Dressing inappropriately for an occasion can be embarrassing, regardless of whether you have over- or underdressed. While sport coats and blazers are versatile wardrobe pieces appropriate for a variety of occasions and locations, they are not always the right choice. Understanding etiquette for when sport coats and blazers are and are not appropriate will help you stand out for the right reasons.
Blazers vs. Sport Coats
According to Nick Sullivan of Esquire Magazine, the difference between a blazer and a sport coat is the result of each jacket's origin. While many people use the terms interchangeably, the blazer is actually a jacket with its origins in sailing. Blazers are traditionally blue, with patch pockets and gold or silver buttons. Sport coats, on the other hand, are rooted in the sport of hunting. Therefore, sport coats are generally made of softer fabric, have flap pockets and echo the more "rustic" appearance of sporting jackets. Usually, for any occasion where one is appropriate attire, the other will also work.
Dress etiquette on the job is important, since mistakes can cause you not only to stand out, but also to appear unprofessional. According to Emily Post, blazers and sport coats are appropriate for a "dressy casual" or "business casual" office. Be sure to take note of what other employees wear; casual Friday might be an opportunity to wear a sport coat or blazer with jeans.
A blazer or sport coat can be the perfect solution when you are not sure how dressy an event is. Whether you are dining out with the boss, going on a first date or attending an event at an acquaintance's house, a sport coat or blazer can help you show up dressy but still have the ability to tone down your look by removing the jacket if the rest of the company is dressed more casually. Also, if you receive an invitation that says "dressy casual," "business casual" or "beach casual," a sport coat or blazer is a good choice.
Unless stated otherwise on the invitations, some formal events like weddings can be appropriate places to wear sport coats or blazers. Destination weddings, afternoon weddings, casual weddings and rehearsal dinners are all good times for sport coats or blazers, as are other events like christenings and graduations.
A sport coat or blazer is an excellent wardrobe piece to travel with, since you can wear the same jacket with so many different pieces; you can dress for a variety of occasions with just a few additional articles of clothing. Carnival Cruises suggests a sport coat for gentlemen for dining; in fact, a sport coat will even suffice for their "Elegant Dress Code" events.
Do not substitute a blazer or sport coat when a formal suit or tuxedo is required. Events calling for "white tie," "black tie," "creative black tie," "semi-formal" or "black tie optional" require either a suit or tuxedo.