Introduction to the Sports Jacket
Few garments in a wardrobe can transform a man like a handsome sports jacket. Slipping it on over a dress shirt instantly changes how strangers perceive you. It can provide the right balance of professionalism in an environment where a suit would be overkill, and depending on the fabric and style can adapt itself to multiple situations.
- It enhances your silhouette – a well fitted sports jacket broadens & heightens a man’s shoulders, can slim the appearance of a bulging midsection, and creates a more naturally masculine appearance overall.
- It’s useful – a sports jacket keeps its wearer (or his companion) warm and has plenty of pockets for holding various items that would otherwise have to be uncomfortably carried in the trousers.
- It sets you apart – How many times have you shown up to a business casual event to find every male in attendance is dressed in khaki pants, a blue shirt, and red tie. Be the guy who ditches the tie and throws on a sports jacket (and trousers that fit/polished shoes). You’ll probably be mistaken for the man in charge, which isn’t a bad thing!
What Makes a Sports Jacket?
The Sport Jacket’s Fit
A sport jacket is more casual than a suit or even a blazer jacket and should fit on the body a bit looser (although the definition of looser is debatable). I personally like to have enough room so that I can wear layered clothing underneath and still drive my truck without feeling restricted in the back or having to remove the jacket. But fit is a very personal thing – in the end go with what suits your build and feels right when worn.
The Sports Jacket’s Fabric
Sports jacket fabrics can be made from wools and cottons of various weights and weaves. Typically we’ll see cotton fabric used in the summer and wools in the cooler months; blended fabrics can be used by those on a budget assuming the man-made fiber content is not more than 50%. Some of the most common weaves utilized in sports jackets are tweed, flannel, corduroy, camel hair, seersucker, and a wide range of worsted fabrics in patterns such as sharkskin, houndstooth, bird’s eye, and of course solid colors.
The Sports Jacket’s Style
A favorite aspect of a sports jacket, and what sets it apart clearly from a suit jacket, is the wide range of style options available. Many of these style options can be traced to the history of how the jacket was originally worn and used; first making its appearance in the hunting & shooting arenas one hundred years ago, it was designed with easily accessible patch pockets and leather patches on the shoulder and elbows to prevent wear. Other style options include ticket pockets, leather buttons, and building the sports coat to have expandable pleats on the back to give greater flexibility in movement.
What to Wear with a Sports Jacket
The Sports Jacket Shirt
A sports jacket is most appropriately paired with a dress shirt. When wearing them together, the same rules apply as when wearing a suit – try to ensure ¼ to ½ inch of cuff shows and about ½ inch of the top of the collar above the jacket’s collar. Casual shirts with button cuffs and button-down or spread collars are at home here, as well as check and wide/multicolor stripe patterns. I am not a fan of designer T-shirts or polo shirts being worn with a sports jacket – however if you are in the right environment (see this picture of Glen Palmer and Lloyd Boston )-it can be pulled off. Here is a picture of a young man who knows how to wear a corduroy sports jacket and dress shirt with style !
The Sports Jacket and Trousers
The most important consideration in your trouser selection (assuming they are clean and well kept) is not to have them closely match the jacket. For a sports jacket is an “odd jacket,” purposely designed to be single in a world of matching suits. To match a solid colored sports coat with a pair of similar trousers will have you looking like you’re wearing a bad suit. Grey flannel or cotton trousers in khaki, tan, or brown are a natural pair with a patterned sports coat – their neutral color does not compete for attention with the jacket which is exactly what you want. Although the Houndstooth Kid  will cringe, I also feel tasteful denim can be worn successfully with a sports jacket.
Your choice of footwear is as wide as the combinations of the above garments. But be aware that it is the 2nd most important item you’ll be wearing, and that by going too casual here you’ll bring the entire ensemble down to your casual footwear’s level. Hence a pair of Converse can be worn, but only if you’re an artist or Phil Collins. For the rest of us I recommend at least a leather loafer or classic oxford; if you wish to dress up the feet a bit more have a look at this custom pair from Leffot.