Figure Out the Blazer

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A navy blazer is a staple piece in any man’s wardrobe. Its versatility makes it one of the only things that can instantly pull a look together even when you’re haggard after a long plane flight. Avant-garde design icon Pierre Cardin recognized the wonders of the basic navy blazer: “I can go all over the world with just three outfits: a blue blazer and gray flannel pants, a gray flannel suit and black tie.”

The word blazer is one of the most incorrectly applied terms in men’s fashion. It is typically used as a general reference to describe almost any suit-type jacket, but a man’s “blazer” has a more specific meaning. Both a blazer and a sport coat are casual jackets that are worn on their own rather than as a part of a complete suit. Although used interchangeably, the difference between the two has more to do with their fabrication and styling. A sport coat is traditionally made with an earthy fabric like tweed or houndstooth with three buttons, flap pockets and sometimes an extra ticket pocket on one side. As the name suggests, a sport coat was once meant to assist in the untimely demise of cute, harmless animals like deer or rabbit in the English countryside. Men’s blazers, on the other hand, are made of a sturdier fabric than a suit, yet smoother fabric than a sport jacket. It is usually thought of as single-breasted, but it can also come in a double-breasted ahoy matey version. Blazers also have patch pockets as opposed to flaps, and in the single-breasted variety, it comes with two metallic buttons for closure.

The polished buttons combined with a badge sewn onto the chest pocket reflect the naval birthplace of the first blazers. Although debate surrounds the exact history of the garment, one convenient tale points to the HMS Blazer and the crew’s smart uniform that included a short jacket to impress the queen in 1837. The confusion over the linguistic origin of “blazer” is fitting since it’s increasingly difficult to accurately apply it in an ever-growing sea of men’s jackets.

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