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  • Writer's pictureNiels Strohkirch

What is the difference between a Sports Jacket and a Suit Jacket

Many times over, I am asked the same question: “What is the difference between a sports jacket and a suit jacket?”

To acquire a better understanding of the differences we have to look first at some historical facts:

In the middle of the 19th century the sports jacket (some also call it sports coat) was created to be worn at various sport events. The typical sport at that time was horse riding and hunting with a rifle. The reason being, this type of jacket gave more room as compared to rigid typical coats. The sports jacket was hence preferred as it made sure that there was plenty of manoeuvring opportunity for the wearer. Besides this, the sports jacket also strayed away from the typically dark colours of the times and established its appearance in brownish and greenish shades often bordered with Shetland stripes or Madras plaids. The choice of fabric also changed to tweed as it was a more sturdy, durable and weather resistant material for the outdoors as compared to the typical coat material which was usually classic worsted wool. The leather shoulder patches originated as an extra support for the rifle hunt and the elbow patches were also invented to give the jacket a longer life in a rough and tough environment.

Today the sports jacket is worn to sports events such as tennis, golf, yachting, polo etc. or simply to a less formal business event where it can be combined with a nice pair of designer jeans. However there is no clear line to distinguish between events today as sometimes even the same jacket also doubles as a suit jacket. Having said that there are still some general rules that help set the standards here:

The most obvious difference is that one would normally wear a matching pair of trouser/pants in the same material as a suit jacket while the sports jacket is typically worn to a non matching pair of trousers/pants but still complementing the fabric and colour of the jacket.The sports jacket can have elbow patches from leather or suede which typically are for fashion reasons today.The sports jacket pockets are typically patched on and the lapels are sports lapels while you have peak lapels and classic flap pockets for the suit jacket.The buttons can also make the difference. You may use “gold-buttons” with a club logo or any other kind of design you like for your sports jacket but you would not use these buttons for a formal suit jacket. Here you stay more conservative and chose typically matching buttons from plastic or even better from horn.The sports jacket is definitely more casual as compared to the suit jacket and should be avoided in formal events.


In today's time the usage of the sports jacket and the suit jacket come much closer together then it used to be 50 years or even 100 years ago. Still, a sports jacket should not be worn to a formal event and should be kept for the informal, casual and sport-events. Anyhow, wearing a jacket is always a good idea as it has the power of making you look more dashing and professional besides this it is also able to “hide” some of the extra pounds you may carrying on you.

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