THE ESSENTIALS is an ongoing series where I show you pieces that belong in every guy’s closet. By building a closet with these core essentials, you make it nearly impossible to ever put together a bad outfit.
We kept buzzing for a good 10 minutes. No answer.
We were standing outside of the address of our AirBnB in Milan, slightly freaking out. Our host didn’t seem to be home. We had no idea where we would go if our host didn’t show up.
As we waited curbside, I noticed the business men of Milan passing us by on their way to their offices. Summers in Italy are hot and humid, but the men were all dressed up in the same uniform:
An unstructured navy blazer, a spread collared shirt, tie and pocket square.
And they looked amazing.
Now, I’m pretty sure this is a common sight in Italy, just as the large, billowy Men’s Warehouse suits are on American men I see heading downtown every morning.
But that was the moment I became a navy blazer believer. I was impressed.
I’ll admit, I always rolled my eyes when I was younger whenever GQ or Esquire told me that every man should have a navy blazer in his closet. The problem, of course, was that my only source of style inspiration when it came to the navy blazer were poorly dressed American men.
It wasn’t until I saw proper Italian men doing it justice did I decide to finally pick one up and give it a shot.
And this is why it’s earned it’s place on my Essentials list.
Even if you don’t find yourself in “suit and tie” situations, the navy blazer deserves to be part of your style arsenal.
Like all Essentials, it’s versatile and will probably never, ever go out of style.
Much like the chino pant, the blazer sits right in the middle of casual and formal. It can go places a Harrington jacket (one of the most conservative casual jackets, far left) can’t. The navy blazer is easy to dress up with a oxford shirt, tie and polished lace-ups for a business meeting.
Heading out for a barbecue wearing a t-shirt and jeans with your suit jacket can give off “trying too hard” dad vibes. Yet with a sport coat, t-shirt and jeans work beautifully. The casualness of the fabrics, construction and details are burger and beer ready, but still help you look sharper than the sea of graphic t-shirts and sandals.
The key, I’ve found, is to think of the navy blazer as a casual jacket you can dress up, rather than a suit jacket to dress down.
Before I show you how to weave this Essential piece into your wardrobe, I want to address a question that I’m sure is running through your head…
JUST WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SPORTS COAT, BLAZER, AND A SUIT JACKET?
A lot of guys will throw ultra old-school rules at you, especially when it comes to something like the difference between sports coats, blazers and suit jackets.
I like to keep things simpler. When you and I are going shopping, how will we find what we’re looking for?
In other words, how are the stores presenting things to us?
Traditionally, sports coat were made of heftier fabrics like tweeds, as they were jackets made for hunting. (Just think British men, rifles and dogs. That kind of thing.) Blazers had a naval background, were usually navy with gold buttons.
Now, sports coats and blazers have become catch all terms for a jacket without matching pants. You’ll now find both sports coats and blazers made in casual fabrics like cotton, linens, blends and technical fabrics like polyester (think windbreakers), with a wide variety of buttons.
A suit jacket is still defined as a jacket that’s part of a suit – it comes with pants in matching, usually more luxurious fabrics like finer wool and cashmere. While you can wear a suit jacket as a separate, it’s probably best to just stick to wearing it as part of a suit. Leave the separates to the sport coats/blazers.
Don’t stress out too much with these “definitions”. All you have to remember is if it’s sold without matching pants, chances are it’s a sports coat/blazer.
To make it easier, let me show you my personal favorite kind of navy blazer.
ANATOMY OF MY FAVORITE BLAZER
When shopping for a blazer, you’re going to run into a lot of choices. From single button, to double breasted, to peaked lapels or notched.
Here, I break down my favorite style of navy blazer, which I recommend as your first choice.
Private White V.C.’s beautiful blazer hits all the right spots for me. Patch pockets, partial lining and just the right combination of linen and wool to make it casual, but give it enough body to be appropriate for dressier events. This particular blazer is also treated with ECOSEAM, an environmentally friendly treatment that makes the blazer water and stain-resistant!
OTHER GREAT OPTIONS FOR EVERY LEVEL
Just in time for this season, J.Crew has released a summer weight version of their popular Ludlow suit line. This is a great introduction blazer for those that’ve never owned one. Unlined and unstructured, the blazer is made of a special blend of cotton-linen that J.Crew had custom made through Portuguese fabric mill Somelos. The resulting jacket is light and extremely breathable, a perfect choice for your essential wardrobe.
True to it’s Ivy League inspirations, Gant Rugger’s cotton-pique blazer is as classic as it gets. While they do have a cotton-linen blazer out this season, I chose this one instead for it’s patch pockets. Cotton pique is a softer fabric compared to linen and wool blends (they usually used for polo shirts). So expect and extremely comfortable blazer to relax in. This one is cut slim, so be sure to size up.
FROM MEETINGS TO MAUI:
1 BLAZER, ANY SITUATION
It’s one thing to say something is versatile, it’s another thing to actually show you. Whether you want to look like business for those weekday meetings, or you want to chill on the beach with a cold beer in hand, here are 5 outfits to give you some navy blazer inspiration.
The blazer can take the place of a proper suit with the right pairings. A collared shirt and a clean pant are essential. A casual, dark cotton twill pants like this will work perfectly. If it’s too casual for your taste, swap it out for a proper light tropical wool dress pant. The other details are quintessential suit accessories, the brown cap toe oxfords (here, my favorite pair from Crockett & Jones), along with the white pocket square.
Having a classic, neutral color base will let you have a little more fun with things like your tie. While I went will a safe red striped pattern from Drake’s, you can easily substitute a solid color for a cleaner look, or go for something a lot more adventurous. I’m a big fan of Drake’s ties like the one above, you can find a wide selection over at The Armoury, one of the best classic men’s store in the world.
For those days when you can go a bit more casual – whether that’s grinding it out at the office or working outside your favorite hotel lobby. The navy blazer plays particularly well with my two favorite essentials: the chino and the chambray shirt. While this look would work with a pair of clean white sneakers, a great pair of boots, like these from Thursday Boot Co., can feel just as comfortable. (Especially with it’s rubber soles).
Whether it’s a blazer or suit, I’ve always felt like a jacket looked “naked” without a pocket square. Take this opportunity to add some color and flair (without overdoing it) and go beyond the basic white pocket square.
Work in an “it’s ok to wear t-shirt and jeans” kind of place, but don’t want to look 16? As Nick Sullivan showed us earlier in this post, a t-shirt can totally work with a blazer. As I said in my “7 Common Style Mistakes Guide”, whatever you do, avoid printed tees and overly embellished denim. (Haven’t read it yet? Check it out here. It’s free!)
Instead, go for solid tees and denim with the right amount of wash. These will make you look grown up, but still relaxed enough for the perfectly casual look. A nice, worn in pair of cognac loafer wouldn’t look out of place here, but how can you really beat a pair of classic Chuck Taylor high tops?
As warm weather approaches, the blazer with light-to-no-lining truly is the perfect jacket. It’ll let you dress up a bit for a nice weekend lunch with the lady without worrying if your back and pits are going to be soaked in sweat. The polo shirt has gone through a bit of a revival lately (thanks in part to great examples like Mr. Bond). I love it because it’s the happy medium between a t-shirt and dress shirt. For this look, I went with a tone on tone, a midnight blue to give it a more serious look. Feel free to brighten it up. Just make sure you go logoless, as alligators and polo players give everyone flashbacks of college bros with popped collars.
Perforated sneakers are a great way to keep your feet from becoming a swampy mess. Cuff your pant and show a little ankle, a more than acceptable look on sunny days. Just make sure you get true no-show or invisible socks, and not ankle socks, which end, as the name implies, at the ankles. When it comes to invisible socks, I go with the “match the color of your shoes” rule for extra stealth. These invisible socks from Falke are the perfect matching shade of beige.
To complete this look, top it off with a classic straw hat and tortoise framed sunglasses. Then go to your favorite local spot, ask for an outside seat and order a nice, cold glass of pilsner.
A vacation somewhere warm is the perfect time to loosen up – especially when it comes to your style. Trying out color and prints can be challenging for some guys. My advice? Go gradual. This outfit would still look great if I went with a solid maroon colored t-shirt or button up. To venture out, keep the color, add a pattern.
A cool, crisp linen, like these made into shorts by Ralph Lauren, are the perfect lounging fabric. Mixing brown and black is an old rule that has gone out the window. I love a thinner, light brown belt to add some more color and a pop to the look, without going overboard. And when it comes to tropical vacations, nothing feels more appropriate than wandering down the street, camera in hand, in a pair of espadrilles.
Never owned a navy blazer? Let me know what you think now after reading this.
For those that have had one stocked in their closet, what’s your favorite way to wear it?
Leave a comment below.