Does a Sports Coat, Blazer, or Suit Jacket Improve Appearance and Perception?
Generally speaking, a sports jacket (blazer or suit jacket), improves your appearance in terms of people’s perception of you, and your perception of yourself.  A fitted (tailored) sports coat (also called a sports jacket), blazer, or suit jacket works even better. This isn’t to say it is a hard-and-fast rule, but rather a general word of good advice.
How Can a Sports Jacket Improve Your Appearance?
Dressing sharp creates a value-bias on behalf of the observer altering their cognitive frame of reference, and a sports jacket is culturally recognized as sharp and classy. Paring these two facts gives us a simple actionable item that is just as useful for the club as it is a job interview, and you are well advised to heed it.
Specifically, a sports coat (blazer or suit jacket) improves your appearance by:
- Making you look taller.
- Making you look thinner.
- Making you look like you are in better shape.
- Making you look like you have better posture.
- Making you look more successful.
- Making you look more respectable.
- Making you appear to have good taste and style.
Given the above, a sports coat improves people’s perception of you. This is in part because it gives you more confidence in yourself and part because it gives others more confidence in you. The positive feedback loop itself increases the power of each effect.
A video discussing how a jacket improves appearance.
Perception is Value
A sports coat can make a drastic difference as to how you are treated, how you are valued, and can generally help ensure good first impressions.
A study featured in the Wall Street Journal showed that a suit jacket had a drastic affect on participants ability to negotiate a deal over a fake factory. Those with suit jackets moved off their initial offer by an average of only $830,000, compared with $2.81 million for those in sweatpants and $1.58 million for those in neutral clothing.
Difference Between a Sports Coat, Blazer, and Suit Jacket
A sports jacket (or sports coat) is sometimes confused with a blazer or suit jacket. They will all do the trick but the there is an important difference:
- Suit Jacket (also called a sports coat): Comes with a matching pair of trousers, is the most formal of the three. Should only be worn with matching pants, looks great with a collared shirt and tie.
- Blazer: The suit jacket / sports coat hybrid. It is classy, but can be worn with a pair of jeans, as it doesn’t come with matching pants. It is typically more formal than a sports coat.
- Sports coat: Gives off a less formal vibe, but commands near the same respect as a suit. This beast can get you into a swanky club or simply make you look important at a dive bar. Should be worn with jeans and typically not a tightly buttoned up tie. One of the only ways to “lose” with a sports coat is to go too formal.
Isn’t This Trivial? Is there Science Behind it?
The studies on appearance are fairly sparse, but the studies that have been done completely back up what i’m saying (check the references). The “men’s sport coat” advice industry is probably a little on daytime TV side of psychology, but generally there is some powerful proof in the appearance and value correlation.
Studies aside, it’s as easy to test as going down to a thrift store or the Nordstrom rack and buying a properly fitting sports coat, blazer, or suit jacket.
It may need a little tailoring in order to fit correctly. This is money well-spent. Experiment with going out in various outfits, and see the difference in the way you feel and the way you treated. Of course we welcome comments about your experience.
GOLDEN RULE: Always get your cloths tailored. Every stitch of clothing on TV and the movies is fitted and tailored. Typically the person you are seeing is also wearing makeup, has a personal trainer, and is actively dieting. Then there is lighting and airbrushing and CGI. So keep all this in mind when you stand in front of the mirror.
Is the Advice Just for Men, or Does it Apply to Women Too?
This advice is not aimed at either sex. Simply put, a sports coat looks great on anyone. That being said, there are times when a sports coat won’t work.
When Does a Sports Coat Not Work?
A sports coat works for both sexes most of the time. However, there are some times when a sports coat can be much less effective.
Consider not wearing a sports coat if:
- You should be wearing a formal suit or a blazer (in more formal settings a sports coat can make you look underdressed).
- You are at a beach or somewhere where it makes no sense to have a jacket on.
- If you are wearing an outfit that clashes with the sports coat you have.
- If the rest of your outfit is already super formal and you are going somewhere casual.
- If the coat is wrinkled and dirty (there is a point where the negative appearance grime overrides the positive appearance of the jacket).
Sports Coat Tips and Tricks
Here are a few tips and tricks in regards to sports coats:
- The seams preventing you from putting your hands in your pockets are for style (they keep the pockets closed and neat looking). You can cut that seam out if you want to use the pockets. Not doing this can appear a little weird (as fake pockets are a little strange). Although, keeping the seams can make you the jacket look neater. It’s your call.
- If the jacket has vents in the back, there will be a few stitches holding them closed. These are not like the optional pocket seams, these supposed to be cut.
- Don’t button the top collar and have your tie on tightly unless you want your look to be formal. If you are going to wear a shirt and tie, loosen the top button and collar so your casual jacket matches.
- Consider wearing shoes, shirt, and pants that match. You can do jeans and sneakers and a t-shirt. You can do slacks, a button up, and loafers. Just coordinate things so you look good.
- If you want to take a suit jacket test run, consider going to a thrift store or a sale store like Nordstrom Rack. Get a nearly fitted jacket, but don’t break the bank. Even a $25 thrift store coat can look like a million bucks if it is properly fitted.
- Consider going to a tailor, Nordstrom Rack has tailors in-house. A tailored jacket looks much better.
- Consider color. Dark colors don’t look dirty as quickly. Don’t get a bright color that stands out if you only have one jacket. You’ll want to wear the jacket frequently, so it needs to be a neutral object like jeans. Few people notice if you wear neutral clothing frequently.
- When the time comes, go to the cleaners. You must dry clean only. Unless the jacket is made to be machine washed, the different fabrics will shrink at their own rates and you will end up with a clean, but unwearable, garment.