Updated: April 28, 2020.
The Beatles, the Las Vegas Strip, the Navy Blazer.
The navy blazer is iconic in the world of menswear. Not only does it look amazing, but it’s one of the most interchangeable pieces in menswear that bridges the gap between smart and casual.
It’s the second feature in our Essential Men’s Style Series and for good reason. It’s an ultra versatile garment that can be worn with everything from formal suiting down to slim fit dark blue jeans and a basic t-shirt.
In this article we’re going to discuss the differences between a blazer, sport coat and suit jacket, how to wear a navy blue blazer, how it should fit, and where to buy it at various price points.
THE NAVY BLUE BLAZER: AN ABRIDGED HISTORY
What we now know as the “navy” blazer actually started off as red. Arriving from England in 1825, members of Lady Margaret Boat Club, the name of St. John’s College rowing club at Cambridge wore red jackets.
The blazer became ubiquitous in clubs, indicating membership. Not only did men wear blazers to watch sporting events, but also while playing sports like cricket and tennis.
The blazer/sport coat became widespread in various colors, patterns and stripes. Today, the navy blue blazer is a cornerstone worn by savvy and stylish men who understand the importance of style.
According to Bernhard Roetzel’s exemplary Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion, the classic navy blue blazer is double breasted, and has six golden gilt buttons. It’s always dark blue, has two side vents, a breast pocket and two pockets with flaps. Additionally, blue worsted serge is the classic fabric for the navy blue blazer.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BLAZER, SPORT COAT, AND SUIT JACKET
Today, the term “blazer” and “sport coat” are often used interchangeably, but historically there’s a difference. Let’s first discuss what separates a blazer from a sport coat.
Blazer vs Sport Coat
A sport coat is inherently more casual than a blazer, making it the least formal of the 3 jacket types. They are typically made of visibly textured fabrics like tweed or corduroy, while a blazer can be made of those fabrics as well.
Another distinguishing feature of a sport coat is its bolder patterns and colors, but a blazer can be bold and in a variety of colors too. Historically speaking, the sport coat was worn during “sporting” activities, hence the name. But since there’s little actual difference between the two, I just naturally default to saying blazer.
Blazer vs Suit Jacket
A suit jacket should always be worn with the pants that it was meant to be paired with, as it’s a mistake to wear a suit jacket with chinos or jeans. A blazer can be worn as a separate, but not a suit jacket. And a blazer can also be worn with denim or chinos, but a suit jacket should not.
The suit jacket is dressier than a blazer and is made of finer woolen fabric, whereas the blazer is often made heavier weighted fabrics. One final differentiator is that traditionally, the navy blue blazer has gold buttons, while suit jacket does not.
The bottom line:
Blazers/sport coats are more versatile than a suit jacket. Don’t make the mistake of wearing a suit jacket as a separate.
BLUE BLAZER WITH GOLD BUTTONS?
Gold buttons with a navy blazer is vintage. As mentioned before, navy blazers traditionally had 6 gold buttons. Sure it’s old school and may seem out of touch with today’s modern styles, but if that’s the vibe you’re going for, I’d say go for it.
Farther down this article, you’ll find an example of Nick Wooster pulling off the navy blazer with gold buttons with incredible style. (see below)
NAVY BLAZER OUTFIT IDEAS
One of the best things about a navy blue blazer is its interchangeability.
Find one with the right fabric weight and it has the potential to be worn year round. According to menswear and tailoring expert, Dan Trepanier, founder of Articles of Style, a 9-10 oz. weight can pass for all 4 seasons. Not that you would wear the same blazer year round, but who says you can’t.
So how do you rock a navy blazer? Let me count the ways.
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Scenario 1: Casual Cool Spring
The winter doldrums have passed and there’s nothing quite like that springtime feeling in the air. It’s a time for white trainers, the reemergence of white jeans, and stylish shades. And of course the light bomber jackets, lighter wash jeans, and keeping light on your feet.
Let’s start things off by getting real casual in spring with a Breton striped shirt (shirt above is from H&M, purchased ages ago), and light olive chinos to dress down the navy blue blazer.
And then you can up the casualness with a pair of neutral white trainers (the much sought after Nike Killshot 2 sneakers by J.Crew, now in stock). Finally, add some black matte shades with polarized reflective lenses for maximum casual cool.
How To Style A Navy Blue Blazer This Spring
The navy blazer was ready-made for the spring season. You can go with one of my favorite aesthetics which is a high-low approach where you pair formal pieces with more casual ones.
For example, pair the navy blazer with light wash or classic wash jeans, a light blue button up shirt and finish things of with a neck tie and crisp, white pocket square for a casual, yet classy get-up. Alternatively you can ditch the tie, but instead of jeans opt for khaki pants and tan chukkas for casual yet still elevated look.
How To Wear A Navy Blazer With Jeans
And then for the third look below is another styling example with light was jeans. It pair really well with the previously mentioned striped shirt, while a royal blue blazer helps to achieve balance with the look. Finally throw on a pair of sunglasses and you’ll look cool as ever.
The fourth look below is great because it’s an ultra-casual approach to wearing the navy blue blazer. Notice the jacket is super sharp and refined with a perfect fit. This helps to elevate the look into smart casual territory.
I also like how the light grey sweatshirt is clean and well-fitted along with the white jeans with a slight pinroll, making for an overall casual, cool look. And finally, the slip on shoes, although lighter in shade to the navy blazer, still mirrors the color and so there’s still a semblance of harmony.
How To Wear A Navy Blazer With Chinos
Lastly, the fifth look works in the same way that the first one does. There’s clean tailoring going on, a sharp, solid necktie that matches the navy blazer, but instead of a solid shirt, a patterned gingham check for visual interest.
Down low he’s wearing olive chinos which is an excellent warm weather color choice, not to mention green and blue are a notably fine color pairing. Can’t forget the loafers on the feet. Just as you can wear boots with a blazer, you can rock brown penny or tassel loafers too.
Scenario 2: Simple In Summer
“Summer time Chi…ahhh!”
Kanye summed up the feeling of summer with a simple line. Of course you don’t have to live in Chicago to know the sweet sensations of summer style. Surely, it’s a time for shorts, boat shoes and loafers on the regular. Also don’t forget the vibrant colors, fun prints, and light weight fabrics like chambray and linen to put in steady rotation.
Remember to keep things simple in summer. You can try this dressed down look that will have you feeling the “ahhh!” all summer long.
White jeans, a braided belt paired with tan Sperry boat shoes exudes a maritime vibe. A light-weight chambray fabric dress shirt will help to keep you cool. Next you can throw on aviators and a striped nato strapped watch because it’s summer after all.
Finally, finish the simple in summer look off with a sliver of white pocket square for that subtle attention to detail that really makes all the difference. Alternatively, you could swap the leather braided belt for a navy, red striped canvas or nylon braided belt for an extra pop of color.
How To Style A Navy Blazer This Summer
This summer you can take cues from the springtime styles above, but take things up a few notches. This includes more accessorizing with belts, watches, pocket squares, sunglasses and tie bar. You can also introduce fun and brighter colors like white, yellow or red.
How To Wear A Blue Blazer With White Pants
The first two looks mirror the smart casual spring outfits from above, except instead of blue jeans or khakis, go for white or off-white pants.
These are two ultra-stylish outfits anchored by the navy blazer and screams warm weather due to the white pants, casual sneakers and brown loafers. Go sans tie for a more casual, bad boy vibe or knot up with the tie for a more refined, put together and professional look.
How To Wear Shorts With A Navy Blazer
It’s not for everyone, but it can be done. If you’re feeling sartorially inclined, give it a shot. The key here is to either dress it down completely or dress it up all the way.
Look 3 below features a young fellow wearing sunglasses, white shorts with a crimson t-shirt. You can’t get more casual than a t-shirt with a blazer combination. It works though, and it’s a decidedly summer get-up.
As for the 4th look featuring Nick Wooster, he took the completely opposite approach and dressed up the shorts and blazer with a white dress shirt and slim neck tie. First and foremost, the fit is on point. And I love the details of his jacket from the ticket pocket to the white accent stitching.
The interesting thing here is that the blazer looks to be less structured than look 3’s blazer, but remember the high-low approach that I mentioned earlier in the article? Nick is doing and doing it very well here.
Shorts are inherently casual, but his shorts seem to be dressier, almost like dress shorts (oxymoron?). What I love most about his blazer and shorts look is that the colors are muted, but it screams F-YOU, I don’t care what you think.
And this is why he’s Nick Wooster. He wears what he wants and does it confidently and in style. Notice the buttons, he even went with the gold buttons…
Scenario 3: Fashion Forward Fall
The crisp, cool, autumn breeze is a reminder that winter is coming. But first, stylish men from lands far and wide rejoice, for it’s the season to embrace layers. There’s a reason men seem more fashion forward come fall season. Because autumn is the perfect time to flex those sartorial muscles.
This getup features a burgundy, dotted knit tie that pairs perfectly with navy. Speaking of navy, the navy suede cap-toe boots are ideal for the fall season.
Furthermore, you can’t go wrong with a nicely tailored pair of dark wash denim in any season. Finally, the addition of accessories like a thin leather bracelet and cotton pocket square with accents of both blue and red, provide little details that are sure to elevate your style.
How To Style A Navy Blazer This Fall
Come autumn comes the layers, but it’s not all drab. You can still play with rich colors like burgundy, green and light blue. It’s the perfect season to go more formal.
How To Wear A Blazer Under A Topcoat
The first look below keeps things casual with a blue blazer paired with dark wash jeans and a blue gingham check shirt. And then a topcoat layered over top for warmth.
It’s an easy and simple look that anyone can put together without too much thought. Notice the shirt is untucked here which can look sloppy, however it works here because of the more casual nature of jeans as well as the topcoat as an outer layer.
How To Wear A Navy Blazer Shirt Tie Combo
A key here is to stick with a lighter color for the shirt and a darker color for the tie. There are instances where you see a dark shirt with a light tie and it just looks weird, like a white tie on black shirt for example.
In the examples below we have a white shirt with a dark grey or black tie, a light blue shirt with a burgundy tie and black skinny tie against a white shirt.
Notice how the first two shirt, tie and blazer combos are more refined with pleated and cuffed dress pants/chinos, compared to the more casual look with jeans, no belt, and double monk straps with the strap loosened. Either aesthetic works, it just depends on your personal style.
How To Wear A Navy Blazer Denim Jacket Pairing
Remember the high-low approach? Here it is in action yet again. The more formal blue blazer is paired with a short cropped, light wash denim jacket and green camo pants. Talk about a bold look, but it works. He’s even playing with a bowtie and grounding the look with a pair of brown derbies.
In order for this to work in terms of fit – the jean jacket has to fit snug and the blazer should have a bit of breathing room or else it will be way too uncomfortable.
Scenario 4: Keeping Warm Winter
When it’s cold outside and all you really want to do is stay in and keep warm, one of the best ways to do that is with thick layers and protecting ya neck.
This winter getup features a turtleneck in beige, also known as the roll neck sweater. I like how it contrasts against the navy blazer and charcoal wool pants. For the shoes, I went with the always stylish double monk strap in tan, walnut, cognac, whatever you want to call it.
I consider the monk strap not essential for a man’s shoe collection, but a nice to have because of its bold look. Finally you can top things off with a topcoat or peacoat of choice. The beauty of this outfit is in its simplicity. And in menswear, simple is good.
Of course you can boot up if you’d like as that would be more appropriate for the cold weather. I’m in the market for a pair of dress boots and have been eying the classy Allen Edmond’s Dalton in a chocolate-brown for a while now. That would be go perfectly with this getup.
How To Style A Navy Blazer This Winter
Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean you still can’t be stylish with the navy blazer. Starting with camel top coats to lightweight vests, and winter accessories like scarves and hats all the way to turtlenecks and cardigan sweaters — there’s plenty you can do to rock the blue blazer in style.
How To Wear A Vest Under A Blazer
The key here is to wear a lightweight padded vest. If there’s too much weight, you’ll look like the Michelin Man and you’ll have a difficult time getting your blazer to fit over top, plus it will look pretty bad.
By keeping things lightweight, it ensures a more streamlined, clean look that will allow for you to dress things up with a necktie while having that extra layer for added warmth.
How To Accessorize With A Blazer
Winter is all about accessories like scarves, gloves and hats. When you pull out these accessories, it’s a good idea to pair it with an overcoat like a camel coat or grey topcoat. It looks strange wearing accessories with the blazer alone.
The great things about an overcoat is that it’s designed to have extra room to wear over top of a blazer or suit jacket without being too restricting. Plus it looks extra stylish pairing your winter accessories with your blazer and topcoat whether you’re wearing jeans or dress pants.
How To Wear A Turtleneck Or Cardigan Sweater With A Blazer
One of my favorite winter moves is to wear a turtleneck sweater underneath a blazer. If it’s a thick rollneck, you’ll want to be sure that there’s enough room to layer the jacket over top.
If it’s too tight, you’ll loose circulation in your arms and look like you’re about to burst at the seams, not a good look. Feel free to tuck in the sweater or leave it out, it’s up to you.
And as for the cardigan, a lightweight material goes well under a navy blazer. The example below is the perfect fit and the green goes particularly well with the shade of blue, mirroring the colors in the necktie, lapel flower and pocket square. It’s an excellent winter getup.
HOW A NAVY BLAZER/SPORT COAT SHOULD FIT
Instead of repeating myself, here’s an article I wrote for The Dark Knot. It features tips for buying a suit off the rack and nailing the fit. You can find the ‘fit’ part in the first section of the article.
As a slight aside, but still relevant to the topic at hand, I found this awesome visual guide in Esquire’s Big Black Book Fall/Winter guide back in 2013 on the anatomy of a blazer/sport coat. I enjoyed it and thought you would too.
WHERE TO BUY A NAVY BLUE BLAZER (3 PRICE POINTS)
For your convenience, I’ve curated my picks of where to buy a navy blazer from across the web at various price points. Many of these blazers have received good reviews. Be sure to check these out if you’re in the market for a new navy blazer.
Bonobos | Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer
Banana Republic | Slim Italian Herringbone Blazer
Express | Extra Slim Navy Cotton Stretch Blazer
Topman | Twill Navy Blazer/Jacket
Suitsupply | Havana Plain Blue Blazer
Brooks Brothers | Cotton Navy Blazer/Sport Coat
J.Crew | Ludlow Slim-Fit Italian Cotton Suit Jacket
WRAPPING THINGS UP
Michael Jordan, the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Navy Blue Blazer.
The legendary navy blue blazer is an icon in its own right. Not only is it one of the most versatile garments in menswear—a well-fitted navy blazer instantly makes a man appear more stylish.
In this article you got a quick history lesson on the navy blazer, learned about differences between the three jacket types, a plethora of ways to wear a navy blazer, and where you can buy one at 3 different price points.
And whether you own one or not, it’s undeniable that the navy blazer is a men’s style essential that continues to endure as a staple in the modern man’s wardrobe.
I hope this was helpful in illustrating why the navy blazer is an essential that every man can benefit from having in his wardrobe. If you liked this article, you can check the out the other features in our Essential Men’s Styles Series.
This editorial was originally published in March 2017 and has since been refreshed with a myriad of content updates.
QUESTIONS OR THOUGHTS ON THE NAVY BLAZER?
Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.
Looking forward to seeing you in there.
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