12 Sport Coat Mistakes Only Menswear Experts Notice–Do You?

As our culture has become increasingly more casual, sport coats are becoming a more popular way to dress up, rather than wearing a suit, as it’ll give them more variety when it comes to dressing up or dressing down an outfit. But they are not a fail-safe when it comes to dressing. Here are 12 sport coat mistakes to avoid.

Like other items in classic menswear, there are guidelines in place to make sure you’re able to put together great ensembles with a sports jacket. And while most casual onlookers won’t notice this mistake, these are ones that menswear experts will definitely notice. And, of course, we’ve all made mistakes. We’ve gone on our menswear journey. These are some that we want to help you avoid.

Moreover, menswear rules can be bent or broken a little bit, if you understand them and you know how to break them. But for the purposes of today, we’re going to look at 12 sport coat mistakes that menswear experts will notice.

Raphael in green linen sports coat and pants paired with a panama hat
You want to make sure that the sport coat fits well, complements your wardrobe, and is appropriate for the occasion.

What is a Sports Jacket?

Sport coats have been a mainstay in men’s wardrobes for over a century. Originally, it was a more worn-out jacket that someone would wear when they were doing leisurely or manual labor activities, or they were specifically designed like the Norfolk jacket, which was used for outdoor activities, such as hunting or shooting. Think of them as Black Tie for the countryside. Tuxes and mud do not mix, after all.

Since sport coats were worn during more strenuous activities, they were typically made with very robust and durable materials. This meant flannel, tweed, and corduroy were often very desirable. The coarser fabric and patterns also help these jackets blend in more in a country setting.

Sport coats are typically made with very robust and durable materials.
Sport coats are typically made with very robust and durable materials.

 port coats were very rarely made with the matching pair of trousers, as different trouser materials were used for the activities that the wearer was doing, such as Cavalry 12 being used because they were great for riding pants. With people starting to inhabit urban areas at the beginning of the 20th century, the sport coat became very popular as an item that would be worn to dress down a formal ensemble, especially in countries like America, where sport coats became very popular within academia and became a part of Trad style.

Within a modern context, sport coats fall into the business casual category of the formality scale. Jackets that are considered to be part of a suit or a blazer are more formal than typical sports jackets, and because all this terminology can be somewhat confusing, we made a guide on the different types of jackets.

Suit Jackets, Sport Coats, and Blazers: What’s the Difference?

Sport coats fall into the business casual category of the formality scale.
Sport coats fall into the business casual category of the formality scale.

As a rule of thumb, though, sport coats typically bear more casual features. However, all sport coats are not created equal, and there are some nuanced mistakes that you can make.

12 Sport Coat Mistakes Only Menswear Experts Notice

Mistake #1: NOT Actually Wearing a Sport Coat

First is not actually wearing a sport coat when you think that you’re wearing or want to be wearing a sport coat. One of the easiest rookie mistakes is taking a suit jacket and thinking that if you don’t wear it with a suit then that makes it a sport coat.

A prinstripe suit jacket definitely looks weird worn as a separate.
A pinstripe suit jacket definitely looks weird worn as a separate.

Maybe you found a really nice pinstripe suit on eBay and you said. “Wow, it’s 30 bucks.” So, you take the jacket, and you wear that as a sports jacket. Well, not a good look. We’ve talked about spezzato before, but not all suit jackets can be broken apart and worn as odd jackets.

Spezzato: Breaking Up Suits for Casual Menswear Looks

Some suiting patterns, especially pinstripes, are designed to create a visual effect from head to toe that makes you look leaner, but it looks weird when it’s broken apart and worn as a separate.

Plus, the fabric is often very smooth and shiny, and that doesn’t really go very well when you try to wear it as a separate. This is also seen quite often in high fashion looks where they try to combine a pinstripe jacket with distressed jeans.

A pinstripe suit jacket and a pair of jeans combination is off.
A pinstripe suit jacket and a pair of jeans combination is off.

So, if you want to have a little bit more versatility with your suits, pick a suiting fabric that is a little bit more casual. Anything smooth and shiny will be considered more formal, so pick something in hopsack, a fresco, a wool linen blend, a flannel, and you’ll be able to use that as a suit jacket and as a sports jacket.

Mistake #2: Overloading The Outfit

It’s really exciting to get into menswear and find out about all these accessories, but oftentimes, if you overload the outfit it’s just too much. After all, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. So, since a sport coat is more casual than a suit, you might think you can really get bold and creative.

Too much is just too much.
Too much is just too much.

So, say you decide that you’re going to pack on a boutonniere, a pocket square, a patterned tie, a silk scarf, gloves, tie pins, and a pocket watch, and then at the end, overloading your outfit just looks way too costumey, and it doesn’t look classic and timeless.

It’s better to focus on one or two details than throw all your eggs in the sport coat basket. This will also keep you from looking too top-heavy as having a lot of accessories up here makes the top portion of your body look a lot heavier and bulky than the bottom half. 

“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”

Coco Chanel

Mistake #3: Mis-matching Seasons

Not all of us have the ability to have entire seasonal wardrobes. So, we have to be careful when mixing and matching different pieces. In other words, don’t wear a tweet or corduroy sports jacket with seersucker trousers or a seersucker jacket with flannel trousers. This will often look unbalanced.

Scorpacciata is about dressing specifically for a season.
Dressing specifically for a season.

Moreover, different fabrics serve different purposes. Linen is supposed to keep you cool during the summer months. Tweed is supposed to be more hardy, durable, and keep you warm during the cold weather months. Also, by wearing different seasons together, part of your body is going to be hot, and part of it’s going to be cold–it’ll be like going skiing in shorts. 

Mistake #4: Leaving the Tags/Stitching On

I can’t believe this has to be said, but when you see the tag of the brand on the sleeve of your jacket, please take it off. Unlike graphic tees and logos on clothing, your suit or your jacket is supposed to exude style and elegance. So, having labels and hang tags on them is not a look that you want to go for.

Leaving brand tags on the sleeve of the jacket is not stylish and elegant.
Leaving brand tags on the sleeve of the jacket isn’t stylish and elegant.

The brand tag is there just to help the people at the department store organize and categorize the suit, understand what brand it comes from quickly on the fly, and maybe sort it and put it away correctly. A lot of guys seem to think that this is like they’re wearing the label on their sleeve, and it’s not a good look. You shouldn’t do it. Stop doing it.

Also, keep in mind that the vent seams on the back of your jacket should also be pulled out as well. These are sewn shut to keep the suit or the jacket from wrinkling upon travel, but these are not meant to stay shut. After all, a seam ripper is five dollars, but your dignity is priceless.

Vent seams on the back of your jacket should also be pulled out.
Vent seams on the back of your jacket should also be pulled out.

Mistake #5: Picking “Plain”

Some might like the movement that there’s been in recent years for minimalism, but sometimes it just gets taken too far. Picking something in plain gray or navy is great if you’re going with a more formal suit, but if you just pick nothing but solid-color blazers, things can get pretty boring. Certainly, there’s more to life than being the man in the gray flannel suit.

Sport coats are an area where you really can express your personality by trying out different patterns and colors. You can be a little bit more bold and daring, as these are patterns that look good on a jacket but would be a little bit too much on a full suit. Having different colors and patterns will also allow you to have different varieties of formality within your wardrobe. Not to mention, having a little bit more variety in color will allow you to mix other colors with it, with your ties and other accessories.

A pattern gives a visual interest effect that draws attention to the viewer.
A pattern gives a visual interest effect that draws attention to the viewer.

Menswear doesn’t have to be boring. Take the jacket I’m wearing today. It looks great as a sports jacket, but it would be a little bit too much and too bold as an actual suit.

Mistake #6: Picking Super-Structured Jackets

There’s no denying that a well-cut suit with a nice shoulder and roped sleeve head can look fantastic when you dress it up. But this looks much more at home with formal suiting styles. So, that’s the complete opposite of casual.

Raphael wearing an olive green corduroy sports coat with patch pockets.
Raphael wearing an olive green corduroy sports coat with patch pockets.

To combat this clash in formality, try to pick jackets with more casual details; patch pockets and soft shoulders, whether it’s a natural sleeve shoulder or one with a very light padding. The lighter the jacket shoulder, the easier it will be to wear casually. For those of you who like this more easy and soft construction, the Neapolitan way of tailoring might be for you.

Neapolitan Style: Why Men from Naples Are So Dapper

Mistake #7: Wearing the Wrong Trousers

It’s perfectly okay to wear your sports jacket with denim nowadays, but you shouldn’t wear it with every kind of pants, like sweatpants, cargo pants, or gym shorts. They definitely don’t look great.

Cargo Pants don't work with a jacket imho
Cargo Pants don’t work with a sports coat.

It is much easier to pair your sports jacket with gray, khaki, navy, or even black trousers. And if you’re even on the more casual end of the spectrum, casual linens, chinos, or denim are always safe bet.

Mistake #8: Thinking Any Sneaker Will Work

Pairing sneakers with tailoring is certainly having its moment right now, but not any sneaker will work. Just because you’ve seen people wear Vans or Air Force 1s with tailoring doesn’t mean that they should. So, choosing something more like a refined leather dress sneaker, whether it’s in white or in a quarterman, these are much better choices.

The leather will help raise the formality of the sneaker, and if you don’t like wearing a sneaker with a sport coat, you certainly don’t have to. This is just for those who want to try it. You can try chukka boots, Chelsea boots, or loafers

Mistake #9: Fiddly Details

Sport coats were originally made for activewear and outdoor activities, so you can find models with some of these details. Due to their countryside origins, you can find them with extended tab collars, action backs, belted details, pleated or flapped patch pockets, and other remnants of what was once practical.

A very unique vintage flare on a vintage sport coat.
Very unique details on a vintage sport coat.

These details are very classic and also carry a very unique vintage flare with them. But if you add all these details all at once, it can look like you’re trying too hard. You don’t want people asking you where you got your Jumanji jacket. Instead, it’s better to ease into various sport coats, rather than going for all the vintage and classic details, and relax, it’s a sport coat, after all.

Mistake #10: Dressing it Down…Too Much!

There’s nothing wrong with going a little bit more casual these days, but the goal is to look relaxed, not disheveled. Where things start to get a little sloppy is when you pop your collar, or wear a T-shirt, or like in the other section about pants, try to wear them with sweatpants. 

Wearing a T-shirt under your jacket looks off!
Wearing a T-shirt under your jacket looks off! [Image credit: Bing]

Wearing a T-shirt under your jacket really isn’t that great of a look. It looks a lot better if you combine it with an overshirt or a short coat. If you start to look a little too Miami Vice, eh, you’ve gone too far.

There certainly are a lot of better casual jackets that go well with T-shirts, such as Harrington leather jackets or overshirts. Instead, if you want something thin like a T-shirt, wear a turtleneck, or in the warm weather months, choose a polo instead. These will help dress down the jacket rather than clash with the formality like a T-shirt would.

Mistake #11: Wearing a Sport Coat for the Wrong Occasion

Sport coats are popular today because of how easy they are to wear over a suit. However, at some events, a sport coat won’t cut it. Some examples could be funerals, weddings, or job interviews.

A sport coat should not be worn on a more formal occasions.
A sport coat should not be worn on a more formal occasions.

Sport coats are still firmly within the business casual realm of the formality spectrum. And while they are on the more dressy end than what a lot of people would typically wear, they typically can’t jump into the formal end of the spectrum. Plus, the more bold and casual fabrics that you wear, the less that they’ll blend in well during evening events. We still recommend that every man at least own one suit, so you can still dress up well for more formal occasions.

If You Only Had One: Suit (Most Versatile Options for Men)

Mistake #12: Not Wearing A Sport Coat (At All)

Now that you’ve mastered all the rules for wearing a sports jacket, you now should wear a sports jacket. After all, there are a few pieces that can elevate an outfit as well as a sports jacket can. Also, if you’re wearing a shirt and tie without a jacket, you can look a little bit amateurish and like a schoolboy. Wearing a shirt and a tie with no jacket just looks incomplete, but wearing a jacket without a tie and dress shirt looks more refined and put together.

If you get a little bit too warm or if it’s a little too formal for the crowd that you’re with, you can always just take it off. However, it does take time to get comfortable wearing tailored clothing on a daily basis. If you follow all of our tips, you won’t feel as self-conscious, and you won’t be making the mistakes that experts notice. Eventually, wearing a sport coat will feel like a second skin. And to master wearing any garment, practice makes perfect.


Sport coats are a classic piece of menswear that every man should own. And while your mileage may vary, you can’t really argue that they are extremely versatile. What works for you will naturally come with time, and everyone’s going to make mistakes, but after a while and with a lot of practice, you can take a lot of pride in what you wear and be a little bit lighter on the wallet.

You can never go wrong with owning a sport coat.
You can never go wrong with owning a sport coat.

Outfit Rundown

In today’s outfit, I’m wearing a favorite sport coat of mine; it’s this micro blue houndstooth and a summer weight cloth from BBC made to measure by Beckett and Robb. My shirt is a long-sleeved jersey polo shirt made to measure by Proper Cloth.

I’m wearing a pair of tan L.L. Bean chinos with my well-worn and well-loved brown belt from Allen Edmonds. My shoes are a pair of brown travel loafers from Yanko and Skolyx. On my wrist is an Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra with a brown calf strap that’s a prototype for Fort Belvedere.

My scent today is the Azzurro by Roberto Ugolini. This is a light and fresh summertime scent, which is why I’m wearing it in the warm weather months.

My pocket square is this orange with green and purple large paisley pocket square from Fort Belvedere. If you want to pick up a summertime pocket square or any other accessories, maybe some silk socks for an upcoming wedding, check out the Fort Belvedere shop.