Welcome to the first installment of RYS’ new segment Reader Questions. Today I’ll answer the following e-mail:
It’s about suit jackets and with what to pair it. Is it ok to pair a suit jacket with jeans, instead of using a blazer or sports coat for a more casual look?
Well, the short answer is yes, but it depends…
Traditional style guys would tell you, “No! Blasphemy! Suit jackets are formal and holy and should never be worn casually!”
But as you may know, tradition isn’t that high on my list of priorities. I’m more concerned with whether something looks good or not.
And a suit jacket with jeans CAN look good.
Most people can’t tell the difference between a suit jacket and a blazer anyway. Some people even think they’re the same thing. (People commenting on my blazer/chino combinations will sometimes say, “Nice suit!”)
It Depends on the Suit Jacket
It depends on the suit. Not all suits are the same and some are more formal than others, and the more formal ones are riskier than the not-so-formal ones.
First, you should look at the fabric. Is it a smooth wool or is it a rougher material, like flannel, linen or tweed? The latter would be much better suited to wear casually. The former can look out of place. (Though, that depends on the two other factors.
Second, look at the pattern. A checked jacket looks more casual than a solid one, or a pinstriped one. Pinstripes especially are uncommon on a blazer and are associated with formality. They’ll call attention to the fact you’re actually having your suit jacket perform double duty.
Third, you should look at the color, which is easy; the lighter the jacket, the more casual it looks and the safer it is to wear with your jeans.
So let’s take these three examples:
- Smooth-wool, navy, pinstriped jacket
- Smooth-wool, solid, navy jacket
- Tweed, navy, checked jacket
The first is a no-no to wear with jeans. the second isn’t perfect, but it’s okay. Bu the third… Well, nobody will notice the third isn’t a sport coat at all.
If you have a solid jacket on your hands, look at the color and fabric. If it’s a rougher fabric with a darker color, or a smoother fabric with a lighter color, it can still look fine. A smooth, dark and solid jacket won’t work as well though.
The jacket doesn’t have to be on the casual side on each front, but the more the better.
But it Also Depends on the Jeans
If you’re gonna wear you suit jacket with jeans, wear them with jeans that match the jacket’s fit — that (hopefully) means, no bagginess. Assuming you jacket fits you as it should, your jeans should fit snugly (but not constricting).
You also want to avoid wearing the ripped, distressed, faded jeans. If you’re gonna wear your suit jacket with jeans, make sure they’re a classic dark blue. You want to dress the jacket down, but jeans that are too casual will create too much of a contrast.
So my answer is YES, you can wear your suit jacket with jeans, but you have to know how to match these clothes the right way. Follow the instructions above, and you should be fine. Only a handful of people may notice or care, but they’re usually the kind of sticklers who refuse to think outside the box. Who cares about them anyway?