We’ve all sat in a waiting room at the doctor’s office or the barber shop and thumbed through a fashion magazine. If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself wondering: Why don’t my clothes look and fit like that?

Well, there’s some bad news: The models in those advertisements have incredibly high-paid help in the form of full-time stylists who ensure everything is in its perfect place.

But, there’s also some good news: You’re only a few bits of knowledge away from being able to create that perfect look on your own.

Have you ever found yourself wondering: How should a sport coat fit? If so, you’ve come to the right place. So put down your style mag and take these tips to heart — and put them into action.

I’m going to tackle how a sport coat should fit in pieces, starting with the top of the torso and working my way down. But one thing you should know: It’s always good to find a great off-the rack fit. You can take a sport coat to a tailor, but they can only do so much in certain areas, and it’s often more expensive than simply taking in a pair of pants. So do your best t make sure you’re getting a good fit the day you walk out of the store with that garment bag draped over your shoulder.


What’s the Difference Between a Sport Coat and a Blazer?

You’re going to encounter basically 3 types of men’s jackets: sport coats, blazers and suit jackets. Sport coats are the most casual, blazers somewhere in the middle, and suit jackets the most formal.

Why are they called sport coats? Because they have roots in the tweed jackets that European mean once wore hunting. Due to these roots, sport coats are more likely to have designs and patterns, and they’re typically more durable than either blazers or suit jackets.

Blazers, on the other hand, have a set of defining characteristics. They are typically blue, they are typically wool, they typically have pockets, and they typically feature noticeable gold or silver buttons.

And, finally, suit jackets are also wool, but the wool is likely of higher quality. Also, suit jackets always have pants to match (that is, to be worn as a suit), whether the jacket and pants were designed to go together or not.

Now, a word of warning: There is some overlap in these definitions. You can find a non-traditional blazer (one that’s charcoal, for example, and that has more toned-down buttons) that could just as easily be classified as a sport coat. There’s not always a right and wrong answer.


Again: How Should a Sport Coat Fit?

Walk into a menswear store, and you’ll find a huge collection of sport coats organized by size. The number is your chest measurement. The letter (S, R or L) is the length of the sport coat. If you don’t know your size, or if you’ve been working out since the last time someone measured you, grab a clerk with a tape measure. They can help make sure you get the right size coat.

As you know, fit is essential. The wrong fit can make you look too young, too heavy or just strange in general (when you the fit throws off the balance between your upper and lower bodies). So make sure you look like the stylish and mature adult that you are.

To give you a hand, here’s a look at the 6 boxes you need to check before declaring that a sport coat fits.


1. Collar

Many men get caught up look at sleeve length and should fit, which are important. But one of the biggest mistakes men make when buying a sport coat is getting one that leaves too much space between the shirt collar and the coat’s collar.

This can happen when a coat is too big for you. It can also happen when the back or chest simply don’t fit well. Or, it could be that the coat simply isn’t tailored properly — the neck’s cut too large, for example.

There’s not always an easy answer for this issue. You can try a different size, but it’s often better to try a different coat or a different brand. There are so many men in the world, and there are so many body types. A coat that works for you might not work for fine, and vice versa — and that’s just fine.

On the flip side, a coat that bunches around the back of the collar isn’t a good fit either. It could be that the coat is too small, or, again, it could be that you just need to try an option that delivers a better match with your body style.


2. Shoulders

There’s a point where your shoulder drops off and becomes your arm. Your sport coat’s shoulders should stop at that exact spot — where shoulder turn and becomes arm.

An ill-fitting shoulder causes all sorts of problems. If you have a divot just below your shoulder, the coat is too big. If the coat pulls around the armpit and creates pitching (a twisting and wrinkling) around the upper sleeve, it’s too small.

Every line on a blazer should be smooth and natural. That’s how you get the magazine-ad look. And shoulders are nearly impossible for tailors to fix, so it’s vital that you get them right from the start.

Some men have rounded shoulders than others, which makes it harder to avoider divots and pitching. If this is your case, try to find a sport coat that offers more padding in the shoulder or that’s made of a stiffer material.


3. Lapels

Let me introduce you to the hand test, which works in a number of places on a sport coat. First, button the top button of your two-button sport coat. Open your hand so that it’s flat. Your flat hand should fit comfortably when you slide it between your shirt and the jacket’s lapels. Now, ball your hand into a fist. When you slide your fist through the same space, it should pull.

If you can’t slide your flat hand between your shirt and your lapel, the coat is too small. If your first fails to pull the lapel from your shirt, the coat is too big. It’s that simple.


4. Sleeves

Stand naturally in front of a mirror with your arms relaxed at your sides. Flex your hands back at the wrist so that your palms are facing the ground. When you do this, your coat sleeves should sit about a quarter-of-an-inch above the top of your hand.

Also, make sure that the cuff of your shirt sleeve falls in the ballpark of half an inch below your coat sleeve when your arms and hands are relaxed. If you don’t get that shirt sleeve peeking out, it will make your arms look abnormally long — which is not flattering.

If there’s one thing tailors can fix on a sport coat, it’s a sleeve. They can definitely take a sleeve up, and they can let one out about an inch or so before running out of fabric to work with.

Another body-specific challenge you may face: pitching. As mentioned above, pitching is a twisting and wrinkling of the sleeves. Pitching is natural when you’re moving, but you don’t want to see it when you’re standing relaxed. It’s not an issue of a coat’s fit, necessarily — some sport coats are going to pitch on certain body types, while others won’t. If you see pitching, try a different coat or brand.

And, finally, another mistake too many men make is seeking comfort in a sport coat. They want to feel completely comfortable and at ease, which leads them to choose larger sport coats — that swallow them up and make them look like teenagers wearing dad’s stuff to the high school dance. You’re not buying a sport coat to play basketball in, despite the name, so choose something that fits properly.


5. Buttons

Buttons are easy to get right. But, if you manage to get them wrong, they will throw off your entire look. Here are the rules of thumb.

A top button on a two-button sport coat should land an inch or two above your belly button. Under no circumstances should the top button ever fall below the belly button. If it does, your body’s proportions will look incredibly out of whack.

Then there’s tightness. Remember the hand test? Your flat hand should slide comfortably between your buttoned top button and your shirt. And your fist should create a pulling effect when placed in the same spot.

If your flat hand does not fit, you’re going to walk around with the dreaded X effect. This happens when a coat is too tight, and the hem flares out when the top button is buttoned. It’s not a good look.

On the opposite end, if your fist doesn’t fit, it’s likely the sport coat is swallowing you up and that you need to go down a size.

A tailor can work on the sides of a sport coat, especially if it’s too big. But, again, I always recommend finding as close to a perfect fit as possible when you’re still in the store. Oh, and I recommend a two-button sport coat only — I don’t have any tips for three-button, because I don’t recommend that you buy one.


6. Length

In the back, your sport coat should fall just an inch or two above the bottom of your bottom. And, in the front, your sport coat should fall to the middle of your crotch area. The average height of a man in American is about 5 feet, 10 inches. If you’re shorter than that, the hem of your sport coat should fall closer to the middle of your crotch. If you’re taller than that, the hem of your sport coat can go to the lower crotch area.

The length of a sport coat can be altered. But it shouldn’t be. Remember that almost everyone needs a regular length sport coat. Only incredibly tall individuals need a long, and only incredibly short individuals need a short. Try on lots of different options in search of a regular that naturally lands where you need it to.


Final Thoughts on How a Sport Coat Should Fit

How should a sport coat fit? Perfectly … if you want that magazine-quality appearance. Find a quality provider of menswear, and take the time needed to find your best option. That means trying on lots of options, but few things are easier to try on than a sport coat.

Here’s the thing: Finding the right fit in clothing is a part of transitioning from the rumpled, overly relaxed style of teenagers, college students and even 20-somethings. You want to look good, and finding the right fit is essential to that. I found myself struggling to make that transition in my post-college years, so I worked with a stylist at a menswear store. I was quickly straightened out and disabused of my many college and post-college fashion faux pas.

Would you add anything to this sport coat fit guide? Let us know in the comments section below, or send us a message via our contact form.