Blazer vs Suit Jacket: Associated Dress Codes and How to Style Both

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Jane Taylor in Fashion

Last updated: 08 January 2020, 09:28 GMT

Looking forward to a big event but not sure if the dress code calls for a suit jacket or blazer? You don't want to be underdressed at a wedding, or overdressed at a casual work party. We looked at the major differences between a blazer vs suit jacket, the appropriate social settings for each wardrobe staple, and a few different ways to style them to ensure that you'll stand out from the crowd just the right amount.

Are Blazers and Suit Jackets the Same?


To the untrained eye, there's not much that appears different between a blazer vs suit jacket. They're both jackets worn by men to a variety of events, some of which overlap depending on the dress code.

However, there are several key differences between the two that every savvy jacket wearer should know before dressing up for the next big event.

The Suit Jacket: A Matching Affair

As a rule, a suit jacket is the most formal article of clothing in the average man's wardrobe. It is always accompanied by a pair of matching trousers. In general, wearing a suit jacket without its set of trousers is discouraged since more frequent washing will result in a color difference between the two pieces. Because of this, the combination of the suit jacket and trousers is usually reserved for more formal events or the workplace with a formal dress code.

In terms of design, the suit jacket is generally simple without loud colors, patterns, or extra pockets or buttons. Black, gray, and navy blue are the classic trio of colors for men's suit jackets. Notched lapels are traditional, with shawl and peak lapels reserved for suit jackets intended for black tie events. On modern suit jackets, buttons are usually plastic as opposed to horn or mother-of-pearl in former versions.

A suit jacket and trousers should be tailored to fit perfectly, without excess fabric or gapping. The suit jacket's slim fit means that wearing multiple layers underneath is discouraged--an undershirt and simple button-down is all you need. Finally, it's traditional to keep the suit jacket buttoned during events unless you're seated, at which point you should unbutton your jacket to protect it from creasing.

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The Blazer: Semi-Formal Comfort


The blazer is the more casual, relaxed version of the suit jacket. It does not come with matching trousers, and as such is able to be matched with multiple types of trousers and pants depending on the occasion. Blazers are easy to dress up or down and can be seen in many settings, including business meetings, presentations, semi-formal parties, and weddings with a more relaxed dress code.

Traditionally, the blazer is a solid navy blue color with distinctive gold, silver, or mother-of-pearl buttons. While modern fashion has resulted in some variations on this classic look, most blazers are still navy blue, which allows for easy matching with various trouser and pant colors.

The blazer has a looser, boxier fit than the suit jacket and can be worn buttoned or unbuttoned with ease. While it isn't ideal for heavy layering, its fashion flexibility means that the blazer can be worn with a wide variety of semi-formal and casual shirts.

 

The rule for differentiating a blazer vs suit jacket is as follows: if your jacket is made of quality fabric, is a solid color with a simple, slim fit, and has a matching pair of trousers, it's a suit jacket. If it's navy blue with gold or silver buttons, it's a blazer. Variations on these styles do exist, but you'll want to understand the basic difference before you dress up for your next event.

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When to Wear: Blazer vs Suit Jacket


The jacket you choose to wear depends almost completely on the stated dress code of the event you're attending. If the event is a formal gala, the wedding with a stated formal or black tie wedding, an evening at a fine dining restaurant, or a concert, you should reach for your matching suit jacket and trousers without hesitation.

If you're attending a semi-formal wedding or party, going on a casual date, or meeting a friend or business partner for lunch, a blazer styled the right way is an excellent choice.

Workplaces will often state dress codes for their employees. Many workplaces have adopted a casual dress code, making blazers styled in a relaxed manner a perfect fit. Suit jackets are still widely seen as required in the business world and in settings like newsrooms, funeral homes, and law offices.

Sometimes there are gray areas--for example, job interviews have become much more casual, and blazers are now seen as appropriate. You might even feel overdressed. While you can pick up dress code cues from your coworkers after you've been hired, it's never a bad idea to make a strong, memorable first impression by dressing in your suit jacket for job interviews.

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How to Style


Now that you know the difference between a blazer vs suit jacket, you can probably anticipate that styling these two jackets will look different. The way you wear your jacket and the pieces you choose to accessorize your outfit can help you make an even bigger impression, no matter the event.

The Timeless Suit Jacket

The suit jacket is timeless, and it's made to be this way. The upside is that when you wear a good suit, you look like you walked out of the Hollywood golden age, stylish and suave. The downside is that there are fewer ways to change up your look in a suit jacket than there are in a blazer. However, with the right styling, your suit jacket look will be both fashionable and uniquely yours.

Fit

The most important thing you can do to style your suit is to ensure that it fits you like a glove. Avoid the wide-shouldered look and a gapping, unflattering look when buttoned by taking your time to find the perfect suit jacket right off the rack. Once you're happy with your jacket, have it tailored to perfection. This small investment will pay off over the years you wear a suit made to fit you.

Match

Don't skimp when it comes to the clothes you wear with your suit--especially your undershirt. Save your dress shirts and your suit jacket from sweat and wear by always putting on an undershirt as the first layer to your look. Take care to unbutton your suit jacket when you sit down to prevent creasing and stretching, and check the buttons regularly to make sure they aren't loose.

Accessorize

Never underestimate the power your accessories will have to elevate or ruin the look of your suit jacket. Choose a simple, quality-made dress shirt and tie which fits your style without distracting from your overall look. Wear long dress socks, avoiding white at all costs. Match your shoes and your belt to complement the put-together simplicity of your matching suit jacket and trousers. Finally, add a pocket-handkerchief matching your tie and cufflinks for thoughtful, understated finishing details.

You might wear suits every day for work; you might have your only suit dry-cleaned for a wedding once a year. Either way, making sure that you have to know how to style it means that no matter how often you wear it, you'll look your best.

The Versatile Blazer

When compared to the suit jacket, the blazer has a multitude of styling options. However, while you're freer to experiment and reinvent your look while wearing a blazer, there's something to be said for trying out some tried-and-true looks.

Match

The first thing you need to choose is your trousers or pants. The most popular choices are chinos, gray flannel trousers, corduroy pants, or dark wash jeans. Make sure you take the color of your blazer into account--for example, a navy blue blazer with black jeans or trousers is a generally avoided look. Try a red, green, or gray blazer instead.

Thanks to its casual status, the blazer can be easily paired with striped, checkered, or patterned shirts as well as a classic dress shirt. Wearing a tie is optional, although a belt is recommended.

Accessorize

Your choice of accessories depends on the event you're attending. If you're aiming for a semi-formal look, take inspiration from the suit and match your dress shoes and your belt. If you're looking to upgrade your crew-neck t-shirt, jeans, and stylish sneakers, try on a blazer and notice how you look for casual weekend drinks or a breezy summer party is elevated.

The blazer is what you make it. Experiment with incorporating pocket handkerchiefs, styling with different pants and trousers, and both dress and casual shoes. The only thing we don't recommend is bringing back the 1980s in a bad way by wearing a plain white undershirt under your blazer or by pairing it with a graphic t-shirt. There is, it turns out, such a thing as too casual.

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Looking Good, Feeling Better


As you continue to wear your suit jacket or blazer, you might begin to experiment with new styling trends. Go for it! While many people might view the suit jacket and the blazer as dull fashion staples, you know that you can achieve the look you want by using these pieces to their full potential. Once you know how to begin with the basics--fit, quality of design, matching colors, and adding great accessories--you can continue discovering your personal style wearing the blazer and suit jacket. We know you'll look sharp doing it!




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