Choosing Formal Outerwear: What You Should Know

Choosing Formal Outerwear: What You Should Know

So, you've found the perfect dress shirt and trousers, and now you are faced with the task of trying to find matching outerwear? You'll want to think carefully when choosing outwear, as it will largely influence your overall appearance. Wearing the right jacket or coat will enhance your appearance, complimenting your existing shirt and trousers. But the wrong jacket or coat will have the opposite effect by clashing with your outfit and creating a mismatching appearance that hurts your look. So, how do you choose the right formal outwear to wear with a men's suit?


Some men assume there's only a single type of formal outwear: the suit jacket. In reality, though, there are several different types of formal outwear available on the market. The three most common and popular men's formal outwear are blazers, suit jackets and sports coats. So, what's the difference between them? The least formal of the three aforementioned men's formal outwear is the sports coat. It was traditionally made for use in sporting activities, such as hunting and fishing. While it's rarely worn this purpose today, it's still a viable solution for men's outerwear, assuming you are looking to achieve a delicate balance between casual and formal styles. Sports coats typically feature a greater variety of patterns and styles. The suit jacket is the most formal style of men's outwear. You can often find suit jackets available bundled with a shirt and trousers. The blazer, on the other hand, is typically made of wool and features characteristic silver or gold-colored buttons. It's more formal than the sports coat but less formal than the suit jacket. You should keep this in mind when choosing formal outwear, considering the formality of the event/occasion and choosing either a sports jacket, blazer or suit jacket.


You'll find men's formal outwear available in many different fabrics and materials, each of which has its own unique characteristics. As stated above, blazers are typically made of wool, making them an excellent choice for the otherwise cold fall and winter months. Opting for a wool blazer is a great way to stay warmth and comfortable when the temperatures are chilly. You can still find blazers available in other fabrics, however, including cotton. Some of the most common fabrics in which men's formal outwear is made includes the following:
  • Cotton -- arguably the single most common fabric in which men's formal outwear is made, cotton is an excellent all-around choice. It offers a delicate balance of style, comfort and durability.
  • Wool -- thicker and heavier than its cotton counterpart, wool has become synonymous for winter weather outerwear. Wool blazers, sports coats and suit jackets are often the preferred choice for the winter season.
  • Linen -- lighter than both wool and cotton, linen suit jackets and sports coats are perfect for outdoor activities during the otherwise hot summer months.
  • Corduroy -- this fabric offers a unique texture that's simply not found in other materials. If you're looking to stand apart from the crowd, consider wearing a corduroy suit. It's heavier than cotton but not quite as heavy as wool.
  • Tweed -- many people have at least heard of tweed, but few know what it's made of. Basically, tweed is a rough fabric that's made of mixed flecked colors. It was originally produced in Scotland but has since found its way into other parts of the world, including the United States.
  • Worsted -- classified as a premium fabric, worsted is a fine yard that's spun from a long-staple wool. It has a close-texture surface with zero nap. Worsted suit jackets and coats are often prized for their premium style and luxurious comfort.

What About Overcoats?

While the three most popular styles of men's formal outwear include blazers, sports coats and suit jackets, there's a fourth option that often goes unnoticed: the overcoat. It lives up to its namesake in the sense that it's designed to be worn during the winter, over a person's existing outfit. Overcoats are typically worn during cold weather, as the additional layer -- typically made of a thick fabric -- offers greater warmth. Some men mistake overcoats for topcoats, assuming the two garments are the same. They do share some similarities in terms of function and appearance, but they each have their own unique characteristics. Overcoats, for instance, are longer, usually extending below the knees, whereas topcoats are shorter and usually stop either at or right above the knees. Therefore, you can distinguish between the two by identifying their length. Overcoats are longer than their topcoat counterpart, extending all the way past the knees for greater protection from the elements.


How many pockets does the jacket, coat or blazer feature? If you plan on buying new formal outwear, this is something that you'll need to consider. Buttons, although small and seemingly insignificant, will affect both the function and aesthetics of your formal outwear. If you choose outwear without pockets, you'll have to rely on your trouser pockets to store items like car keys, your smartphone, etc. But if your outwear has pockets, you'll have extra space in which store these items.


In addition to pockets, you should also consider the number of buttons the formal outerwear has. While there are always exceptions to this rule, most blazers, sports coats and suit jackets have between one and three buttons. Regardless of how many it has, a good rule of thumb is to leave the bottom button unfastened while fastening the remaining buttons. Formal outwear is an essential component in men's suits. It brings the elements together to create a cohesive, formal appearance. But with so many different styles of formal outwear available on the market, choosing one can seem like a daunting task. Hopefully, the tips listed here will set you in the right direction, guiding you towards the perfect formal outwear for your needs. The most important thing to remember is that sports coats are the least formal, while suit jackets are the most formal. Keep this in mind and choose the right outwear for your suit.