulders. Most blazers are navy blue, with brassy buttons, and they’re usually made from wool, hopsack, worsted serge or flannel. Imagine a casual-fitting suit jacket, with a few bells and whistles and a more textured finish.
A short history of the blazer
Blazers have a few different origin stories, but most people trace them to the boating team at St John’s College in Cambridge, way back in the 1820s, who wore bright red double-breasted sporting jackets. The style trickled through the British navy (hence the brass buttons), and made its first appearance in Vogue in 1893. By the 1950s, British students were modding their blazers, turning the collars up to make them more street and less Oxbridge. Armani jumped on the trend in the 1970s, and by the 1980s blazers were popping up in Hollywood, including a memorable appearance from Richard Gere in American Gigolo. The rest is history.
How to style a blazer
Styling a blazer requires a bit more imagination than a suit jacket, because pants don’t come as part of the package. On the other hand, you have way more versatility, because a men’s casual blazer looks good almost anywhere.
This isn’t a suit
Unlike suit jackets, the idea with blazers isn’t to find pants that match the fabric exactly. It’s to find pants (and shirts) that complement the blazer. This usually means sharp, slim-fit chinos, or dark-washed denim, not suit pants. Blazers should rarely be worn on top of your suit pants—that’s what your suit jacket is for.
In summer, most guys will wear a casual linen blazer with a simple collared shirt underneath (usually loose to the third button, no tie). But in winter, don’t be afraid to start experimenting with knits and layers. This is a big advantage the blazer has over the suit jacket: the loose fit and relaxed shoulder give you more room for extra fabric.
Own more than one
If this is your first trip into blazer country, start with something classic and simple, like a single-breasted navy wool blazer. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, don’t be afraid to get creative with colours and fabrics. This is part of the blazer’s appeal: you can really let your personality shine through. Two or three blazers in your wardrobe is a good place to start.
Rule of thumb
When it comes to length, think shorter rather than longer. You want the hem of your jacket to sit around your thumb knuckle, near your palm, with the back of the blazer just covering your bum (if it’s flapping around your thighs, you’ve gone too far). The fit should be relaxed, not too snug—you’re probably going to be wearing your blazer open.
Know your blazer
There are many different types of blazer out there, but don’t panic. Like we always say, try things on and gravitate to whatever feels most comfortable. You can’t really make mistakes here—different blazers will send a different message, that’s all.
Structured vs unstructured
You might hear people going on about structured blazers and unstructured blazers. All they’re talking about here is the internal architecture of the jacket, usually the shoulder pads. Structured blazers are a little more formal and hold their shape. They have clean lines and subtle shoulder pads. Unstructured blazers tend to be more casual, with a very relaxed fit, light summery fabrics (like linen), and no shoulder pads. There’s no right or wrong choice here—it all comes down to the occasion and your personal sense of style.
Pattern vs checks
Every guy should have a patterned or check blazer in their wardrobe. They’re an easy way to add some subtle personality to your outfit, without going full peacock. When it comes to checks, you can go with a subtle windowpane check (always classy over sky blue or navy), or something more punchy, like a grid check or overlapping check. For patterns, think either heritage styles (like houndstooth), or mod geo prints, which give off a sharp, date-night-on-the-town kind of vibe.
Checks and patterns are one way to go, but many guys favour a simple block colour blazer. It’s not as flashy, and it’s more likely to match your shirt and chino collection. The trick here is, once again, to pick colours you feel comfortable with. Maybe start with a simple navy or charcoal grey, then move onto plum, burgundy or pale pink. As a general rule, colours get lighter as you move from winter into summer: that means greys, blacks and navy when it’s cold, and pastels when it’s warm.
Another thing you want to think about is fabric. Some blazer fabrics are considered formal, others are breezy and casual. You wouldn’t wear an unstructured linen blazer to semi-formal cocktail reception, but a sharp wool blend might be appropriate. Here’s a basic rundown of blazer fabrics:
Flannel blazers are thick and sturdy, and this is one area where ‘blazer’ and ‘sports coat’ kind of merge together. You’ll often see checked or striped blazers made from flannel. On the scale of ‘casual beer’ to ‘canapes and champagne’ this is definitely on the less formal end of the spectrum.
Linen blazers are your classic French Riviera-style summer blazer. They’re light, breathable, usually unstructured around the shoulders, resistant to smells and microbes, and (let’s face it) they look damn cool. Just make sure you keep your linen blazer well ironed and pressed—wrinkles everywhere kind of spoils the look.
Velvet blazers are pretty rare, but they can still turn heads in the right setting. These are your suave, sophisticated, date-night-at-the-casino sort of blazer. Match them with slim-fit dark denim or dark formal chinos. Don’t forget a patterned pocket square either.
Serge is a kind of twill fabric made from wool yarn. ‘Worsted’ just means stronger, finer, smoother than traditional wool blends, usually with little diagonal lines or ridges on both sides of the weave[Copy1] . Worsted Sage blazers are extremely good quality and will keep you warm for years, with the right care.
Technically Hopsack is a method of weaving, not its own fabric. It’s a broad weave with a subtle square pattern, which lets the blazer breathe better and gives the whole jacket a nice woven look. It’s wrinkle-resistant, too, which is a bonus. Hopsack blazers are great if you’re looking for texture and visual interest.
Wool blazers are generally winter blazers. They’re heavier and warmer than some of the other options above. Woolen blazers are always a good choice, because they’re long-lasting and beautifully made, and they hold their shape over time. Just match your jacket with some slim-fit jeans and leather desert boots for a sharp-but-casual look.
Common blazer jacket styles
Now we’re moving into blazer styles, which refers to the cut and lapel of the jacket, plus the number of buttons. Again, don’t get too caught up on these details. Whether you go single breasted or double breasted, two buttons or three, the trick is knowing how to style them.
Two button single breasted blazer
Most blazers you see will be ‘single breasted’, which means they’ll have two or three buttons, notched or peaked lapels (usually notched), and a narrow overlap of fabric at the front. Two button single breasted blazers are ranked as the most casual style, which means you can wear them open or closed, and usually over jeans or casual cuffed chinos.
Three button single breasted blazer
Three button single breasted blazers are one small-ish step up the formal ladder. Like their two-buttoned cousins, you can wear these open or closed, but if closed, just fasten the top one or two buttons—never all three. You’ve got a bit more wiggle room when it comes to fit here. Single breasted jackets don’t have to fit like a glove to look amazing. Double breasted on the other hand…
Double breasted blazer
Double breasted jackets are definitely the fanciest, the boldest and the riskiest members of the blazer family, but when they work, they really work. Double breasted blazers usually have six or eight buttons, peaked lapels and that distinctive extra bit of fabric, which wraps around your torso. They must, must, must fit perfectly. There’s no room for error here. And don’t wear them with jeans—you want formal chinos or even suit pants for these guys.
what’s the difference between a blazer and a sports coat?
So what’s the difference between a blazer and a sports coat? Well, to start with, they’re part of the same semi-formal jacket family. Blazers tend to be a little fancier, and they’re often made of cotton blends, linen or wool. Sports coats have a more relaxed, casual fit (you won’t find a double-breasted sports coat), and they’re usually made from sturdier textured fabrics like tweed and flannel. If the jacket has elbow patches, razor thin lapels, and it’s made from houndstooth or Donegal tweed, it’s probably a sports jacket. Not that the distinction really matters. All you need to remember is: sports jackets are not formal wear.