The Sports Jacket – When to Wear It
Anytime you find yourself wondering what to wear–to a party, a meeting, or a date–a sport coat will likely be the answer. You will know when you need to wear a suit, and you likewise know when a tee-shirt and shorts are okay. Stylish and relaxed, the sport coat covers much of the vast gulf between. For most situations in an American man’s life, the sport coat is a superb choice for composing a look that’s both attractive and appropriate.
Today’s sport coat carries a mixed ancestry from the days when men didn’t go outside their homes without a jacket and tie. In the late nineteenth century, the English gentleman wore a brown tweed jacket in the country to hunt foxes on horseback or shoot birds; it was back vented and bore large, slanted pockets. In the cricket and rowing clubs closer to town, batsmen and crew members sported uniforms of single-breasted blazers in their clubs’ colors. The double-breasted navy-blue blazer was first worn on a British frigate in 1837, by sailors dressing to impress the visiting queen. In Europe and America between the world wars, the various sport coats that these nineteenth century jackets begat took hold of leisure fashion and haven’t let go since.
A man in the market for a sport coat today has a wealth of options for customizing it. The jacket may retain some of the original sporting details, such as a back vent and slanted pockets, or may be made with side or no vents, and flap, patch, or besom (slit) pockets. They come in many colors and patterns, of tweed, corduroy, flannel, silk, linen, seersucker, and other fabrics. A coat’s image varies somewhat depending on these details, but the basic idea is the same: The sport jacket is a handsome, respectable garment that can go anywhere.
Many men who work in offices today wear don’t wear jackets regularly. If this is you, there will undoubtedly be times when you want to do a little better, whether for a meeting or presentation or a lunchtime or happy hour date. Whether your version of business casual is khakis and a polo shirt or dress slacks, button-down shirt, necktie and sweater, throwing a jacket on will give you a significantly sharper look. As has been said elsewhere, the classic blue blazer goes with anything, and a sport coat in some gray or brown pattern is nearly as versatile. Many men keep such a jacket in the office to act as a dress up/dress down switch.
And then there is leisure. Today’s lack of established standards of dress for different social occasions leaves many fretting about what to wear to a dinner party, concert, or afternoon reception. The worry is compounded if you don’t know your host well, and even more so if you’re hoping to make a good impression with someone there. Once again, the sport coat comes to the rescue. It originated as a leisure garment, remember, and today does the job as well as ever. If someone has invited you to their home, church, club, or anywhere really, it is a sign of respect to take care in your appearance upon arriving. Even if nobody else is wearing a jacket when you get there, people will appreciate that you made the effort. If you feel too out of place, you can always take it off, but the truly stylish man knows that he can achieve casualness with his words and manners while maintaining dignity in his dress.
Nor can a man be too young to look good in a jacket. At a night club or a party, a sport coat in charcoal or off-white with slacks or designer jeans is a tough look to beat. For the young man who is not yet concerned with dressing up for work, one or two decent sport coats will make it easy to look sharp for any occasion. They will be a better investment than anything the trend-hawkers have to offer, since proper tailoring and classic patterns will never go out of style.
I could go on, but I believe I have made my point. The sport coat, especially a custom tailored one, is rarely out of place and always looks good. It’s what you wear when you’re not sure what to wear, or when you want to dress better but don’t know where to start.