Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sport Coat vs. Suiting Fabrics- An interview with Scott Anderson

About six weeks ago a reader of mine asked how you can tell the difference between a suit fabric and a sport coat fabric. I thought it was a great question. Having worked in custom clothing for six years, I had my own answers at the ready. But I wanted to see what other articles and information were out there for the lay person. I couldn't believe it! I spent days pining through blogs and other resources and the most consistent and best explanation I could find was that suits have matching pants! Which doesn't even address the question. So rather than respond quickly with some shopping tid bits, I decided to really dive in.

I'll start by addressing this reader's (and probably many other people's) suspicion that the difference in suit and sport coat fabrics lie in the pattern. He told me that he had always heard that fabrics featuring large or bold patterns are reserved for sport coats.  While pattern definitely does play a role, there are people out there who are gregarious and confident enough to rock a pretty darn bold suit. Check it out:
Ed Westwick/

Robert Pattinson/Entertainment Weekly

So what then, is the difference? I'm very fortunate to have some amazing colleagues who have worked in custom clothing for decades. And when it came to this question, what better resource to turn to then one of the world's most respected fabric distribution companies, Gladson Ltd? Scott Anderson has been an influential part of their sales team for years. Outside of being a terrific guy, he's also a wealth of knowledge. Here's a brief interview I held with him regarding today's topic:

1. In general terms, what would you say the biggest difference is between a sport coat fabric and a suit fabric?
For sure, different patterns lend themselves better as a suiting fabric or a sport coat fabric. However, these oftentimes, can be interchangeable. For example, my favorite navy blazer fabric happens to be an English Super 120's wool with a touch of cashmere that is 9 1/2-10oz. This is offered in my Encore Suiting collection and the brighter blue solid color is the perfect fabric/color for a blazer. Especially for a blazer, because of it's versatility, you want a hearty fabric that will resist wrinkles well and can be worn with many different combinations of trousers for different occasions and for different seasons. Also, there are some sport coat fabrics that make amazing suits, especially in some of the unique plaids that my E. Thomas collection offers. They tend to be bold for a suit, so you better make sure that you bring the added confidence necessary to pull that off. Because of it's uniqueness, this look is popular with many ball players as well as the Hollywood fashionistas.
2. Many suiting fabrics can be used to make sport coats. Are there any you would not use as a sport coat fabric and why? This comes down strictly to pattern. The fabric quality can be interchangeable but some patterns are strictly suit patterns. Most suiting stripes are not suitable for sport coats (not saying that there aren't some stripes that make amazing sport coats but they tend to be very bold, thick stripes, which you wouldn't find in a suiting collection). And most plaids and windowpanes that you find for suitings are much too subtle to use as a sport coat. It will look like you're wearing the jacket from your suit with the wrong pair of trousers.

3. I've generally operated under the concept that most sport coat fabrics should not be used as suiting fabrics because the weave and thread gauge can't handle the stress a pant takes. Am I right? Explain. There certainly are a number of sport coat fabrications that do not lend themselves to suitings and it is normally due to a looser weave or texture to the cloth that, when used in the trousers, would either pill or shred, usually where the thighs rub together or in the seat of the pants. Also, they can pull the seams apart in the back of trousers when one sits. However, a finely constructed worsted cloth can absolutely be used for suitings.

4. Are there any other pointers you would like to give on this topic? The one thing to keep in mind is that fashion should be an expression of who you are. The clothes that you are wearing tell a story about you before a word is even spoken. And different situations call for different fashion choices. You may want to rock that bold plaid sport coating fabric that you had made into a suit when you're going to that hip new restaurant that you were able to get a reservation at, yet put on that elegant charcoal windowpane suit out of your closet when meeting your clients. 

 All in all, this comes down to Scott's last point. Wear what you feel great in and what is appropriate for your occasion. If you are buying ready made, the fabrication has already been chosen for you and you are likely good to go. If you are venturing into the custom world--which I HIGHLY recommend, make sure that you are working with a well educated tailor who can guide you toward something that fits your needs.  When it comes to custom, a good sales associate will ask you A LOT of questions about your tastes, where you plan to wear your garment, how hard you are on your clothes, etc., and can steer you toward a fabric that will both express who you are and stand the test of time. On Wednesday I'll write a post on the benefits of custom as opposed to ready made, and why its truly worth the money! In the meantime, here are some resources around the country where you can find a great selection of Gladson fabrics for your next custom suit or sport coat! 

Beckett & Robb- Sandy, UT  or order online for anyone, anywhere!
Dogan- Atlanta, GA
Eric's Custom Tailors- Denver, CO
F. David Barney- Grand Rapids, MI (with a really catchy tune on the website!)
Joseph Robert Clothier- West Reading, PA, (610)376-8800
Michael Allen's Clothier- Portland, OR
Watson Tailoring- St. James City, FL
Gladson Ltd. has international distribution. Email for a location near you!

Thank you Scott! 
What suit or jacket do you feel your best in? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. Great interview, and great info! Thank you.

  2. Great Post.

    I am a bit biased, however knowing the amount of variance within a fabric is invaluable to choosing the right material for the job. Well done! :)

  3. Hi, I'm impressed with the breadth of your knowledge and your ability to articulate it. You challenge a lot of ideas that are old and musty, especially for seniors----who like to look good too!

  4. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking. suiting fabrics buy online

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