How to buy a sportcoat: the complete guide
It’s that time of the year again when wearing a sportcoat just makes a lot of sense. It’s a more casual alternative to the suit, but can still be very dressy. And it’s functional. When the crisp air of fall sneaks up on you, simply pop the collar, throw on a scarf and you’re good to go. In this article I want to talk about what it is that you need to know about how to buy a sportcoat. I want to help you find a versatile and sharp looking jacket.
Step 1: Casual or formal?
Just as with any suit or sportcoat, your first order of business is to decide on how casual or formal this jacket will be. When will you wear it most? And for what type of occasion? Since sportcoats are inherently sporty (i.e. somewhat casual), a better question may be how casual or sophisticated you want your jacket to be.
A casual sportcoat is often defined by two attributes:
- The fabric: Casual fabrics will be made in a heavier and more textured fabric. Think corduroy or flannel.
- The pattern: As a rule of thumb, the more wild the pattern (i.e. plaids, complex patterns, lots of color, etc), the more casual the fabric.
The fabrics at left are good examples of more casual cloth. The three cloths in the foreground are in a “graph-check” pattern and you can tell just by looking at them that they would feel nice and cozy to wear.
Because they have a very textural look and feel, they won’t be confused for a suit, making them great options for a fall sportcoat.
For a more sophisticated jacket, things are a little different.
- For a dressier fabric, like the brown one in the featured image, you can see that the fabric is very slick looking and you can almost imagine it being smooth to the touch. This makes for a more sophisticated coat, one that could even be worn to (some) fancy events.
- When building a relatively sophisticated jacket, you’ll want to aim for a pattern that’s not too crazy. That is, no real heavy plaids or strong colors.
So, where does the brown and blue sportcoat land? Is it casual or dressy?
I would say that it’s somewhere in the middle. Brett did a great job of building an all-around versatile jacket for his needs. Yes, it has a strong blue color, but it’s just strong enough to grab one’s attention without being overpowering, I think.
The fabric itself is dressy enough that if Brett wanted to, he could dress the whole look up a bit with some sharp dark slacks and slick shoes. Alternatively, he can wear it with dark denim jeans and layer a sweater underneath.
Which brings us to our next point…
Step 2: What will you wear under the jacket?
Sport jackets were created for sport. That meant that the English gentleman in the countryside wanted a coat that was functional first, and appropriate dress second. Elbow pads, large side pockets for game, and durable fabrics were all common attributes that came to define a gentleman’s sportcoat.
Over the past century or so, things have changed a bit, but I would argue that the common chord is that our modern sportcoat is still very practical.
You may not be storing game birds in your pockets, but you still want to dress warm, just as a man would when out in the field stalking game. What this means to you is that you’re more likely to layer a sweater under your sportcoat, than say, a suit. Therefore, it would behoove you to have a conversation with your clothier about the cut of your coat. You’ll want to accommodate for this added bulk with the fit of your jacket.
It won’t be a big difference in the look, it’s very subtle, and an important thing to understand about how to buy a sportcoat. It’s this margin that separates a nice sportcoat from one that you absolutely love wearing.
It’s this margin that separates a nice sportcoat from one that you absolutely love wearing.
Step 3: Keep it sporty
Finally, have some fun with the design. Like I mentioned earlier, a sportcoat is supposed to be sporty!
In our subject jacket, you’ll notice that Brett chose peaked lapels over notched. Peaked lapels on a sportcoat or blazer are relatively rare, as they typically denote a very dressy outfit. But the semi-sophisticated fabric and pattern was enough for Brett to go a little bold. And to be honest, given the pattern on this fabric, the peaked lapels almost blend in, don’t they?
And when you are looking for a casual jacket, don’t shy away from flap pockets. Flap pockets on the side are by no means out of style or boring. Personally, I think they look really cool on a casual fabric and it just makes me want to put something in them!
You might also want to consider adding a ticket pocket or contrast button hole stitching. Or, for that matter, you can have some fun with unique buttons. This is your chance to really experiment and try something cool. It’s probably something that you otherwise wouldn’t do with your go-to Monday thru Friday suit.
And if you want to go a little sporty, consider a one-button single breasted jacket.
Maybe it’s a contrast felt on the underside of your collar, as you see here.
Wrap up: How to buy a sportcoat
Did this article help shed some light on how to buy a sportcoat and find the right one for you? I sure hope so. At the very least, I hope that it encouraged you to think more on wearing a sportcoat regularly in the cooler months of the year. There’s no denying the fact that a sports jacket is a practical way to dress sharp and stay warm.
Finally, if you need some more info, here’s our in-depth guide to buying a sportcoat.
Oh! And when you do find that perfect sportcoat, here’s a little insight into what to store in your pockets.