Sport Coat & Jeans

 (From Primer Grey)

Pull It Off: Sport Coat & Jeans.

Posted on August 28, 2009

As Fall approaches (ever so slooooowly for us Texans), it’s time to look forward to the beginning of the most fun time for men’s style. Why? Because guys sweat, which means the amount of clothes that we can wear, and not melt, is exceedingly small. Whereas, once the temperature begins to drop slightly, we can don any number of stylish articles, which are then made linearly more awesome via the phenomenon known as layering.

The first, and easiest look, is a sport coat and jeans. This has gained huge traction in the past several years, and as a result has seen a correspondingly large increase in the amount of people abusing the style.

As with wingtips, what makes this look cool is the clashing of styles: formal and casual. It’s an easy outfit to those dipping their toes in the style pool, because you’re still wearing jeans, except you’re just throwing a coat on over it. The dividends are huge, but so too is the potential for failure.
I mention this now because stores are beginning to roll out their Fall lines, regardless of what the thermometer may say outside your window, so it’s time to get prepared for your first Fall season of dressing well.

The mistake people have is treating the sport coat as just another jacket/coat. But, even though you’re wearing it with jeans, it shouldn’t just hang or drape on you. So, review the fit rules here. This is a modern look, make sure you have a modern fit; the highlights (all of which can be handled by a quality tailor):

- Make sure it fits precisely regardless of your body type, that most likely means taking it in around the torso.

- The shoulder seams should end when your shoulders end. Not before or after.

- Make sure the sleeves aren’t too long, they shouldn’t extend to your knuckles. You want some cuff to show (0.25″-0.5″)

- Shorter at the waist (stand with your hands at your side, cup your palms, the coat should sit inside your cupped hands). This is a biggie, I’d go shorter here than you’re used to because it’s consistent with the trend.

#1 below is a great fitting corduroy sport coat. The fabric makes it casual, but the way it fits, and the pairing with dark jeans (see below), makes it cool enough for going out.


Photo credit: JCrew.
Photo credit: JCrew.

Your Bottom Half
Do NOT neglect what you are wearing below the coat. This could be tied for the biggest mistake when trying this look. As this is a modern style, your jeans should reflect this. So it is even more important that you not wear them with baggy or ill-fitting jeans, but rather pair them with your newly updated pants. You do not want to look like #2. Pay attention as your scroll down through the photo and notice how the jeans, at the last moment, kill the whole outfit.


Photo credit: Gap.
 Photo credit: Gap.

The easiest thing would be to go with dark, precise-fitting, modern jeans. I wouldn’t go with a super-light wash, as Fall/Winter colors don’t tend to look great with light jeans. But, you can get away with a medium/vintage wash as the picture below is showing (barely). If you want to go with a more distressed jean, then i think it’s best to go with a cleaner look up top. The contrast will be greater, and hence cooler (again see #3).


Photo credit: JCrew.
Photo credit: JCrew.

To visualize how significant an effect swapping out a pair of jeans can have, use your imagination: look at #4. The guy is wearing a very casual, relaxed fitting jean (that are too long). Because the look is intended to be somewhat fashion-forward, and the fit of the jeans are fashion-backwards, the whole outfit comes across as looking awkward. Instead, imagine pairing it with the jeans from #5, keeping the same jacket and shirt, and notice how much better the updated jeans would make the look.
As an aside: the tie in #4 is too long, and could be 0.25-0.5″ skinnier.


Photo credit: Banana Republic.
Photo credit: Banana Republic.


Photo credit: Banana Republic.
Photo credit: Banana Republic.

If you’re wearing a button down shirt with the sport coat, and have followed all the fit rules, then tuck in the shirt. It’s cleaner, and will look better with the precise look of the outfit.
If you opt for a tshirt and sport coat (another fine look), then do not tuck the shirt in.
If you still wanna go untucked, make sure the shirt isn’t as long as your coat (or longer); it looks too boxy and sloppy.

No, you cannot get away with wearing a suit coat with jeans. It doesn’t look right. Suiting fabric is too finely woven and looks weird with jeans. Notice below, that upon first inspection the combo in #7 looks good, but when you really look at the outfit the coat just has too much sheen, and looks weird with the jeans. Like the guy went home after work, and just swapped out his suit pants for a pair of jeans.


Photo credit: JCrew.
Photo credit: JCrew.

Going Super Casual
The other way to take the look is to pair it with a tshirt, some good jeans and clean sneakers. But again, just because it’s super casual, doesn’t mean the coat or jeans shouldn’t fit you properly.
If it’s a graphic tshirt, make sure it isn’t from one of the mass market shops. Graphic tees should be authentic.