The Blazer Jacket – What to Wear with a Blazer
The beauty of the blazer is that it goes with almost anything. For the purpose of this discourse, by blazer I mean the classic single-breasted navy wool coat with brass buttons. Over gray flannel slacks, a white button-down oxford shirt and a striped tie, it makes a classic outfit that in the United States registers just shy of a suit on the formality scale. On the weekend, the same blazer over chinos and a polo shirt makes a very smart casual outfit. It would be impossible to list all of the handsome outfits a man can build around his navy blazer, but I will discuss some basic means of wearing it for work and leisure.
If you work in a business casual office, or not in any office at all, the blazer gives you a simple solution to the tricky problem of dressing respectably without appearing aloof. In a workplace dominated by polo shirts and khakis, the man who has the class to throw a blazer on over the ensemble looks distinctive without standing out. A dress shirt with a button-down collar and gray flannels are also worthy accompaniments for a blazer; add a tie to take it up a notch. A point collar shirt formalizes the ensemble a tad more, and here one should stop. Contrast collars really belong under a suit, and even if the formality of French cuffs were not an issue, having cuff-links next to brass sleeve buttons creates a discordant clash of shininess. For footwear, bluchers, loafers, and monkstraps are all good options.
The outfits described above are also smart choices for dinner in a nice restaurant or a morning religious service. In fact, the blazer will serve you well for most weekend activities, from taking in a play in most American cities to cheering on a girls’ softball team. It looks aristocratic and dignified over an ecru turtleneck and your trusty gray flannels; for a laid-back look in the summer wear it with off-white pants and a bright polo. While it is perfectly acceptable to wear a blazer with jeans, and indeed the combination can look very stylish, one must take care that pants and coat are not too close in color. This goes for any jacket and pants combination: if it’s not a suit, it shouldn’t look like one from a distance.
Brown suede dress shoes match the blazer in versatility, and anything that looks good with the latter will too with the former (although neither are typically worn by the English). Black shoes, other than oxfords and wingtips, are also fine compliments. Anytime you wear a blazer, you will do well to wear some sort of patterned socks, whether checked, striped, or argyle. When you forgo a tie, your socks provide a great opportunity to inject a little pizzazz into your look, especially if you wear a solid shirt.
Bringing our focus to trousers, gray flannels are always an irreproachable choice. On days that involve a lot of walking or running, you may be more comfortable in cotton chinos. These may be made with or without pleats; which you choose will be determined by your body type and personal style. Besides the traditional khaki, they can look good in such colors as stone, hunter green, and wine red. On cold days, you will appreciate the added warmth of cavalry twills, while in the summer heat linen pants are a cool and comfortable choice.
Moving on to dress shirts, as said above a button-down oxford is the classic. Besides solids, a broad variety of stripes and checks, including many that would look garish with a suit, mix well with a blazer. The latter’s dark, solid fabric looks good next to just about anything, and the shiny buttons amply counterweight bold patterns. For a more casual look, go with a long-sleeve polo shirt or a turtleneck, depending on the climate. The urbane silk tee-shirt and tight-fitting knit shirt tend to clash in their modernity with the blazer’s long heritage, and work better with a suit jacket.
In cooler weather, you way want to don a sweater under your jacket. If you’re going without a tie, a cable-knit or argyle crew-neck will add some life to the outfit. The V-neck worn over a tie may also be patterned or textured, but can be solid as well.
Finally, a few words on neckwear and accessories. The tie you wear with a blazer should be in keeping with its sporty dressiness. Woven silks in polka dots, bold stripes, and other simple patterns do this grandly, as do knits of silk or wool. The bow tie with white shirt and blue blazer looks sophisticated on the few men who know precisely how and when to wear it, but goofy on most everyone else. Beyond ties, any pocket square that harmonizes with the rest of the outfit adds a dash of style. For younger men, it will also ensure that a blazer and white shirt don’t look like a prep school uniform. For belts, follow the old rule: match leather to leather, metal to metal. That means brown with brown shoes, although it can be a different shade of brown, and black with black. The buckle should be brass to coordinate with the buttons.
As you can see, the possibilities with a blazer really are endless. It is perhaps the best investment a man can make in his wardrobe, as it virtually doubles the choices he has each morning when getting dressed. It will serve nobly in a wide range of situations, and never go out of style.