Formal Clothes Guide for Men: Everything You Need To Know

Men often find themselves at a loss when dressing up for formal occasions. When they hear “formal,” they automatically think of a full suit and tie. Luckily, we’ve created formal clothes with different levels of ‘formality’ that won’t have you looking around for a 3 piece suit.

And so we decided it was time to put together a comprehensive guide that will let you explore everything you need to know about formal clothes for men, with a specific focus on men's sports coats and blazers. Whether you’re attending a special event or elevating your everyday style - this guide will give you all the info you need to dress your best and make a lasting impression.

The Difference Between Suits, Blazers, and Sport coats

Before we dive in, let’s clarify the distinction between a blazer and a sports coat. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they have subtle differences that set them apart.

What Is a Blazer?

A blazer is a jacket that is more formal than a sports coat but less formal than a suit. It is typically solid-colored and features contrasting buttons, usually gold, silver, or brass. Men’s blazer outfits are versatile and can be worn for formal and semi-formal occasions.

Blazers are typically made of wool, flannel, hopsack, or serge. They exude a sense of sophistication and are perfect for adding a touch of elegance to your outfit.

What Is a Sports Coat?

A sports coat is a more casual jacket than a blazer or a suit. It often features patterns, such as plaids, checks, or herringbones, and is typically made of textured fabrics like flannel, wool, tweed, cotton, linen, or corduroy.

Sports coats offer an excellent opportunity to showcase your style and add flair to your ensemble. They are perfect for semi-formal events and can be paired with various pants to create stylish outfits.

What Is a Suit?

A suit consists of a matching jacket and trousers made from the same fabric. Suits are the most formal option and are typical for business events, weddings, and other formal occasions. A tuxedo is a suit with a formal jacket with satin lapels and lining. It is paired with satin-piped black trousers and often worn with a cumberbund, vest, or both.

Suits are the go-to option for strictly formal events, making you look polished and refined. However, a well-tailored sports coat or blazer can be a fantastic alternative for a more relaxed formal look.

How To Choose the Right Sports Coat or Blazer

Now that you understand the difference between a blazer and a sports coat, let’s explore how to choose the right one for you. Consider the following factors when making your selection.

Examine the Fabric

When choosing a sports coat or blazer, pay close attention to the fabric. Opt for high-quality materials such as wool, linen, or cotton. These fabrics are durable and breathable and will provide a polished look.

Additionally, consider the weight of the fabric, as it should be suitable for the climate and occasion. Lighter materials are ideal for warmer seasons, while heavier fabrics offer warmth during colder months.

Consider Color Coordination

Color coordination is vital when selecting a sports coat or blazer. Choose neutral colors like navy, gray, or black for a classic and timeless look. You can pair these versatile shades with various pants and shirts.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, experiment with bolder colors or subtle patterns to add personality to your outfit. Just ensure that the colors complement each other and create a cohesive look.

Pay Attention to Fit and Length

The fit of your sports coat or blazer is crucial for creating a polished look. It should be neither tight nor loose, as an ill-fitted jacket will ruin the entire ensemble.

Additionally, pay attention to the length of the jacket. For a well-tailored look, it should hit your hips or slightly below. Anything longer or shorter will make you look sloppy, so try on different sizes and styles until you find a fit that works with your body type.

Consider the Event

The occasion you’re dressing for plays a crucial role in choosing the right sports coat or blazer. Opt for a dark-colored blazer or a well-tailored suit for formal events such as weddings or black-tie affairs. A sports coat with a classic pattern or texture will work perfectly for semi-formal occasions like cocktail parties or business dinners.

Keep in mind the event’s dress code and dress accordingly. Depending on the occasion, avoid wearing something too casual or formal, as you don’t want to stand out (in the wrong way).

How To Dress Up for Men With Sports Coats

Knowing how to dress will help you look sharp and stylish. Let’s dig in to dressing for different levels of formality...

How To Dress Formal for Men With a Sports Coat

To achieve a formal look with a sports coat:

Pair it with tailored trousers in a complementary color.

Opt for a crisp white dress shirt and a conservative tie.

Complete the ensemble with polished dress shoes and a matching belt.

This folproof look will give you a refined and sophisticated appearance, suitable for black-tie events and weddings.

How To Dress Semi-formal for Men With a Sports Coat

For semi-formal occasions, you have more room to play with your outfit. Pair your sports coat with dress trousers or chinos in a contrasting color.

Experiment with patterns and textures to add visual interest to your ensemble.

Opt for a well-fitted button-down shirt in a complementary color.

Complete the look with loafers or brogues for a polished yet relaxed vibe.

Men’s semi-formal clothes are perfect for cocktail parties, business dinners, and other special events. It leaves room to have more fun with your look.

Men’s Sport Coat Outfit Ideas

Let’s explore some stylish sport coat outfit ideas. We have a range of sports coats perfect for any occasion. Here are some johnnie-O sports coats that you can wear for your next special event:

Hargrove Woven Sport Coat: This “Maliblu” sports coat combines shades of blue and elevates your look.

Winstead Woven Sport Coat: This “Lake” blue sports coat with shades of dark blue and navy will make you stand out on more formal occasions.

Frazier Woven Sport Coat: Coming in light gray with hints of pink, this sports coat is perfect for special occasions and will give you a polished look.

Nowell Woven Sport Coat: The perfect combination of tan and blue, this sports coat will make you look sharp and refined.

johnnie-O sports coats are a game-changer. Made from a luxurious blend of wool and silk from top Italian mills, each sports coat is lighter, softer, and more comfortable than a typical blazer.

Every jacket features a printed knit design, a three-inch lapel, flannel under collar trim, a two-button front, a unique Barchetta chest pocket, and two open patch pockets, making it a stylish and timeless investment for years.

More Tips and Tricks to Rocking a Sports Coat

Now that you have a good grasp of how to style your sports coat or blazer for different levels of formality, here are some additional tips and tricks to help you confidently rock your formal attire.

Don’t Be Afraid of Prints and Patterns

While solid-colored sports coats are timeless and versatile, don’t shy away from experimenting with prints and patterns. Plaids, checks, herringbones, and houndstooth can add a touch of personality to your outfit. Remember to keep the rest of your ensemble relatively subdued to let the sports coat take the spotlight.

Test Your Style With Different Pants

The beauty of sports coats is that you can pair them with various pants to create different looks. Experiment with different styles, such as dress trousers, chinos, or jeans, for a more casual formal look. Pay attention to the fit and ensure that the pants complement the overall color scheme of your outfit.

Dress Up or Down

Sports coats and blazers are versatile and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Pair your sports coat with dress trousers and a tie for a more formal look. To achieve a casual formal style, swap the dress trousers for chinos or dark jeans and leave the tie behind. This way, you’ll strike the perfect balance between sophistication and relaxed elegance.

You Can Never Go Wrong With a Neutral Palette

When in doubt, stick to a neutral color palette. Navy, gray, black, and beige are timeless shades that work well for any formal occasion. These colors are easy to match and create a cohesive and refined look. Additionally, neutrals provide an excellent backdrop for incorporating accessories and adding pops of color where desired.

Layer Clothes Thoughtfully

Layering is an effective way to add depth and interest to your outfit. Pair your sports coat with a well-fitted sweater, cardigan, or vest during colder months. This not only keeps you warm but layering will enhance the look of your ensemble. Just be mindful that the layers don’t make you look bulky.

The Bottom Line

Formal clothing doesn’t have to be intimidating. With the right pieces, you can effortlessly elevate your look and make an impression at your next big event. So, now that you’re well-equipped to navigate the world of formal attire with confidence and style - Dress up, step out, and make a statement!