The Professional Wardrobe, Tier 3

If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, you may want to go back and check them out.  As a reminder, Tiers 1 and 2 deal with the suit and the blazer respectively.  We are now going to turn our attention to Tier 3, the realm of the sportcoat.

In my career selling clothing and advising individuals regarding professional dress, the question of, “What exactly is a sportcoat?” comes up fairly frequently.  Simply said, a sportcoat is any coat designed to be worn with trousers but not as part of a suit.  While they can be in solid colors, like a blazer, they differ from the blazer in two ways.  First, blazers often retain brass or metal colored buttons, while the sportcoat does not.  Secondly, blazers frequently make use of patch pockets, while sportcoats most frequently have a flap pocket, more similarly to a suit.

While the sportcoat originated in outdoor sporting activities like hunting and fishing, it has become a much more sophisticated piece of clothing.  Worn in situations where a full suit is too much, a sportcoat can be paired with slacks, shirt and tie and be nearly even with the suit for most social and business functions.  paired with jeans and/or an open collared shirt, and the sportcoat gives an air of sophistication to an otherwise unfinished or casual look.

While the fabrics used can vary widely, from corduroy to tweed to leather to various fabric weaves, the sportcoat maximizes this variety.  Because of the variety, multiple looks and outfits can be created with a single sportcoat.

My suggestion is that a man should have at least as many suits as he is old in decades, but he can never have too many sportcoats.  while not as formal as the suit, this indispensible item of a gentleman’s wardrobe is sure to be used frequently, perhaps more frequently than any other part of the wardrobe.

When do you wear sportcoats?

A Gentleman’s Wardrobe: Tier 2

In the last posts, we discussed the idea of breaking a gentleman’s wardrobe into tiers, levels that give structure and understanding to the times and places that certain pieces should be worn and, conversely, when they should not be worn.  We also began discussing the first tier, which consists of suits and ties, the traditional domain of the business executive and banker.  Today, we will explore tier 2.

Tier 2 is all about the blazer, and if you already have two suits in your wardrobe, it is definitely time for a blazer.  A blazer splits the difference between the formality of tier 1 and the more casual clothing of tier 3 and 4, making it the ideal piece if you aren’t sure of a dress code for a gathering.  Put it with a tie, and you will fit in nicely with the suit set while not offending those that have gone with a business casual option.  The blazer is cut much like a suit coat, but is generally crafted from more durable weaves and from solid colors.  Blue is the most traditional, followed by black and gray, but blazers come in almost any color you can imagine.  One of the most famous of all blazers is the Green Jacket given to the winner of the Master’s PGA tournament, held at Augusta National Golf Course each year.

Blazers come to us via the UK, where they were first worn by boating and rowing clubs.  Modern blazers often have gold colored or brass buttons which hearken to the naval wear of the past.  Blazers can be both single or double breasted and can have either peak or notch lapels.  Blazers often have patch pockets at both the left chest and on the skirts at the waist, as opposed to suits which have besom pockets.  Occasionally the chest pocket will have an embroidered patch based on a coat of arms or logo prepared in a coat or arms presentation as a decoration.  Over the years, blazers have become synonymous with private schools, particularly prep schools, and as such carry with them the air of sophistication and money while being also less formal than a suit.

Because the blazer is a stand alone piece, matching trousers to it can be an uncomfortable task for someone not familiar with the process.  Typically, blazers should be matched with trousers of a different color than the blazer itself, with tan, olive and gray being common choices.  Once these two pieces have been identified, a shirt and tie can be selected.  In keeping with the tradition of the blazer, nautical themed ties and regimental striped ties are often chosen to complete the outfit, but any tie that compliments the look can be used.

Blazers can, and often are, used as part of a uniform, sometimes being paired with white slacks to emphasize its nautical heritage.