The Truth about Sport Coats (not that we were ever lying)

Sport coats are where the well dressed man really distinguishes himself from the pedestrian  dresser”. 

It’s MANic Monday!  And today, it’s All about Sportcoats…and later this week it will be All about Peeps!

Every man can wear a sport coat, but many are unsure what to wear it with.  Can they pair it with slacks, jeans, golf shirt, turtleneck?  What kind of print works?  Tweed, Paisley, Hounds tooth?  Must they wear a tie with it?  Like most fashion “rules”…there are no rules.  Wear what you like, and what you feel looks good…Of course, Using guidelines is always a smart move, if you have No idea what you like or what looks good on you.

Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.  Gore Vidal

Some Basic Rules…aka Guidelines, for wearing Sport Coats

* Using the blue blazer as the “corner piece”, the wardrobe should contain as many soft earth tones, tans and blues as possible.

* Classic colors like navy blue or black add a more formal appearance to your outfit.

* Colors like tan and white make your outfit more casual.

* Sport coats can be paired with almost any type of pants. Wool trousers, denim jeans, and khakis are just some of the possibilities that can be expertly paired with a sport coat.

* When matching trousers, black should be reserved for only gray sport coats.  After that, use your darker trousers such as browns, grays and navy for your professional wear and the lighter colors such as tan and pearl gray for your more social occasions.

* Pair a light-colored sports coat with dark trousers, such as a patterned tan sports jacket with denim jeans, or a light brown camel coat with dark brown or navy slacks.

The same basic guidelines for shirts and ties with a suit apply to the sports coat, but you can get a little bolder in your selection.

Here are a few Cliff Notes:

*  Keep Patterns small and muted.  This is a safe rule.

*  Bold patterns only after 6 P.M. – I warn against loud, Hawaiian prints.  Ever.

* Sport coats have 2 or 3 buttons.   Only button the Top button when there are 2 buttons, and button the Top 2 buttons on a 3-buttoned sport coat.  When you button all the buttons, it tends to look too constricting.   And please buy a size which can be buttoned.

Stock your closet with a selection of sports coats that are appropriate for different occasions. Choose a patterned jacket and a solid color and then pair them with different types of pants, such as cotton twill, polyester, wool, denim or corduroy to dress the jackets up or down.   Match darker jackets and lighter pants, such as a velvet navy coat with light gray pants or a dark brown sports coat with light khaki pants.  Not sure I know many men, however, who can pull off the Velvet navy coat!

The Navy Blazer

*  Navy Blazer – The true cornerstone.  Comes with brown or metal buttons…When angling towards the shiny, bright, brass buttons…Think Thurston Howell, III…may Not be the look you are hoping for.  But, if you like brass buttons on your Navy blazer or sport coat and not brown or tan buttons, go for it.

This is Perfection!

• Subtle – again, not loud.  Not too bold.   Fabulously subtle.


Light weight wools and silk and wool blend work nicely.  Also include your cotton and linen blends for a sophisticated look on a warm summer day.  When selecting shirts and ties, always complement the Main color in the coat



Wool and cashmere are great Fall fabrics.  Herringbone and Hounds tooth patterns work well in fall weights and should be treated as solids.


The right shirt (J. Hilburn, of course), accessories and footwear can pull your sports coat and trousers together. Take the time to experiment with colors and styles of ties, shirts, belts and shoes to find a look you find pleasing. (

Men’s fashion “rules” and guidelines are sooooo easy…Men can Always look fantastic!!
And speaking of rules…I found this little nugget, and just had to share, as it’s humorous (and I like humor) well-written ( as I sometimes believe I can pull off), and quite tongue in cheek…And since I’m not all about Rules of Dress, but have specific ideas of what I like, I enjoy what this gentleman, make that young gentleman finds appropriate.  (Courtesy of
Rules of Men’s Dress

All style is relative. Some people will disagree with what this blog dictates is good style, and this blog would most likely disagree with them on what they think is good style. As you can imagine, this results in a situation in which there is no single list of men’s dress rules that are comprehensive and absolute. The following are a set of rules that The Fine Young Gentleman stands by. There are some rules that are immutable, such as the one that a man should match the metal of the bit on his loafer with the buckle on his belt with the metal on his suspenders with the buttons on his blazer with the metal of his cufflinks. Then there are some rules that have exceptions, such as the rule that a man’s socks should match the color of his pants. The Fine Young Gentleman’s rules are derived from a variety of sources including tradition, classic rules of men’s dress, common sense and personal taste.

1. Thou shall match the metal of the bit on his loafers, belt buckle, suspenders, blazer buttons and cufflinks.

2. Thou need not match the metal on his watch with the other metals he is wearing, however, it is preferable.

3. Thou can wear black shoes with a navy suit/pants.

4. Thou shall only wear black, brown or oxblood (burgundy) leather shoes for business dress. The only exceptions allowed are white bucks. Blue, green or any other colored shoes are inappropriate.

5. White bucks are badass…just like the Honey Badger. 🙂

6. Thou shall match the color of his socks with the color of his pants. As an exception, socks can be matched to something worn above the waist such as a man’s shirt, tie, pocket square or suspenders (braces in the UK).

7. Thou shall match the color of his belt to that of his shoes. This holds true in all situations except when wearing white bucks.

8. Thou need not match the leather on his watchband with that of his shoes and belt, however, it is preferable.

9. Thou shall wear a belt when wearing pants with belt loops.

10. Thou shall never, ever, ever use their belt to hold accessories like beepers, phones, Blackberrys, ID tags and/or keys.

11. If pants do not have belt loops they should have side tabs and/or buttons for use with suspenders (braces).

12. Thou shall never wear a tie and pocket square of the same pattern. The sports commentators who do so look like fools.

13. Thou shall not wear a French cuff (double cuff) shirt without a jacket.

14. Thou shall always doubt salespeople and in-store tailors opinions on fashion, style and fit. The stores they work for pay them, not you. Their motives are to sell products to who will buy them, not necessarily to who will look best in them.

15. Thou shall not wear slip on shoes with a suit. In fact, they should be avoided.

16. Thou can wear loafers with a suit, however, this is mostly practiced in America.

17. Loafers are badass, especially those with bits or tassels.

18. Thou shall not wear flat toe/square toe shoes. They should be avoided like the plague. They are cancerous to a man’s wardrobe. They are aesthetically offensive. Their sole purpose lies in showing men what not to wear. Money spent on these would have been better spent on Enron stock circa June 2000.

19. Thou shall only wear patent leather shoes for black tie (semi-formal) and white-tie (formal) occasions. Patent leather is never acceptable to be worn in a dress or causal setting.

20. Thou shall never wear a long necktie for a semi-formal (black tie) affair, even if that tie is solid black.

21. Thou can wear brown suede shoes for business dress. They are elegant and gentlemanly.

22. Brown suede shoes are badass.

23. Thou shall not wear Chesterfield coats, which are typically signified by a velvet collar, with anything of less formality than a suit. They should not be worn with business casual attire.

24. Thou shall not wear a tie without a jacket. If done so, he will run the risk of looking like a waiter at TGI Fridays.

25. Thou shall not wear suspenders (braces) without a jacket. Sorry hipsters.

26. Thou shall only wear suspenders (braces) that utilize buttons, not clips. Again, sorry hipsters.

27. Thou shall not wear a crew neck undershirt when the top button of a shirt is left unbuttoned. When leaving the top button unbuttoned thou shall wear a v-neck undershirt as The Dude does. The Dude abides.

28. Thou can wear brown suits for business dress.

29. Thou shall only wear shirts with white collars and white cuffs with a jacket. These shirts should not be part of a business casual wardrobe.

30. Thou shall leave the bottom button of vest (waistcoat) unbuttoned. Except when wearing a double-breasted or flat-bottomed vest, in which case the bottom button should remain buttoned.

31. Thou should iron the collar of a shirt before wearing it. Creased collars caused by dry cleaning and hanging do not follow the natural circularity of one’s neck.

32. Thou shall utilize a pocket square when wearing a jacket.

33. Pocket squares are underrated, underutilized and most importantly they are badass.

34. Thou shall not wear a back pack/book bag when in business dress, especially when in a suit. Book bags are reserved for casual wear and students.

35. Thou shall not wear a shirt with any type of logo on it in a business setting, including when in business casual dress. These shirts should be reserved for casual wear.

36. Thou shall wear a tie bar at a slant, not horizontal.

37. Off color shirts with a white-collar should have French (double) cuffs, regardless of whether of not the cuffs are white or the same color or pattern as the shirt.

38. Life is more fun in a tuxedo (dinner jacket).

39. Thou shall never button all three buttons of a three button jacket. Sometimes the top, always the middle and never ever ever the bottom.

40. Thou shall wear over the calf socks as opposed to crew socks whenever possible. For they are far superior in both form and function.

41. Thou shall not wear a solid black suit for business or professional activities. Save it for formal events and funerals.

42. Style is a state of mind.

And yes, I believe he used the term “badass” three times.  I find this hilarious…but many of the rules/guidelines are right on.

Song of the Day:  Suit and Tie, by Justin Timberlake




Check out my newest venture:
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.  Thomas Jefferson


  1. As usual, perfect timing Terry. Tom is starting a new adventure that requires shirt and tie each day. I think I’ll be talking with you and J. Hilburn soon. Lots of good inspiration and pictures in this post, thanks.

  2. Love the blog, but not necessarily the pictures/examples…I’m fat (Mom calls me husky), can I not dress well?

    Can you help me dress well?

    • Sorry, Mr. Farmer…I just always post pictures of my former boyfriends (;)), so wasn’t giving a thought to sizing, per se…yes, indeed you can dress well, and I’m most certainly up to the challenge. I can make the next MANic Monday Blog about Dressing Well for all shapes and sizes, which will be first Monday of May…but if you cannot wait that long, I’m sure I can pen something even sooner.
      And I’m just tickled pink that you read my blog…unless Mrs. Farmer forces you to. 🙂

      • Mrs. Farmer turned me onto your blog, but I am my own man…nobody forces me to do anything!

        I’m looking forward to the first Monday of May, I won’t wear a thing until then.

      • Yes Mr. Farmer…I’m aware you wear the pants in the family…well, you used to…that is until I write that blog on dressing cuddly men. Hmmm.
        And you are indeed correct, kinda hard to find good pictures of cuddly men well-dressed. Perhaps you’ll appear in my next blog?

      • Not a fan of blogs but this one is a real gem. Thank you for sharing your insight.

  3. I’m so sorry that I didn’t see your response…I would be willing to appear in a blog, but what would I wear? See the dilemma?

    • Oh ye, of little faith…
      Actually the before pictures could launch me past 1 Million views! And I most definitely acquiesce to you re: the lack of fluffy men photo’s…Truly, I’ve had a devil of a time finding any on google. Thank goodness I know you (well sorta). I’m gonna make you famous (more famous) Mr. Farmer.

  4. My 12 year old son starts Junior Cotillion this month.
    A coat & tie at most events required.
    My first thought is a navy jacket and preppy tie with khakis.
    We are in the south.
    What do you think?

  5. […] need for a new word for a piece of clothes that actually could be either described as a jacket or a casual sports jacket or anything like that. Maybe, I am the only one who has missed so far the true difference between a […]

    • 18. Thou shall not wear flat toe/square toe shoes. They should be avoided like the plague. They are cancerous to a man’s wardrobe. They are aesthetically offensive. Their sole purpose lies in showing men what not to wear. Money spent on these would have been better spent on Enron stock circa June 2000.

      This had me cracking up! My husbands square toes “disappeared” 🙂 I did however replace them with a pair of sexy shoes from J Adler!

  6. Does any man in America wear a winter white blazer with navy slacks in winter? Or is this exclusively a European style?

  7. Hi. I had to get some nice clothes for a consulting job that I want to get in NYC. The actual work is for a City agency, working in software. Anyway, the guy at the store insisted that you don’t need to wear a “suit” for interviews anymore, and he was very persuasive and seemed to be fashion oriented, so I got a black sport coat with a white/blue patterned shirt and khaki pants. It looks badass, the combination, but now I am worried that I should be wearing a tie for this this, so i am thinking about ditching the shirt and wearing a white shirt with a tie with the same black sport coat and khaki pants. Is that doable? If so, what kind of tie? Solid (color?) or black with a design on it? Help? I’m a husky guy like that other guy that posted here. I hate dressing formally since my girth is always a comfort problem… My wife, who is blond, petite, and hot thought this outfit we got looks great but then again the whole traditional interview dress code etiquette thing is worrying me… help?

    • In the software industry, it is more casual, rather than a position in a banking or law job. I think what you got, sounds great. I’m sure your wife has a great eye, and wouldn’t steer you wrong. I tend to “overdress”, rather than underdress. That being said, I do think you will be very appropriately dressed in the black sport coat, patterned shirt and khaki pants. Good luck. 🙂

      • I wear a Black Suit with a colorful tie and white dress shirt to business meetings all the time. The colorful tie is the key to making the black suit look not too overly formal. I am the Boss and Black is powerful and commands respect. You can’t beat wearing a Black Suit with an orange or yellow or lavender silk print tie with the white shirt as the background. million dollar look.

  8. Terry, thank you for this interesting post. I can understand why some of the fashion “rules” exist, but I disagree with the comment quoted regarding slipon shoes. I live in Australia, and am married to a Japanese girl. Not only that, we have many foreign friends, all of whom request we take our shoes off when we visit their houses. And if you visit much of Asia, the same thing applies in shops, restaurants and temples.

    And nobody in either a social or professional setting down here has ever said anything about slip-ons lacking. Provided they fit, match the other clothing colour wise, and are clean and polished, I don’t see the issue.

    Can you please advise why you think that website may have something against slip-ons? Thank you 🙂

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