A sports jacket or blazer combined with jeans means you’re doing one of two things. Dressing up, or dressing down. Which you’re engaged in will determine if you managed to pull the look off or just plain look like you pissed on your pants and had to wear jeans instead.
It’s fair to say that all sports jackets and blazers originated from the suit. Sports jackets were the solution to a more casual attire for gentlemen attending social functions in the nineteenth century. Blazers came into being in the twenties and were usually marked with a club or schools emblem as well as being in the organisations colour. They were more formal than the sports jackets which were looser in fit and had pocket flaps and a wider range of colour, material and patterns.
These days, blazers are usually taken to mean a jacket of one colour (should be worn with a pants of another colour) and retain their dressed down suit jacket style. Sports jackets still have the range of patterns and colour and are normally made from softer fabrics (e.g. tweed).
So here’s the thing. Blazers can be thought of as dressing down from a suit. Sports jackets can be thought of as dressing up from whatever three year old t-shirt you normally don. Both can be worn with jeans and look great if you follow some simple guidelines.
Lose the tie, tie pin and cuff links
A jacket and jeans means a casual look. A man cannot pull off the casual look if they accessorize with formal items. The top half of you will be formal, the bottom half casual and it just won’t work. If you are wearing jeans you absolutely must lose the tie pin and cuff links. A tie is borderline territory. At least wear it loose with the shirt collar button open.
The jacket and jeans combo is smart casual. That doesn’t mean you should look poor. Make sure the jacket fits right – the shoulders should not slope off, the back should not hang off and the jacket should not stretch around your beer belly. Neither should the jeans be hanging from your ass.
The shirt you wear is important too. Colour co-ordinating the shirt with the jacket and jeans is a must-do. If you’re unsure, play it safe with a white (and clean) shirt. Pick one with a soft collar. Formal shirts rarely have soft collars. To get a preppy look, throw a light cashmere sweater over the shirt but be wary of layering too much or bulking out the jacket. If you want to try something other than a shirt, like a t-shirt or light top, wear a sports jacket. A blazer and t-shirt looks fundamentally wrong. Kinda like your missus wearing a scarf with a bikini. Some things just look weird.
A bit of thought to the occasion will sort out the shoes. For a semi-formal work function lose the trainers and wear smart shoes or boots. If the shoes can be worn with a suit then you definitely should not be wearing them while attempting a jacket and jeans look. We’d nearly always plump for the boots, but at the same time avoid huge heels and buckles the size of Kansas. For a night at the club you could get away with trainers but avoid wearing bright white ones. It’ll make you look like a guy that doesn’t get out that often.
There is no hard and fast rule about which jeans you should wear. If you are wearing black jeans the jacket cannot be tweed or anything other than black. Which in itself means a white or black shirt – but a black shirt will have you looking like a funeral attendee. Stone washed jeans are the safest bet to match any type of sports jacket.
Some jackets are too formal looking to wear with jeans. Suit jackets typically have sharp lines along the cut, crisp shoulders and the fabric is very finely woven. In choosing a jacket to wear with jeans, select ones with soft features along the shoulders and a looser cut. The material should be rougher, from the smooth of a blazer right through to the tweed sports jacket. Two button jackets are good, three is too formal unless you are tall but even then we’d recommend sticking with two buttons.