The one essential piece of clothing men should keep on hand for most occasions

Want to wear jeans to work and still rock a professional presentation? Need to take your khakis and polo outfit up a notch on short notice? Keep a blue blazer at work. It can instantly upgrade your look and occasionally even save the day.

I used to be in charge of public relations for a major career brand. As the go to PR person for a company that publishes employment and labour market insights, I would often find myself called upon for unexpected media interviews. So, I started keeping a jacket and tie at the office.

The thing is, I found myself throwing on the jacket much more often for presentations and meetings in the office than for the media hits. Despite it being a casual office, people would frequently comment on how sharp a dresser I was.

I am not actually a sharp dresser. But I do have a sharp navy blue blazer always on hand at work. It’s an incredibly versatile piece of clothing. It dresses up khakis or jeans from casual to business casual. Worn with a tie it can create a more formal look in a pinch.

I walked to work. So, in the winter I’d hike over in a sweater and parka, in summer often in just a shirt. In either case, keeping a blazer at the office meant I could instantly upgrade my look as needed when I got there.

Men’s Fashion Week in New York kicked off this year with “The Blue Jacket Fashion Show.” The event was to promote prostate cancer awareness and featured celebrities wearing a variety of blue jackets. The choice of garment for the theme highlights how the blue blazer has become the quintessential piece of clothing for the well-dressed man.

If you are just starting to put your professional work wardrobe together, or you want to find a versatile piece of clothing to keep at the office for unexpected occasions, the right blue blazer can be your best friend.

How to choose a blue blazer

Navy blue blazers tend to appear more formal than lighter shades. The traditional North American blazer has soft shoulders, a notched lapel, and two or three buttons.

The most important thing about your blazer is its fit. Men tend to buy their jackets too large either for comfort over bulky sweaters or because the sleeves feel too short when they’re extending their arms. But this results in it appearing as though they are wearing oversized hand-me-downs. (Think Gareth from the TV show The Office in his ill-fitting suits.)

Price, material, and brand names all matter far less than having a jacket that is the right size for you. I’ve picked up beautiful coats at thrift shops and had them tailored to fit. A few alterations go a long way.

Your shoulders should fit comfortably inside the blazer with room to move around, but no slope or sagging.

You should be able to button up the jacket with ease, but not be able to hide an orange inside. (Note: always leave the bottom button undone.)

Your blazer sleeves should extend to the wrist bone and show about half an inch of shirt cuff when your arms are hanging straight.

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