Dressing for the awkward middle ground between smart and casual can be confusing. Not all situations that require you to make a special effort call for a suit. But equally, turning up in something like a simple shirt and chinos can feel unfinished and sloppy.
It sometimes feels like garments fall firmly into either category – smart or casual – without much in the way of crossover. But owning a casual blazer can make striking a balance much simpler.
This hybrid jacket’s relaxed shape combined with stylistic elements borrowed from tailoring make it a powerful tool when it comes to smart-casual dressing. It allows you to look put together without appearing overly dressed up, which makes it perfect for those difficult-to-dress-for situations.
What Is A Casual Blazer?
First thing’s first: when we say ‘blazer’, we’re not using the word in the traditional sense. Strictly speaking a blazer is a navy sports jacket (casual tailored jacket) with metal buttons.
However, over the years, traditional blazers have become increasingly uncommon, and usage of the term has evolved to mean any casual tailored-style jacket – i.e, lapels, vents, two- or three-button front. It has effectively replaced ‘sports jacket’ in the modern menswear vernacular.
By that token, a casual blazer is a jacket which retains most of those tailored elements, but has certain aspects that make it more informal. For example, casual blazers are often ‘unstructured’, meaning they lack the shoulder padding found in most suit jackets, affording them a more relaxed drape. They might also be made from more relaxed fabrics like linen or corduroy.
Casual Blazer Buying Considerations
Fabric plays a big role in determining formality. Generally speaking the looser the weave of the fabric, the more informal the garment will feel due to the heavier texture.
For this reason, textured fabrics like corduroy, twill and even knits are popular choices for casual blazers.
A casual blazer should fit well and sit perfectly in the shoulders without slouching, but it shouldn’t feel overly form-hugging like a suit jacket.
Casual blazers are often slightly boxy for a more laid-back aesthetic.
You can use colour to play with the smart/casual balance further. Dark colours generally make for a smarter jacket, while light colours feel a little more breezy and playful.
6 Types Of Casual Blazers You Should Consider
Part worker jacket, part blazer, this rugged option takes the best of both garments and turns them into something twice as versatile.
It takes the basic blueprint for a tailored jacket (lapels, three-pocket layout, etc) and adds in casual elements more commonly found on a worker jacket. We’re talking patch pockets, heavyweight textured cotton fabric and a boxy cut.
The corduroy blazer is a classic piece that can look great, but it has to be styled with care to avoid veering into geography professor territory. The key is to make sure the fit is immaculate and to incorporate a bit of contrast by mixing it with other textures and different colours.
We’d suggest going for an unstructured version in an earthy or neutral colour like burnt orange or navy and wear it with lighter legwear – a pair of cream chinos would work well.
Somewhere between a cardigan and tailored jacket, knitted blazers aren’t all that common, but they look great and can really help to give an outfit a unique twist.
They’re ideal for creating minimalist smart-casual outfits. Try throwing one on over a plain T-shirt and combining it with some tailored trousers and a pair of smart leather sneakers for an outfit that can handle everything from the office to date nights.
Linen is a great option when it comes to dressing for warmer weather. It’s lightweight, breathable and dries quickly when it does get wet.
It’s also lightly textured, which can bring a touch of character to your summer getups. This slubby finish also gives linen a relaxed vibe, making it perfect for a casual blazer during the warmer months of the year.
Try wearing one in a light neutral colour like beige or ecru with navy trousers and a pair of brown suede loafers.
Opting for twill instead of a more traditional tailoring material like worsted wool gives a blazer a more casual edge. This is especially true if it’s combined with an absence of shoulder padding to soften the silhouette.
A twill blazer with an unstructured fit is a solid all-rounder that can be dressed up or down depending on the situation. If you’re looking for maximum versatility and wearability then this is probably your best option.
Double-breasted jackets are considered more formal than their single-breasted counterparts. Therefore ‘casual’ is not a word commonly used to describe them.
That being said, linen can lend the style a slightly more relaxed feel, making it a good option when it comes to choosing a casual blazer.
Granted, it sits very much towards the ‘smart’ end of the smart-casual spectrum, but it’s something a little bit different, making it perfect for dandy dressers who want the look of traditional tailoring.