How to Pair a Sports Jacket With Jeans

style, clothes, jacket, sports jacket

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The sports jacket is one of the most essential and versatile items that a man can have in his closet. The sports jacket holds its own in contemporary menswear and pairs perfectly with jeans. This opposites-attract rugged yet sophisticated pairing can give anyone a dressy but still casual look; however, proceed cautiously — it’s easy for this combination to go off the rails and look terrible.

The Art of Manliness explains why this winning combo can so easily run askew:

The main reason the sports coat and jeans look fails is that the two pieces are too jarringly matched. Generally, the jeans are too casual, and the jacket is too formal. And often both pieces are too baggy. The solution of course is to make sure that top and bottom complement each other well — that your jeans are a little more formal, your jacket is a little more casual, and everything fits well. Remember, fit is the foundation of style!

Luckily, with a little attention to tailoring and finding a good match between the style of your coat and jeans, any man can pull off this winning pair. The key to pulling it off is this: Simply choose the right jeans, the right jacket, and the right accessories. So let’s get to it: Here’s what you need to know about choosing that winning combination.

The jeans

man in jacket and jeans

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The sports jacket requires a specific type of jean, and it must be a slim cut pair. It shouldn’t be too skinny or too wide, and should be tailored to fit you just perfectly so that it can pair perfectly with your sports jacket. When either buying a pair or digging deep within the confines of your closet, you’re looking for ones in a mid-to-dark denim wash with a clean, slim-fit silhouette or ones in a trouser-ish shape. Never pair your sports jacket with heavily distressed denim, washed out faded jeans, baggy, or bootcut. The only time lighter denim is a possible option is during the spring/summer months and only during the day, but to be safe, stick to a mid-wash.

The sports jacket

Young African American wearing Jacket

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Generally speaking, the sports jacket has a softer-shouldered fit compared to a suit jacket separate or conventional blazer. The sports jacket is designed for layers to be worn underneath it for when it’s cooler outside, with a knit or roll neck and shirt, or just with a buttoned-up shirt. Stylistically, some sports jackets feature elbow patches, as well as a slit and pleats in the back.

The ideal sports jacket material is steeped in English heritage: Think herringbone, hounds or dog tooth, flannel, and tweed. Whichever fabric you choose, the sports jacket is big on textural patterns (relying on the weave of the yarn).

The accessories

The pieces you pair with your sports jacket and jeans can be just as important, if not more important, in pulling the overall look together. The right accessories will allow for a slightly dressier look or a more casual look, but overall the general goal is to dress the jacket down, rather than dress your jeans up. Disclaimer: There’s only so much dressing up to the look that you can do before the elements of the outfit become wacky.

These are the accessories that you should be paying close attention to:


The perfect shirt to wear underneath your blazer is a casual, open-collar button down in your choice of pattern or solid color that dresses up the outfit a bit, while a denim or chambray button-down goes well with a very casual look.


When it’s cold out, you’ll be grateful that your sports jacket allows room for a little extra layering. Don’t hesitate to pull a V-neck sweater or casual vest over your button-down shirt, and under your jacket.


If your goal is to dress it up, choose a brown pair of brogues or oxfords. To take it down slightly, go with a leather loafer or double monk strap shoes. And if you want to take it one last notch down the casual ladder, try a pair of smooth leather sneakers, preferably in white (just be sure to roll your jeans up slightly or have them hemmed to be worn with a pair of trainers).

Tie and pocket square:

A tie is unnecessary to add to this look because it ups the formality of your overall outfit. However, if you’re itching to wear one, you can pull it off, just so long as the tie is a little bulkier and texturized, like a wool tie, and more casual.

If you’re an adventurous and stylish man, a pocket square is a sharp addition if you’re going for a dressier ensemble. Similar to your tie, if you opt for a pocket square, choose a thicker one in a more rustic fabric rather than silk. Also, make sure to wear the handkerchief a little lower rather than having it puff out of the pocket.

When you bring all these elements together, be sure to stick to a consistent theme: If you’re going for a dressier look, wear a nice crisp dress shirt, a pair of oxfords, and a pocket square. If you’re going for more of a casual look, wear a chambray shirt and a pair of plain white leather trainers (or work boots) without any added accessories.

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