Pull It Off: Sport Coat & Jeans.

Posted on August 28, 2009 in Casual, Denim, Fall, How to Wear a Sport Coat with Jeans., Popular, Sport Coats.

As Fall approaches (ever so slooooowly for us Texans), it’s time to look forward to the beginning of the most fun time for men’s style. Why? Because guys sweat, which means the amount of clothes that we can wear, and not melt, is exceedingly small. Whereas, once the temperature begins to drop slightly, we can don any number of stylish articles, which are then made linearly more awesome via the phenomenon known as layering.

The first, and easiest look, is a sport coat and jeans. This has gained huge traction in the past several years, and as a result has seen a correspondingly large increase in the amount of people abusing the style.

As with wingtips, what makes this look cool is the clashing of styles: formal and casual. It’s an easy outfit to those dipping their toes in the style pool, because you’re still wearing jeans, except you’re just throwing a coat on over it. The dividends are huge, but so too is the potential for failure.

I mention this now because stores are beginning to roll out their Fall lines, regardless of what the thermometer may say outside your window, so it’s time to get prepared for your first Fall season of dressing well.

The mistake people have is treating the sport coat as just another jacket/coat. But, even though you’re wearing it with jeans, it shouldn’t just hang or drape on you. So, review the fit rules here. This is a modern look, make sure you have a modern fit; the highlights (all of which can be handled by a quality tailor):

– Make sure it fits precisely regardless of your body type, that most likely means taking it in around the torso.
– The shoulder seams should end when your shoulders end. Not before or after.
– Make sure the sleeves aren’t too long, they shouldn’t extend to your knuckles. You want some cuff to show (0.25″-0.5″)
– Shorter at the waist (stand with your hands at your side, cup your palms, the coat should sit inside your cupped hands). This is a biggie, I’d go shorter here than you’re used to because it’s consistent with the trend.

#1 below is a great fitting corduroy sport coat. The fabric makes it casual, but the way it fits, and the pairing with dark jeans (see below), makes it cool enough for going out.


Photo credit: JCrew.

Photo credit: JCrew.

Your Bottom Half
Do NOT neglect what you are wearing below the coat. This could be tied for the biggest mistake when trying this look. As this is a modern style, your jeans should reflect this. So it is even more important that you not wear them with baggy or ill-fitting jeans, but rather pair them with your newly updated pants. You do not want to look like #2. Pay attention as your scroll down through the photo and notice how the jeans, at the last moment, kill the whole outfit.


Photo credit: Gap.

Photo credit: Gap.

The easiest thing would be to go with dark, precise-fitting, modern jeans. I wouldn’t go with a super-light wash, as Fall/Winter colors don’t tend to look great with light jeans. But, you can get away with a medium/vintage wash as the picture below is showing (barely). If you want to go with a more distressed jean, then i think it’s best to go with a cleaner look up top. The contrast will be greater, and hence cooler (again see #3).


Photo credit: JCrew.

Photo credit: JCrew.

To visualize how significant an effect swapping out a pair of jeans can have, use your imagination: look at #4. The guy is wearing a very casual, relaxed fitting jean (that are too long). Because the look is intended to be somewhat fashion-forward, and the fit of the jeans are fashion-backwards, the whole outfit comes across as looking awkward. Instead, imagine pairing it with the jeans from #5, keeping the same jacket and shirt, and notice how much better the updated jeans would make the look.

As an aside: the tie in #4 is too long, and could be 0.25-0.5″ skinnier.


Photo credit: Banana Republic.

Photo credit: Banana Republic.


Photo credit: Banana Republic.

Photo credit: Banana Republic.

If you’re wearing a button down shirt with the sport coat, and have followed all the fit rules, then tuck in the shirt. It’s cleaner, and will look better with the precise look of the outfit.

If you opt for a tshirt and sport coat (another fine look), then do not tuck the shirt in.

If you still wanna go untucked, make sure the shirt isn’t as long as your coat (or longer); it looks too boxy and sloppy.

No, you cannot get away with wearing a suit coat with jeans. It doesn’t look right. Suiting fabric is too finely woven and looks weird with jeans. Notice below, that upon first inspection the combo in #7 looks good, but when you really look at the outfit the coat just has too much sheen, and looks weird with the jeans. Like the guy went home after work, and just swapped out his suit pants for a pair of jeans.


Photo credit: JCrew.

Photo credit: JCrew.

Going Super Casual
The other way to take the look is to pair it with a tshirt, some good jeans and clean sneakers. But again, just because it’s super casual, doesn’t mean the coat or jeans shouldn’t fit you properly.

If it’s a graphic tshirt, make sure it isn’t from one of the mass market shops. Graphic tees should be authentic.

20 Responses to “Pull It Off: Sport Coat & Jeans.”

  1. CYH says:

    *esh* I just reread my title in my Google Reader and realized that it’s a bit awkward.

  2. Anonymous says:


    What is your opinion on graphic t’s under a blazer in general? I guess it depends on the type of graphic t worn but I have never really liked the look. I think a button up is a must under a blazer w/ or w/out jeans.


  3. CYH says:

    In general I like the look, but as with everything it depends on the individual pieces involved. If it’s a cool fitting, casual sport coat over a concert tshirt, paired with good jeans and kicks, then I think it’s a great look. It’s stylish but still very laid back.

    Where it falls apart, is when people start to get overly elaborate. Either with the tshirt or the coat. I think this look can put you on a one-way train to Dbagtown.

    That being said, I tend to do the button down or the sweater under a sport coat. But that’s because I haven’t found that right coat to fit with any of my tshirts.

  4. Vo says:

    NEVER wear a suit jacket with jeans. The only man I know of that can pull it off is King George. So unless you’re George Strait, don’t get caught in public looking like a tool.

  5. kentyman says:

    I think you meant to say the tie is too short, no? And I don’t see the #7 you mention.

    Also, Vo’s wrong; Seinfeld pulled it off all the time.

  6. TC says:

    My wife loves a well dressed man and I like a more casual look so it works great for me. It’s the best of both worlds.

  7. Paul says:

    I like the jeans/jacket look – but it needs to be neat and needs some color… like a pocket square. The jeans MUST be neat, clearn, and not baggy. Just my opinion… Great blog!


  8. CYH says:

    Adding color to this look is definitely a good thing and case-dependent. Pocket squares can be a bit stylistically advanced, and so the rest of the outfit really *really* needs to mirror this image.

    Neat and clean jeans are an absolute must. For a note on the fit of pants go here.

    Thanks for reading!

  9. Steve says:

    If I’m wearing a buttoned shirt, would it be ok to go without a tie? Maybe with the top 1of or 2 buttons undone?

  10. CYH says:


    Yes, absolutely. I do this frequently. Some things to consider when you do this look:
    – the number of buttons is dictated by how the shirt is constructed: you want to show some skin but not too much; I think between 3-4″ is acceptable
    – do not let your undershirt be visible
    – make sure the collar of your shirt are not floppy (if they are not button down) and make sure they stay within your jacket

  11. JTB says:

    Can you pull this look off with a patterned dress shirt or should it be a solid color dress shirt?

  12. CYH says:

    This looks works perfectly with a patterned shirt. Just make sure you’re choosing the right pattern (read more here). Right now plaids are great. In general, you don’t want to match the pattern of your sport coat to that of your shirt. If you go with a nice plaid shirt, stay with a solid sport coat. The photo I use on my homepage banner for wearing a Sport Coat with Jeans has a nice example of plaid + solid sport coat.

  13. Zee says:

    Thanks for the useful Tips.

  14. Phil says:

    Can the sports coat be a dark blue thin pinstripe jacket? One of the ones you get a H&M that doesn’t come with pants. The sell them by themselves so I would think it would be good.

  15. CYH says:

    Yes, the sports coat can be a dark blue pinstripe. Wearing a suit separate from H&M with jeans should be fine.

  16. Russ says:

    Great article. One thing asked but not answered was I’m pretty sure you meant to say the tie in #4 is too *short* right? Additionally, would you be willing to explain in some detail what some acceptable casual shoe examples might be if trying to pull off the suit / t-shirt combo? I’m having a hard time envisioning what would look good with that combo. Are we still in the “dressy casual” shoe area or are we straight up going the “i wear these white kicks with jeans and t-shirts” area? I understand to a degree it will depend on the other articles chosen but please give any guidance you can. TIA

  17. CYH says:

    @Russ – yes, you’re right. I meant the tie is too short. The tip of the tie should hit about the top of your belt buckle.

    As for shoes, it probably depends on the type of t-shirt and sport coat. If the t-shirt is solid and nicer, then you can probably go with a modern wingtip. If it has any sort of pattern/print (I would discourage this, but that’s me), then you can wear a pair of cool sneakers (that are clean). Magazines like GQ really put forth the notion of sneakers with more formal attire, but I’ve never been one to pull off the look. Suggested sneakers: vintage Nikes or New Balance, Chuck’s, or Sambas.

  18. Anonymous says:

    What’s the best kind of jeans to wear with this kind of look?

  19. fashion says:

    I think its a little bit weird when using a coat with a jeans. In my opinion its just out of style.. CMIIW..

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