Just like every aspect of clothing, the best men’s suits, sport coats, and blazers are influenced by the latest fashion. Sure, look at pictures of play-it-safe politicians, bankers, and clergy since at least World War II, and you won’t see a whole lot of variation. Maybe the jacket was a little tighter or a little looser here and there, the fabrics a little more textured or glossier. But take a wider view, and we see start to see variations, from 1940s sack suits to the Mod look, and Miami Vice-style volume, right up through Hedi Slimane’s razor-thin looks of the 2000s.
That look loosened up a bit in the 20-teens, so now the latest looks to head down the runway — going to the extreme — are fuller, shorter, and boxier; almost as though designed more for lounging than for a nice dinner out. Will you have fun wearing the look? Sure. But will it look dated in a year or two? Absolutely. On the other hand, you can find a classic jacket that will last you for the next decade, but that may be so boring that you’ll look as though you raided your dad’s closet.
A good blazer, like all tailored clothing, should probably be one of the most expensive investments in your wardrobe, so you do want it to have a little flash, but you also want a bit of staying power. Here’s our guide for how should a blazer fit, as well as how to shop and what to look for now.
First, keep in mind that a good blazer can practically be a stand-in for a suit in these more casual, comfortable days. Need a more formal look? Wear it with a pair of dark, solid trousers in a complementary hue, a classic white dress shirt, and a stylish, high-quality tie.
Headed to a new client meeting? Try white jeans, or brighter 5-pocket pants, and a patterned button-up. A romantic dinner? Nobody will complain if dark jeans and a V-neck T-shirt or cashmere sweater complete the outfit. Look for a neutral color with some surface interest: A subtle plaid, an updated herringbone, or a tonal stripe. A classic solid navy, khaki, olive, or white is great for summer. Our best advice? Put yourself into an expert’s hands. Head to a store where the sales staff’s style impresses you.
Let them guide you in fit and fashion, but show them that you know what you’re doing, too, and that you know what you want. An added bonus: A good clothing store for men will also keep a good tailor on hand, so if you’re not built like a flawless Adonis, you can always have a few adjustments made for the best possible fit.
Generally speaking, we’re still in a slim-fit era. Blazers aren’t the sausage casings they once were, but they are pretty body-conscious. A modern blazer should have a somewhat relaxed, less structured feel. Fabrics should include some stretch, so the jacket moves and feels more like a really fancy sweater, and less like a suit coat.
1) The Collar and Back
The jacket collar is the very top of the lapel. It’s the part that wraps around the back of your neck. Be sure that the collar isn’t so high that it obscures the collar of your shirt, nor should it gape away from your neck. It should rest smoothly across the back.
The back of the jacket is, of course, the simple panel of fabric that drops from the shoulders down your back to your butt. The back may end in a slit in the middle called a center vent; be opened on the left and right, a side vent; or have no opening at all, forming a tube around your body where it’s joined to the front. The fabric should fall smoothly down your back, without any pulling, creasing, or wrinkling.
2) The Lapel
The lapel is joined to the collar, folding open from the inside to form a V-shape. Those trendy Gucci lapels are so wide they practically come out to your armpits. Some of the latest looks from Zegna have no lapels at all. We like a simple notch lapel, forming a sideways “V” where the lapel is attached to the collar (also called the gorge). Peak lapels are a great look but aren’t normally associated with a classic blazer. A modern gorge rides pretty high on the lapel, probably high enough to rest on the top of your pectorals, pointing to your shoulders.
Be sure that the lapels fall flat and rest across the chest. You should easily be able to reach into the jacket under the lapel to stash things in the inside chest pockets (but don’t get carried away; too much and your blazer will look like a busy chipmunk’s cheeks).
3) Chest and Waist
The chest is the front part of the jacket, falling from the shoulder over your chest and down toward your pelvis. The button and buttonhole should rest just above the belly button. We still like a two-button blazer best. Although you should always button your blazer when standing and unbutton it when seated; for fit purposes, there should be a little bit of room — say three inches or so — between your body and the top button when you sit down.
Check that the body of the jacket doesn’t cling to you or crease in any weird ways, especially when you move: You shouldn’t need to complete a CrossFit in a blazer, but you also shouldn’t feel like you’ll tear something if you reach for a book on a shelf or bend over to pet the dog. There should be a bit of a nip at the waist forming what photographers call a light leak between the body of the jacket and the sleeves.
Do those vents in the back lie flat, or are they gaping open over your ass, or straining? If so, the jacket is too tight. If you never miss a leg day and your booty is on point, beware: You may have trouble finding a blazer that doesn’t gape or hang over your butt like a parade banner. Again, consult a good salesperson.
A simple, natural shoulder is best, but sometimes nature has other ideas. You may not have Vin Diesel’s shoulders, or you might find that one shoulder is a little lower than another. A little padding can make the wearer look a little bolder and stronger without making him look like he’s suited up for the Super Bowl. Be sure the shoulders line up with the top of your arms and aren’t too wide or too tight. They should look natural and lie flat.
The classic ideal in a blazer was that it should allow about 1/2-inch of your shirt to show. Of course, that’s assuming you’re even wearing a white dress shirt. We like to compromise by saying the sleeve should land just above the wrist bone. That should allow enough room for most shirts and give you clearance for your favorite watch. (Again, check with a tailor here. One arm is often a bit longer than the other, so an alteration can make everything look symmetrical.) If you’re a regular at the gym, make sure you’re allowing yourself enough room through the upper arm, too.
It may seem too simple: Yeah, this is the part of the jacket that you put your arm through. Yet a higher armhole, common during those super skinny days of the aughts, can really limit a range of motion. Too low and the blazer will look 1980s vintage. Make sure that the armhole allows you enough room to move comfortably.
It used to be said that jackets should be long enough to cover your seat. Blazers have often been just a bit shorter than that, with a sportier fit than suit coats. Although it still shouldn’t be any higher than your butt, grazing the top of your cheeks or landing mid-peach is more modern.
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