“I can go all over the world with just three outfits: a blue blazer and gray flannel pants, a gray flannel suit, and black tie.”
- Pierre Cardin
The word blazer is one of the most incorrectly applied terms in men’s fashion. It is typically used as a general reference to describe almost any suit-type jacket, but a man's “blazer” has a more specific meaning. Both a blazer and a sport coat are casual jackets that are worn on their own rather than as a part of a complete suit. Although used interchangeably, the difference between the two has more to do with their fabrication and styling. A sport coat is traditionally made with an earthy fabric like tweed or houndstooth with three buttons, flap pockets and sometimes an extra ticket pocket on one side. As the name suggests, a sport coat was once meant to assist in the untimely demise of cute, harmless animals like deer or rabbit in the English countryside. Men's blazers, on the other hand, are made of a sturdier fabric than a suit, yet smoother fabric than a sport jacket. It is usually thought of as single-breasted, but it can also come in a double-breasted ahoy matey version. Blazers also have patch pockets as opposed to flaps, and in the single-breasted variety, it comes with two metallic buttons for closure.
The polished buttons combined with a badge sewn onto the chest pocket reflect the naval birthplace of the first blazers. Although debate surrounds the exact history of the garment, one convenient tale points to the HMS Blazer and the crew’s smart uniform that included a short jacket to impress the queen in 1837. The confusion over the linguistic origin of “blazer” is fitting since it’s increasingly difficult to accurately apply it in an ever-growing sea of men’s jackets.
The classic navy blazer with gold buttons is certainly a look -- uniformish and country-clubby with a hint of pretentiousness. But a blazer doesn’t have to land you on a golf course in WASPville. Looking for men’s blazers without the traditional metallic accoutrements is a start. Finding the right blazer, however, has more to do with fit than anything else. The original blazers were meant to be roomier than their stuck-up suited counterparts, but that shouldn’t translate into wearing a shapeless sack. The last thing you want is your grandfather’s blazer that is two sizes too big and looks like it was made from airplane seat upholstery. Go for men’s blazers that are deconstructed sans 1980s shoulder pads so that the jacket follows the natural lines of the shoulder. It should also hug the body for a well-tailored appearance. Pair it with contrasting pants like gray trousers or denim to avoid the occasional salute or invitation to an incredibly lame cocktail party.
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