The five styles of suit jackets
by Clare Sheng
There is a plethora of suit styles, each with differing levels of formality. From casual sports jackets through to tails, these are the five most common styles of suit jackets and how they should be worn.
1. Basic suit jacket
A basic suit jacket can be worn as part of a two- or three-piece suit, and pure wool or wool blends are the best quality fabrics to look for. This is a more informal suit, meaning that unlike a tuxedo, there are fewer rules related to details such as the lapel and pockets.
Most often, these jackets have a notched lapel, which is occasionally peaked, and they are made in single- and double-breasted styles. A basic suit jacket will commonly have flap pockets and a narrow ticket pocket on the right-hand side (above the flap pocket). The sleeves are finished with a plain hem or a cuff .
How to wear a basic suit jacket:
• Pair with matching trousers that have a flat or pleated front (it’s a good idea to get two pairs of suit pants, as these wear out faster than the jacket).
• Due to its versatility, it can also be paired with chinos and dark jeans for a more casual look.
• Wear your suit with shirts in complementary colours such as white, grey and blue.
• Try to avoid a black suit, as it makes a very bold statement and is usually reserved for formal evening events or occasions such as funerals.
2. Dinner suit jacket
The dinner suit is also known as a tuxedo. A proper tuxedo is always made in navy or black. In terms of the jacket, there are certain markers of a good tuxedo.
The lapel should be faced with satin or grosgrain, in a shawl or peak shape (never notched). The pockets are jetted – if the jacket has flaps, these should be tucked in – and there is no ticket pocket. Finally, the buttons should be covered in the same fabric as the lapel. Avoid buttons that are plastic, horn or metal.
How to wear a dinner suit jacket:
• Wear with tuxedo trousers (these have a satin strip running down the side of the leg and are often cuffed).
• Use a cummerbund in the same colour as the lapel to cover the waistband, or alternatively use braces to hold up the trousers (never wear a belt).
• Always wear your tuxedo with a dress shirt that has a pleated or textured front, as well as studs or a covered panel to hide the buttons.
• Finish the suit with a black or white self-tie bow tie.
• Your shoes should be polished dress shoes.
Tails is a very formal look reserved for white tie occasions. Given the formality of this style of suit, you rarely see tails worn.
The jacket has a long, rounded back like a tail. All of the other elements are similar to the dinner suit jacket outlined above.
How to wear tails:
• Wear with a white bow tie for ‘white tie’ events, and sometimes a cravat.
• The accompanying trousers are black or grey, pleated often cuffed.
• You will often see a white waistcoat worn with the suit.
• The look is finished with a top hat and dress shoes.
4. Sports jacket
This is a casual jacket that has more breathability. It is constructed with a softer finish – generally from cotton, linen, wool and occasionally a silk blend, and is usually half-lined.
For a more relaxed look, there is less shoulder padding in a sports jacket. These jackets can be worn in many different colours and are a great way to inject bright colours such as red and light blue into your wardrobe. Details such as elbow patches and different types of pockets (patch or flap) can be added and played around with.
How to wear a sports jacket:
• Usually there are no matching trousers for sports jackets, so you can:
• Wear with jeans and chinos for a dressed-down look.
• Wear with suit trousers to slightly tone down the office look for after-work occasions.
• A pocket square is a nice finishing touch.
Blazers are a descendent of naval uniforms and should be in dark blue. When you imagine a blazer, think school uniforms, but with a more mature style.
The shape of a blazer is more structured than a sports jacket. They are generally squarish with wide shoulder pads, a notched lapel and the pockets are patched on. Blazers are usually made with dense and heavy wool such as worsted wool serge, and gold metal buttons, gold stripes and epaulets are common features.
How to wear a blazer:
• Pair with check trousers or light-coloured chinos.
• Overall, the look is preppy, and can be worn as an upscale sports jacket.