5 Alternatives to Wearing a Blazer + Outfit Examples

5 Alternatives to Wearing a Blazer + Outfit Examples
How to create modern looks in an increasingly casual world.

We live in this weird crossover time, where a blazer still feels like the appropriate default in certain social situations but we rarely see most other men actually wearing blazers.

The result is men today find themselves in one of two camps:

  1. He never wears blazers, and may not even have one, but has an imminent event or meeting that he needs to match the blazer-level dress code for
  2. He wears blazers and other dress clothing all the time but more and more feels out of place because he doesn't know how to augment his blazer outfits for more casual, evening, or warmer weather functions

Below are my five favorite blazer swaps that maintain or reduce the formality of wearing a blazer or augment a business casual outfit to something more modernly appropriate outside of all but the strictest business casual scenarios.

A Shawl Collar Cardigan

A business casual outfit with a gray shawl collar cardigan instead of a blazer, with a dress shirt and brown dress pants

Season: Fall to spring | Advantage: Fits in with others wearing blazers and is more comfortable.

The shawl collar cardigan is perhaps the easiest blazer swap to make. Essentially a “sweater blazer,” the shawl collar cardigan pairs effortlessly with any business casual outfit you'd wear a blazer with, without a dramatic decrease in formality. You could wear this outfit in a room full of men with blazers and still feel sufficiently dressed.

The best part is that the shawl collar cardigan is significantly easier to incorporate into more casual or rugged outfits than a blazer – and if you've been following Primer for any length of time, you know how much I love to layer one over a t-shirt as a more refined alternative to a hoodie.

A Harrington Jacket

a business casual outfit with a harrington jacket instead of a blazer. blue check dress shirt and charcoal gray dress pants

Season: Spring and cooler summer | Advantage: Comfort, dresses down a business casual outfit

The Harrington jacket, first created in the 1930s in the UK and popularized by icons like James Dean and Elvis Presley, transitioned over the decades from polished ivy league menswear to a symbol of rebellion within various punk cultures, making it an ideal blazer swap for those looking to retain classic style that also has a history of edginess.

While the history of the jacket aligns it with a classic aesthetic, it is inherently more casual, so beyond the added benefit of comfort, it also allows the seamless swap of sneakers from dress shoes. These court-style sneakers have a history and timeline that mirrors the Harrington, and the two pair seamlessly.

A Leather Jacket

a man's outfit example using a suede bomber jacket as an alternative to a blazer. the outfit includes a white dress shirt, gray pants, and brown chelsea boots

Season: Fall to Spring | Advantage: Retains sophistication while adding rugged edge, ideal for evening events

A lightweight and minimalist leather jacket, particularly in suede, like this fitted bomber jacket easily takes the place of a sportcoat. Sticking to a limited color palette, like I've done here with warm neutrals, makes the whole look feel cohesive and refined.

Maybe you find yourself in a weird situation as a blazer guy on a work trip that transitions to a bar, trendy restaurant, or concert. Or maybe you're an always-casual man needing to dress it up for once and a blazer sounds like torture. The leather jacket is an easy go-to when you want to look put-together without appearing overly formal. The simpler the design, the better the jacket will pair with the dressier outfit.


How to Cheaply Fix Sloppy Open Collar Shirts

Whether you're wearing a blazer or one of my five swaps, one thing remains: A tie-less button up shirt collar needs to look put-together. The trouble is most dress shirts don’t support an open collar look because the shirt placket and collar material is too fine – resulting in the collar collapsing under its own weight or the shuffling of the day.

a before and after showing the slick collar, on the left a floppy colloar and on the right a nice looking standing shirt collar
Right: A Slick Collar hidden under my shirt collar

The result? Collar points sliding under your outer layer, being further pulled outward and creating a sloppy opening instead of that distinguished tall collar that keeps a casual outfit from looking careless.

close up of the slick collar under a shirt collar
Slick Collar – I'm using it in all of the outfit photos

Fortunately, there’s a solution that works effortlessly and is cheap – something you never get, especially in the world of clothing. The Slick Collar acts as a support that rests hidden under your collar holding up both the collar and your open button placket. It’s light enough that I never know it's there, much to my detriment when it goes flying across the room because I forgot about it when I take my shirt off.

3 slick collars of different sizes sitting next to its packaging
Each box has 3 lengths

It’s adjustable, and each box comes with 3 different collar lengths so that you have the right size for every type of shirt you have, including polos and spread collars. Much like the traditional collar stay, the Slick Collar just works and you’ll wonder how this isn’t a standard part of wearing collared shirts. Even better, it’s a frugal and functional solution from a small business. What’s not to love?

→ Primer readers get 15% off with code “SLICKPRIMER”.

A Chore Coat

A man wearing an olive green chore coat as a blazer alternative on a business casual outfit featuring a white striped dress shirt, gray chino khakis, and suede loafers

Season: Year-round | Advantage: All the qualities of an unstructured blazer sans lapel

The chore coat makes for a great swap for a blazer in business casual outfits because it shares 99% of its DNA with a cotton blazer. Unstructured and unlined cotton blazers make for an ideal warmer weather sportcoat option, and the only real difference between them and a chore coat is the shape.

Chore coats traditionally feature standard flap collars, a straight placket, and flap pockets on the waist, making chore coats basically blazers without lapels. Their design is minimalist enough to still be sophisticated but there's an inherent ruggedness to them that can be desirable if you personally feel a little dorky in standard business casual gear.

A Denim Jacket

a men's outfit featuring a denim trucker jacket, white dress shirt, dark gray dress pants, and brown suede boots

Season: Year-round | Advantage: The most casual blazer alternative

Wearing a denim trucker jacket over a business casual base is the most informal option of the blazer alternatives. It wouldn't be appropriate for anywhere that calls for a blazer, but it works great in the opposite way: Dressing down a dress shirt and trousers to create a more smart casual outfit. This is ideal for when you need to have the “air” of being a little dressed up but are still clearly casual.

The white dress shirt and dark gray textured pants form a chameleon-like foundation that the denim jacket and the chunky-soled suede boots add a sense of direction to. In fact, the shirt and pants are the same ones from the suede jacket outfit, proving a simple change in jacket and footwear can create clearly different feels in terms of aesthetic and dress-level.

Andrew Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.