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The Practical Case for Blazers and Sport Coats

It’s hard to say when I became prejudiced towards blazers and even harder to say when exactly I talked myself out of that rut. I have a feeling my bias came from childhood. For me, it was going to temple, (and church for you gentiles) under the watchful eye of my parents (and presumably God), buttoned into a stiff little blazer and uncomfortable dress shoes. Naturally, it felt then, that adult blazer-wearers were incorrigible rule-followers and goody-two-shoes, about the farthest thing from cool as you could get.

In adulthood, my distrust of the blazer and sport coat was exacerbated by two kinds of bad blazer-wearers. The first kind was the too-slim fit seen at proms and in shows like The Bachelorette, while the latter was the costume-y hyper-vintage variety worn by #menswear geeks.

The former sort are characterized by boring details, too-tight styling, and flat (typically blue) fabrics, it was easy to see how a layman might poorly incorporate such a blazer into their wardrobe with limited success. They wouldn’t drape right and they’d look entirely at odds with a nice, worn-in pair of jeans.  The other sort seemed like they were for a Depression-era movie star. This too, felt unappealing. It turned out, all the inspiration I needed was in the past, just a different era than the #menswear guys were referencing.

Blazers-Not-Just-For-Nerds Kevin Bacon in the 90s at LAX. Image via GQ.

Kevin Bacon in the 90s at LAX. Image via GQ.

There is a wealth of celebrity airport pictures from the 90s, which began to turn me towards the blazer as a casual, functional piece. For many people getting into fashion, we begin by trying to emulate actors’ style in their most iconic roles, but as our tastes evolve, we begin actually dressing like the actor might in real life.

The blazers I began to see were unlike any in modern media; usually earth tones, and often worn large and slouchy. When, on a cold morning, I wore a tweed sport coat out to the grocery store with a pair of old 501s and sneakers, it felt entirely honest and more importantly, it felt good.

Blazers-Not-Just-For-Nerds-Denzel-Washington-1990s.-Image-via-Pinterest.

Denzel Washington 1990s. Image via Pinterest.

Heddels readers will undoubtedly have a wardrobe full of workwear classics, but sometimes these pieces all together can feel costume-y. Do your blue jeans and chambray make you look like you’re doing a Cool Hand Luke cosplay? Throw a blazer over it, you might like what you see.

Despite being “tailored” item, many of the best images of blazers and sport coats are anything but. Though a blazer should fit you rather well in the shoulders, the rest can be roomy. And the pockets? A blazer has bountiful pockets, deep ones at the hips, usually one on the chest, and a hidden one inside – perfect for actually stowing all your belongings or even bringing along pen and paper for those moments of genius.

Blazers-Not-Just-For-Nerds-Harrison-Ford-in-Paris,-1980.-Image-via-Pinterest.

Harrison Ford in Paris, 1980. Image via Pinterest.

Blazers, at least those made before the 2000s, are well-made and ascribe to a similar ethos of many workwear pieces. Tweeds, corduroys, and other fabrics often used in these pieces began as workwear fabrics and can subtly fade and distress with wear, offering years of break-in potential. Best of all, they’re easy to find. While thrift and vintage stores are getting ever more picked over for essentials like Levi’s 501s, sneakers, and boots; it isn’t altogether difficult to find a good blazer in the racks.

Blazers-Not-Just-For-Nerds-Patrick-Swayze.-Image-via-Warm-106.9.

Patrick Swayze. Image via Warm 106.9.

By now, most dedicated Heddels readers will know a good fabric from a cheap one, a well-made piece from fast fashion trash, and I’d encourage you to venture out in search of a blazer. Browns, khakis, and houndstooths are my favorite and seem to pair best with my typical ensemble of a white t-shirt and faded jeans, but as evidenced by Harrison Ford, a tasteful navy can work just as well.

Avoid black jackets and shinier, formal fabrics (unless you’re Patrick Swayze)  – shop as though you’re looking for a chore coat. Something that can stand up to regular wear and end up looking the better for it.

Blazers-Not-Just-For-Nerds-A-gorgeous-double-breasted-sport-coat-in-the-Noah-Ny-Spring-21-collection.-Image-via-Noah-NY.

A double-breasted sport coat in the Noah Ny Spring ’21 collection. Image via Noah NY.

Throwing on a blazer with your standard fare might seem risky, but you’ll be surprised fast you’ll acclimate. You might not wear these out to drinks or on first dates, but they work well for grocery and coffee runs (basically all we can do right now). This coincides nicely with one other pandemic-era pastime: thrifting. There are no shortage of great sport coat makers out there, Noah NYC made a great one this season, and Ring Jacket is a famous Japanese maker as well, but like finding vintage 501s, it feels the only real way to know which jacket you want is by trying them on in person, checking the labels, and possibly taking it to a tailor for minor alterations.

Serious tailored clothing fans may think my approach laissez-faire, but for me, a blazer is something I’ll just throw on for a quick jaunt around town, something to keep me warm, equipped, and looking just a bit better than my peers around town. Hit Etsy, Ebay, or your local vintage store and dig in!