Every Guy Needs a Really Nice Sportcoat

The right sportcoat is the perfect mix of casual, formal, and a hint of ruggedness that will prove to be one of the most versatile items in your closet.

Most people use the terms blazer and sportcoat interchangeably, but they are traditionally different. Sportcoats, while similar in shape, are typically made of thicker, textured fabrics like tweed.

Many guys wear blazers to dress up whatever they're wearing. I find the right sportcoat acts more like a neutral modifier: It makes whatever you're wearing look better, without tipping you in a more dressy direction. A sportcoat looks great with a shirt and tie for your business lunch, but it also adds style to a casual shirt or sweater without making it look like you're overdressed.

Sportcoats come from an era when men participated in outdoor sporting like hunting, fishing, and horseback riding. These coats were worn casually, and their thickness was used for warmth.

Blazers are traditionally more formal on the jacket scale. Sportcoats are the least formal, then blazers, then suit jackets. All of this gets very hazy with the casual dress of today; the real importance is that they're made of different fabrics with different textures.

The texture of a sportcoat lends to its neutrality. Ever try wearing a suit jacket casually? You've probably found the smooth wool of your suit looks out of place. The texture of a sportcoat also mixes well with other textured items. Check out Look 3, where we paired the sportcoat with a flannel shirt. Try doing that with most blazers and you'll look like a lumberjack with a GQ subscription.

Sportcoats come in lots of different colors and patterns. For your first, I'd recommend picking up a solid color, like this gray sportcoat from J.Crew. Gray is a really versatile color that goes well with practically every other color, and conforms with different shoe shades and the patterns of your ties or shirts.

The right sportcoat can be worn much like any other outerwear jacket. Throw it over a button up shirt with jeans and you'll look smart without being out of place. Wear it with chinos and some suede bucks and you'll be dressed perfectly for that fancy dinner with your girlfriend, without looking like a teenage kid who's trying too hard.

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Get the Look

The Sportcoat: J.Crew, $278

Look 1:
Shirt: Old Navy, $19
Sweater: LE Canvas, $30
Boots: Clark's Desert Boot, $89
Shades: Knockaround, $25

Look 2:
Shirt: Express, $60
Tie: The Tie Bar, $15

Look 3:
Shirt: Lands End Canvas, $30
Shades: American Optical, $50

Look 4:
Sweater: Gap, $30

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Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.

17 Comments

  • Reply September 20, 2011

    Daniel

    I have always wanted a sport coat and now is the chance to get one, I think. I also need to shop more at Land’s End Canvas, I love everything you guys pick up from there.

  • Reply September 20, 2011

    Daniel

    Thanks for the clarification on blazer vs. sportcoat. Ashamed to say I did not know the difference. I’ve had my eye on the J. Crew sportcoat featured in this post but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Would you rate is as being worth the money?

    • Reply September 20, 2011

      Andrew

      Daniel, Glad it helped! As for the J.Crew sportcoat, it’s really nice and will last you awhile. It all comes down to budget, $300 for anything can be too much sometimes. I doubt you’d find a similar quality sportcoat elsewhere for less.

  • Reply September 20, 2011

    Daniel

    Yeah, I hear ya. I’d rather spend $300 on one good thing, than $100 each on three pieces of crap that I’ll just give away in six months.

  • Reply September 20, 2011

    Brett

    If you go with a white shirt and tie…. what pants would you wear?

  • Reply September 21, 2011

    Andrew

    Hey Brett,

    You could go with dark, straight leg jeans, the right chinos, or something like Express’s producer pant in a dark charcoal.

  • Reply September 23, 2011

    Julie Hayes

    Some guys looks good wearing any type of clothing but other guys just have specific clothes that will match their style, this coats are perfectly suited for guys working on an office they will look more appealing.

  • […] tie, The Tie Bar | $15 Shirt, Rufus | $200 Jacket, J.Crew | […]

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  • […] talked about sportcoats before and how the right one can be an integral part of your wardrobe. We discussed a plain gray, 2 […]

  • Reply March 13, 2012

    Richard White

    Heads up, that sport coat is now on final sale at J. Crew and is $160.99 after promo code MUSTHAVE.

  • Reply July 19, 2012

    Harvey

    Andrew,
    I really like the sportcoat you have chosen to showcase in this post. However, the $278 price is a little steep for me. Do you have any more affordable options you’d recommend that look just as sharp?

  • […] like the right sportcoat, a thin white henley is a neutral modifier. Worn instead of a t-shirt on a casual day, a henley […]

  • Reply February 10, 2016

    Girish Kumar

    Hi Andrew. I am a big fan of yours and really like your sense of style. I do not have a sport coat and as per the rule, I am trying to get a sport coat. The one listed above is not available. Can you please suggest one that’s available? How about this one for my first sportcoat(your recommendation from another post)? the http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?vid=1&pid=718129002

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