When it comes to talk of tailored clothing, suits seem to get all the attention. Yet legendary dressers like Fred Astaire and Luciano Barbera— not to mention your humble author here, who has the same preference though is slightly less legendary — have often preferred sport coats.

Why? The reasons are plenty:

  • Sport coats allow you to dress up but still retain a relaxed nonchalance
  • They tend to be more softly constructed than suits
  • They offer greater creative possibilities in mixing and matching with trousers
  • And finally, sport coats tend to come in bolder patterns, such as windowpanes on top of herringbones, and texturally interesting fabrics like tweed.

So what should you look for when choosing a sport coat? As always, let personal preference be your guide. But here are a few tips to steer you on your way.

Look for versatility. If you’re a clotheshorse with 20 jackets in his closet, you can afford things that only pair with certain pants, shirts and ties. But if you’re still building your wardrobe — and need something you can get a lot of mileage from — make sure the sport coat you choose can be worn with default basics, such as grey trousers in cooler weather, or khakis in warmer weather. Fred Astaire — the greatest advocate of grey flannel trousers ever — would probably say if you can’t wear a jacket with grey flannels then it’s of no use.

Since sport coats are more casual than suits, they pair better with things like jeans and polo shirts. So following that argument, you might want to opt for the classic single-vented American style jacket, rather than the more formal double vents we associate with European tailoring. But we’re all for mixing things up, so vent choice really comes down to personal preference.

The same goes for double-breasted sport coats, which have the virtue of being very rare. They seem to beg for a tie more than single-breasted sport coats, then again those stylish Italian guys are always wearing their double-breasted jackets with open shirts and no socks, so go for it.

Although these days wearing a sport coat automatically puts you a notch above most men in our casual age (toss one over your polo and jeans when flying and you just might get an upgrade), sport coats take their name from the “sporting” and country attire that English gentlemen would wear on the weekends when they weren’t wearing somber suits in town. As a result, sport coats often come with details that reveal their country heritage. There are suede elbow patches, working throat latches in case you get caught in a sudden chill, and angled hacking pockets, which have hunting origins.

We put as much care into offering great sport coats as well as suits, and know they can make for a winning combination when it comes to style. They don’t call them “sport” coats for nothing.