How to Wear a Sports Jacket

by Jamie

Sports Jackets aren’t as widely discussed as suit jackets or blazers, so our guide gives you the full low down on this extremely versatile piece, and why it needs to be your next purchase. 

Depending on your profession and personal taste, you’ve probably got at least one suit jacket and one blazer sitting in your wardrobe right now. Granted, for some of you, the blazer might be part of your old school uniform but that’s beside the point. The point being, you likely don’t have a sports jacket lying around. Sports jackets are the least formal style of men’s jackets, so unless you attend weddings and black tie events every other weekend, one can easily make itself at home amongst your shirts, knitwear and jeans. They’re the perfect piece for mastering the smart casual look, so you’ll never be left feeling baffled by such an irritatingly vague dress code.

If you’re not already sold on the idea of a sports jacket, then perhaps the fact that it can help to enhance your figure and create a more masculine shape through your shoulders and torso will convince you. From a practical point of view, these jackets are designed for warmth whilst harbouring an abundance of pockets for you to store your essentials. Moreover, they’ll give you a stylish edge at the next office party; whilst everyone else is strutting around in the typical chinos, shirt and tie combination, you can stand out in something a little different.

What is a Sport Coat?

Firstly, it’s important to know the difference between a sport coat and all the other styles of men’s jackets that are on the market. The sports jacket was originally a symbol of luxury and was worn specifically for sports such as shooting. Over time, the style and purpose of the jacket has changed and it is now associated with classic yet casual style.

Sport coats come in a huge range of colours, patterns and fabrics; houndstooth, tweed, windowpane, flannel, cashmere and linen, to name a few. This makes them instantly more versatile than other jackets, as you’re bound to find one that fits in perfectly with the rest of your wardrobe.

The sports jacket is more unstructured and looser than typical suit jackets and blazers, although a heavier fabric is often used. Key features include a slit and pleats in the back, and elbow patches; these don’t appear on every style but are fairly common. Like most other jackets, there is a range of lapel and pocket styles; as well as single and double-breasted options and one, two and three-sports coat buttons. Of course, all of these factors are up to personal preference.

Mens Sport Jacket Styles

Mens Designer Sport Coats vs High Street

If you’re looking to invest in a piece that will last a lifetime, then a designer sport coat is for you. It’s a garment that will never go out of style. However, there are similar alternatives on the high street that can be of similar quality and a lot cheaper on price. It all depends on the style you’re after.

Sport Coat Fabrics

  • Herringbone: The most traditional fabric for a sports jacket, usually in various shades of brown, grey or blue.
  • Linen: As a lightweight fabric, this is the best choice for Summer.
  • Tweed Sports Coat: Another traditional fabric, but tweed is rougher and slightly more heavyweight.
  • Houndstooth: This fabric has quite a busy pattern, so it’s not particularly versatile but it is very typically “English”.
  • Flannel: A soft fabric, often with accent colours that you can match your accessories to.

Sports Coat Colours

  • Black Sport Coat
  • Grey Sport Coat
  • Red Sport Coat
  • Brown Sport Coat
  • Tan Sport Coat
  • Light Blue Sport Coat
  • Blue Plaid Sport Coat
  • Navy Sports Coat
  • Blue Sports Jacket
  • Mens White Sport Coat

Sport Coat Style Guide

Once you’ve picked your sport coat, it’s time to figure out what you can wear it with. Thankfully, wearing a sports coat is largely down to personal preference and there are a few rules that you need to consider. You can opt for a shirt, tie and smart trousers, or a roll-neck jumper with casual trousers.

If you are going to an occasion which requires you to smarten up a bit, a work dinner for example, then make sure you opt for a plain shirt which fits as well as it would if you were wearing it with a suit. If you want to go for a patterned jacket, then make sure you keep it subtle and pair it with block colours for the rest of your outfit. Similarly, you can contrast a light coloured jacket with dark coloured trousers and vice versa for a smart yet stylish look; you don’t have to match your shades as you would do with a suit.

For a smart, preppy look in the colder months, you can pull a jumper on over your shirt. Sports jackets were made with the intention of the wearer layering up underneath, so they’re loose enough to ensure that you won’t end up looking bulky. Of course, your shirt needs to be tucked in to avoid the “drunk dad at a wedding” look.

For more casual occasions, such as dinner at a friends house or a trip to the pub, then you can rock a t-shirt or roll-neck jumper under your jacket. Whilst wearing a t-shirt with a blazer is pretty tricky to pull off, doing it with a sports jacket is somewhat easier. Don’t be tempted to go full-on casual with a pair of Converse, because you’ll probably just look scruffy. Instead, keep things stylish with loafers or brogues.

How to Wear a Sports Coat

What to Wear With a Sports Coat: Sport Coat with Jeans

One of the best things about sport coats is that they can be worn with jeans. You no longer have to force yourself in to a pair of stiff suit trousers and can instead slip comfortably in to your favourite (but not too worn-out) pair of jeans. This is a pretty easy look to get right, as long as you’ve got the fit of the jeans and the jacket right first.

How to Wear A Sport Coat With Jeans

This is a smart casual look, so you can’t have your jeans looking too scruffy. So, stick to slim or regular fit jeans to help create a sleek silhouette. Choose jeans that are of a darker colour than your jacket; not only is dark denim a slightly more sophisticated choice, but it’s pretty good for hiding food-related stains. Avoid rips, fading and fraying as well for a more classic look. Basically, jeans that lean more towards the tailored look will compliment your jacket best.

As for the jacket, you’ll want to opt for a casual fabric such as corduroy. This will ensure that no one mistakes your look for a suit jacket and jeans, which would be pretty bizarre. You can play around with colours and patterns that you couldn’t wear in a formal setting, such as browns or plaid.

Sport Coat Vs. Blazer

Unless you’re particularly knowledgeable on the differentiating features of various men’s jackets, the chances are that a sport jacket might just look like a blazer to you. Generally speaking, blazers are reserved for a smarter look whilst sport jackets are to be worn with more casual outfits.

Traditionally speaking, suit jackets are the hallmark of formality as they come with a pair of matching trousers. Blazers sit somewhere in the middle; they’ve got a looser fit and are to be worn on occasions that require you to smarten up, but don’t call for a suit.

Sports jackets are looser again, as they originally required the wearer to layer up underneath. Whilst the rugged appearance of a sport jacket makes it inappropriate for formal occasions, it does make it a staple piece for achieving the highly-coveted smart casual look.

How a Sport Coat Should Fit

As a more casual option than a suit jacket, a sports jacket is generally just a looser fit. So, a lot of the rules for fitting a suit jacket still apply. You want your jacket to look casual; not scruffy and badly fitted. Here are a few pointers on how to check if you’re getting the fitting wrong:

  • The slits, or vents if we’re talking technically, help to keep the jacket loose-fitting and can be found either on the back or at the sides of the jacket. Side-vents offer a more modern look, whilst back-vents are more traditional.
  • If, when the top button of your jacket is fastened, the fabric pulls to form an X-shaped wrinkle with the button sitting in the middle, then your jacket is too tight. This is an easy way to see if your jacket is fitting right and can be easily remedied by grabbing a larger size.
  • Shoulder divots will be apparent just below the shoulder seam, on the arm of the jacket, if it’s too big. This might just be a case of the shoulders being too big for your frame, so you could try some more relaxed styles.
  • If there’s a gap between the jacket’s collar and the back of your shirt collar, then it’s too loose. It’s difficult to completely avoid a gap, but you want it to be as minimal as possible, even with a casual style.
  • You want everything to be smooth, with clean lines. A sports jacket might be a loose fitting style, but that’s not an excuse to have gaping or wrinkled fabric.

Best Sport Coats


Textured sport coats in fabrics such as tweed have a very traditionally “British” feel to them and are reminiscent of original sports coats worn for shooting. Earthy tones of brown and green work well for a classic look, whilst grey can give a more contemporary twist.

A light grey jacket allows you to play around with light coloured shirts that you might not be brave enough to wear on their own; namely pink. Textured fabrics go well with jeans as they give your jacket a slightly casual edge.


Sports coats with a pattern such as windowpane, checks or houndstooth are another great option. A smaller, tighter check pattern is typically a more formal look to be paired with smart trousers or chinos. A bigger check, such as a windowpane pattern, appears more casual and can be worn with jeans. If you’re jacket is patterned, then it’s important to choose a shirt in a block colour so that your look isn’t too eccentric.

Your Quick Guide to How to Wear a Sports Jacket

  • Remember that it is the most casual men’s jacket style. Whilst it’s a versatile piece, you can’t wear one to an event that requires a suit.
  • Whilst sports jackets are meant to be a looser fitting style, you still need to ensure that they fit well. If your jacket is poorly fitted, it will look baggy and scruffy.
  • Care for it as you would a suit jacket or blazer; get it dry cleaned and never wear it out the house if it’s wrinkled or dirty.
  • Sports jackets come in a huge range of colours and fabrics, so it’s best to choose something that works with your wardrobe. Orange plaid might seem like a fun option, but if you’ve got nothing to wear it with and nowhere to wear it then it’s ultimately a bad choice.
  • A sport coat and a pair of jeans is a timeless combination, but in order to get it right you have to ensure that both your jacket and jeans are a good fit.

On that Note

A sports jacket is a valuable addition to any man’s wardrobe. They’re as timeless as a suit jacket or a blazer, but can be worn in more casual settings. They’re versatility makes them a good piece for transitioning between situations; if you’ve got a business dinner followed by drinks with your mates, a sports coat will ensure that you’re neither under nor over dressed.

Turning up to an event and realising that you’ve misunderstood the dress code is a pretty humiliating moment, but as long as you’re not going to a formal event that requires you to don a suit, a sports jacket will be the perfect addition to your outfit. You’ll never again have to worry about getting the smart casual look wrong, and can instead bask in the comfort of your jeans and jackets combo whilst your chino-clad co-workers look on in jealousy. 

Feature image from Pinterest

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