You want to look snappy for a job interview or suave for a friend’s wedding. You look at the options in your closet and decide between a blazer or a suit jacket–which is best for the occasion at hand? For that matter, what exactly is the difference when you compare a blazer to a suit jacket?
The biggest difference between a blazer and a suit jacket is that a blazer is a stand-alone garment, while a suit jacket always comes with matching pants. Another key difference is that blazers almost always feature one solid color, while suit jackets may use patterned fabric. Both a blazer and a suit jacket can work in an office setting, but a suit jacket has more formality.
In this article, you will find out what makes a blazer and a suit jacket different. You will discover the best time and place to wear each stylish garment. Finally, you will find tips on the differences between a blazer, suit jacket, sport coat, and tuxedo.
What is a Blazer?
A blazer is a slightly less formal stand-alone jacket commonly worn with a button-down dress shirt. It has sharper lines than a sports jacket but a less formal cut than most suit jackets. Plus, a blazer typically features a solid shade of fabric rather than a patterned or tweed wool, like a suit jacket might.
Blazers have their history in the British Navy, which eventually inspired one of the boating clubs at Cambridge to adopt the less form jacket as its official uniform. Today, many school uniforms and clubs still require a blazer as an official part of the uniform!
Blazers do have a bit of a nautical jibe about them even today. Many of these looser jackets still feature a double-breasted cut. Many blazers also style shiny metallic or horn buttons like old-school military uniforms. Of course, you can find tons of variations in the cut and style of blazers–some include detail like piping along the cuffs of the sleeve, and others.
A blazer looks just as good with a nice pair of jeans as it does with dress pants or khakis. Plus, you can wear it over a sweater during winter for a stylish upgrade to your work wear!
What is a Suit Jacket?
A suit jacket serves as the top half of a suit with matching pants or skirts for men and women. In both cases, the jacket and bottom will use matching fabric. Suit jackets often have tailored, formal lines, as you should wear them over nothing but a well-fitted dress shirt.
You can find suit jackets in many different cuts and styles, as fashion does change over time! The rectangular, boxy suit styles of the 80s no longer look appealing today, for example. These days, a more fitted look with sharp shoulder lines holds sway. Suit jackets almost always have a tighter fight around the torso than a blazer.
Some workplace dress codes may require you to wear a suit jacket to the office. More often in the modern era, men and women save suits for formal occasions ranging from funerals to weddings to dinners at classy restaurants.
Suit jackets often feature several finely crafted details like lined pockets, lapels, and vents to add to the air of sophistication.
Depending on your price point, you can purchase suit jackets made of high-quality fabrics like wool, cotton, or linen. Ready-wear suits bought off the rack more often use polyester. You can find suits in pretty much any color you want, but the most common colors of fabric range from muted tans and pale greys to black.
Blazer Vs Suit Jacket: Key Points
|Formality||Semi-formal and perfect for office wear||Very formal, suitable for funerals, weddings, and parties|
|Style||Has a looser cut and no lining, allowing it to pair with a dress shirt or more casual t-shirt or sweater combos.||Tailored lines and elegant lining characterizes the style of the suit jacket. This kind of jacket looks best with a traditional button-down shirt.|
|Buttons||Can have anywhere from zero to three or four buttons||Always has a button closure, with formal rules for when to button and unbutton them|
|Material||Varies a lot, but often cheaper fabric for a more casual appearance||Varies a lot, but leans more toward pricey fabric like wool|
|Cost||Ranges in price from $25-$200 on average||Ranges in price from $200-$2,000 on average|
|Best Used For||Business casual wear, work outings, or low-key dates||Formal events like weddings, funerals, or fancy date nights.|
What is the Difference Between Blazer and Suit Jacket?
The biggest difference between blazers and suit jackets is that blazers stand alone as a garment to pair with another outfit, while suit jackets always come with matching pants. Another big difference between the two types of jackets is that suit coats often have a closer fit and more formal lines than blazers.
One of the key distinctions between a suit jacket and a blazer is that a suit jacket almost always has a more formal appearance.
Suits often have a closer-fitting cut and sharper lines than blazers. That said, lighter-colored suits often have a semi-formal style, while darker-colored suits work better for extremely formal settings.
Is a blazer formal wear? Not exactly. Most of the time, blazers present more of a business-casual style than a formal style.
You can pair a blazer with a nice dress shirt and trousers and get away with wearing this outfit to a wedding or outdoor party. But the looser cut of the blazer makes it a less formal choice than a suit.
Plus, you can match a blazer with a t-shirt, a sweater, or even sneakers just as easily as you can match your blazer with a shirt and tie combo. The bottom line is that a blazer has much more flexibility but less formality than a suit.
Blazers and suit jackets also have some significant differences in style, such as the overall cut and the details in each style of garment.
One of the reasons blazers look a bit less formal than suit jackets is that suit coats often have padded shoulders. Blazers typically do not, giving them a softer appearance.
Suit jackets may also incorporate some fancy details that blazers often lack. For one, suits almost always use a fancy lining. They also often have lined lapels, pockets, and vents–or flaps–to allow easy movement. Every detail of a suit jacket should look finished and elegant.
Blazers can have elegant touches, but they rarely have a lining and do not usually have fancy lapels.
Are blazers shorter than suit jackets? Though this is not a hard and fast rule, blazers often have a slightly shorter length than suit jackets.
The rule of thumb is that you should feel the hem of your suit jacket on the inside of your fingers if you curl up your hand with your arms hanging loose at your sides. The hem of a blazer often falls just a tad higher, giving it a more casual, sporty vibe.
Blazers often feature buttons, and suit jackets always include buttons. Neither kind of jacket uses a different method of closure. On top of this, blazer buttons always have a contrasting color to the shade of the fabric, while suit buttons might match the suit.
For women’s suit jackets or blazers, adding more buttons often increases the formality of the attire. Women’s blazers can come with no buttons and look informal, or with three buttons and a tailored shape that gives the jacket a much more formal style.
Men’s suit jackets have special rules for how and when to fasten the buttons. For a one-button suit, always button the jacket when you stand up and unbutton it when you sit down. For a two-button jacket, you button and unbutton only the top button, and for a three-button jacket, you follow the same rules for sitting and standing but only button and unbutton the middle button. This helps the suit hang right as you sit or stand.
You don’t have to worry about these rules if you wear a blazer because it has a less formal style and does not fit you as tightly.
Both suits and blazers can use various types of material, though suits tend to use more expensive fabrics more often than blazers. Most of the time, blazers feature a solid-colored fabric as well, instead of patterned fabric.
High-end suits almost always contain wool fabric. This can come in various weights and textures and feature intricate weaves like a tweed design or pinstripes. Wool has a soft texture and breathes well, which makes it perfect for an elegant and comfortable jacket.
Suits also commonly use cotton or linen fabric. And, of course, many off-the-rack suit jackets do feature polyester fabric and rayon lining as well.
While you can find plenty of brands that sell blazers made out of wool, it is equally common to find even high-end blazers made out of cotton or other slightly less formal material.
Blazers generally cost much less than suit jackets, though a suit jacket always comes with pants or a skirt. Blazers cost roughly $25-$250, while suits can easily cost anywhere from $200-$2,000!
Ready-wear blazers bought at a department store will probably only set you back by $25-$50. Even an off-the-rack suit may cost $100-$200, though.
Of course, brand-name or high-end blazers and suits do cost more. Classy blazers could cost over $200. But luxury suits often cost between $1,000-$2,000.
There is some overlap between common uses of blazers and suit jackets, but suit jackets typically work best for formal events, while blazers work best for business casual or more casual events.
Of course, style rules are made to be broken! Plenty of people wear a blazer to a wedding, for example.
Suit jackets often work best for:
- Formal workplaces, such as legal offices, have a strict dress code.
- Job interviews, unless you know that the employer prefers a casual style.
- Funerals–but always wear a black suit! Perhaps it is an outdated tradition, but it symbolizes respect and solemnity on a sad occasion.
- Weddings–though this can depend on the dress code noted in the invite. If the invitation specifies “black tie,” you should technically wear a tux instead of a suit. However, a stylish suit in a dark color often looks just as formal!
Blazers often work best for:
- A business-casual workplace dress code. You can move up or down the scale of formality by pairing a blazer with a dress shirt or with something more casual like a sweater.
- Any party, outing, or work event you need to attend when you don’t know how formal or informal everyone else will dress.
- To look like a grown-up when you go on a date or to a nice dinner.
Can You Wear a Suit Jacket as a Blazer?
You can use a suit jacket instead of a blazer in some cases, though this swap works best if the suit jacket contains certain types of fabric and details.
A plain navy suit jacket without a pocket square can look similar to the average blazer.
- A suit jacket made with thicker, more textured fabric can stand alone in place of a blazer in many cases. A suit jacket made with a fine or delicate fabric will look best when you keep it with its original suit pants. Linen, cotton, or flannel suit jackets can all work great when worn alone as blazers in many cases.
- Does the suit jacket have pinstripes? If so, don’t use it in place of a blazer. Pinstripes have a formal style that does not pair well, matched with khakis or jeans.
- Does the suit jacket have padded shoulders or super-tight tailoring? Once again, these elements look more formal and suit-specific. Keep those jackets to wear as a full suit, not in place of a blazer.
Blazer vs Sport Coat with Jeans
A sports coat looks more casual than a blazer and often pairs more easily with jeans, though you can also wear some blazers with jeans for informal events.
First, sports coats and blazers are not the same things. It’s easy to confuse them because they both have a more informal style than a suit jacket, but they look quite different.
Sport coats come from the tradition of wearing sturdy tweed jackets for outdoor activities like riding or hunting. These jackets have a looser cut and almost always contain a thicker, patterned fabric. Because they have a more rough-and-ready appearance, sports coats work well for daytime events, casual outings, or low-key evenings like dinner with friends.
The patterned fabric of a sports coat makes it easy to pair with jeans. Plus, the looser cut makes it more comfortable to wear with a casual outfit!
That said, you can pair some blazers with jeans as well. Look for blazers that have thicker fabric and less obvious buttons. That way, your jacket will not look more formal than your jeans.
Can I Wear a Blazer to a Wedding?
Whether or not you can wear a blazer to a wedding depends on the dress code of the event. If the wedding invitation specifies cocktail attire, go for it! Pair your blazer with a nice shirt and trousers, or even dress it up with a tie if you like.
But if the wedding is a black tie event, you may want to leave the blazer on the hanger and put on a nice suit or even a tux instead. Black-tie events usually take place in the evening and have the most formal attire requirements. A morning or afternoon wedding will likely have a more informal dress code.
If the wedding invitation does not tell you what kind of dress to wear, take a guess based on the location. Church weddings often have a formal air about them, but an outdoor wedding held on a farm will likely have a more casual air.
Suit Vs Blazer Vs Tuxedo
The biggest difference between a suit jacket, blazer, and tuxedo jacket is the level of formality associated with each style.
Blazers have the least formal style. As a single item meant to pair with non-matching trousers, jeans, or khakis, this more casual jacket works best for a day at the office or a school reunion.
Suit jackets can have a semi-formal to formal style, depending on the cut of the suit and the type of material it contains. Fine wool suits, especially in dark-colored or pinstripe fabric, look very formal. You can wear a suit jacket to many formal events like weddings and funerals.
A tuxedo has the most formal style of the three types of jackets. You typically reserve this sleek number for black-tie events like galas, evening weddings, or formal banquets.
Sports Jacket vs Suit Jacket vs Blazer
The key difference between a sports jacket, a suit jacket, and a blazer is that each has a distinct level of formality that makes it best suited for particular events.
A sports jacket has a loose cut and is the most casual style of the three types of jackets. You can wear this jacket to an outdoor event like a picnic, but you would not want to wear it to a wedding.
A suit jacket is the most formal of these three styles and often looks more suited to the office than a night out at the bar or an outdoor event. You can wear a suit to court, a wedding, a funeral, and many workplaces.
A blazer falls somewhere between these two styles. It has a closer fit than a sports jacket, making it look a tad more classy. But it has fewer fancy detail and a looser fit than most suit jackets.
You can often wear a blazer paired with jeans for a casual but stylish look for a night out. You can also wear a blazer with dress pants and a button-down to look nice at the office. It is the most versatile of the three styles of jackets.
Sport Coat vs Suit Jacket
The biggest difference between a sport coat and a suit jacket is that a sport coat has a looser style, making it less normal than a suit jacket.
Historically, a sport coat or sports jacket was the item a wealthy man would wear while wandering about his estate. He might also wear it in the morning as this was considered the less formal time of day.
The loose shape of the sport coat means that you can easily layer other sweaters or shirts beneath it for warmth. Sometimes this style of jacket also includes old-fashioned details like elbow patches. Like a blazer, this jacket serves as a standalone piece and does not come with matching pants.
In contrast, a suit jacket has a more formal, fitted style. It has a lining and a close shape designed to wear over nothing but a dress shirt. Plus, it always comes with matching pants.
Can You Wear a Suit Jacket With Jeans?
While it is easier to pair a blazer with jeans, you can wear some suit jackets with jeans if you match the two garments with care. The key to this process is that you want to wear a less formal-looking suit jacket and a more formal-looking pair of jeans!
First, start by finding a suit jacket in a solid color, such as navy blue. Make sure the fabric does not include a pattern such as pinstripes, as this always looks more formal.
Second, look for a simple cut in the suit jacket–you don’t want a double-breasted number here!
Next, pick dark-wash jeans in a fairly slim cut. This tailored fit will make them look more formal and better match the suit jacket.
Finally, go with shoes that fall somewhere in the middle, You don’t want to wear sneakers, but you also don’t want to wear polished formal shoes!
The main difference between a blazer and a suit jacket is that a blazer stands alone, but a suit jacket always has matching pants or skirts. Another big distinction between the two styles is that suit jackets usually have a tighter, more formal cut, while blazers have a looser style that looks more casual. Blazers and suit jackets both have buttons, but blazer buttons stand out from the jacket because they have contrasting colors.
Blazers work best for casual or semi-formal events like work parties, afternoon dates, or outdoor weddings. Suit jackets can fit in at the office or a funeral or wedding, though lighter-colored suit jackets have a less formal appearance than darker-colored suit jackets.