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Jacket vs. Sweater: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 18, 2023
A jacket is a lightweight outer garment with fastenings, while a sweater is a knitted garment typically worn over a shirt for warmth.

Key Differences

Jackets and sweaters are both worn for added warmth and style, but their designs and purposes differ considerably. A jacket is primarily an outer garment, often designed to protect against the elements or provide additional layering. It usually comes with fastenings like zippers or buttons. Jackets can be made from various materials, such as leather, denim, or nylon, and might come with features like pockets or hoods. In contrast, sweaters are knitted garments meant to be worn over shirts or directly against the skin.
Sweaters, unlike jackets, do not typically come with fastenings. They are pulled over the head or buttoned up in the case of cardigans. Made from yarn or wool, sweaters are known for their cozy and insulating properties. Sweaters can vary in thickness, with some being lightweight for a slight chill and others thick enough to brave colder temperatures. Jackets, however, can range from thin windbreakers to padded winter coats, providing varying levels of protection.
Jackets can often be seen as more versatile in terms of function. For example, a rain jacket provides protection against wet conditions, while a blazer adds a touch of formality to an outfit. Sweaters, on the other hand, primarily focus on warmth and comfort, although they too can vary from casual to formal styles. The choice between a jacket and a sweater often depends on the occasion, weather, and personal style preferences.
Another distinction lies in the care and maintenance of jackets and sweaters. Because jackets can be made from a plethora of materials, their care instructions can vary widely. Some might be machine-washable, while others require special cleaning. Sweaters, particularly those made from wool, often require gentle handling to prevent stretching or shrinkage. Both garments, however, add invaluable layers to a wardrobe, catering to different needs and styles.

Comparison Chart


A lightweight outer garment with fastenings
A knitted garment worn for warmth


Leather, denim, nylon, etc.
Yarn, wool, etc.


Usually has zippers or buttons
Typically lacks fastenings, except cardigans

Typical Use

Outerwear for protection or style
Layering for warmth


Varies by material; some are machine-washable
Often requires gentle handling to prevent stretching/shrinkage

Jacket and Sweater Definitions


A short coat in various styles.
She wore a leather jacket to the concert.


A cardigan with buttons or a zipper in front.
She buttoned up her sweater as the temperature dropped.


An outer covering or casing.
The book had a colorful jacket.


A pullover garment without buttons or zippers.
His blue sweater matched his eyes.


A protective or insulating layer around something.
The hot water tank had a thermal jacket.


A garment made primarily from wool or yarn.
Her wool sweater kept her warm.


A piece of clothing primarily for outerwear.
He zipped up his jacket against the cold wind.


A knitted garment worn over the upper body.
She wore a thick sweater during the winter.


A blazer or sports coat for semiformal attire.
His jacket and tie gave him a professional look.


A piece of clothing for added warmth.
The cold office made him thankful for his sweater.


A short coat usually extending to the hips.


A garment for the upper body of wool, cotton, or synthetic yarn, typically knitted, having long sleeves, and worn in cold weather.


The skin of a potato.


One that sweats, especially profusely.


Is a jacket warmer than a sweater?

Not necessarily; jackets vary in thickness, as do sweaters. Some jackets are lightweight, while some sweaters are very thick.

Can a jacket be knitted?

Yes, some jackets are knitted, but they typically have fastenings, unlike sweaters.

Is a blazer a type of jacket?

Yes, a blazer is a type of jacket often worn for semiformal occasions.

Are all sweaters made from wool?

No, sweaters can be made from various materials, including cotton, synthetic fibers, and blends.

Do all jackets have zippers?

No, some jackets have buttons, snaps, or other types of closures.

Which is more formal, a jacket or a sweater?

Generally, jackets, especially blazers, are considered more formal than sweaters.

Can you wear a sweater under a jacket?

Yes, many people layer a sweater under a jacket for added warmth and style.

Can jackets be casual?

Yes, there are many casual styles of jackets, such as bomber jackets or denim jackets.

Can you machine wash jackets and sweaters?

It depends on the material and care instructions. Always check the label.

Are jackets only for cold weather?

No, jackets range from lightweight summer styles to heavy winter coats.

Can jackets be made of knit material?

Yes, some jackets are knitted and may resemble sweaters but usually have distinct features like zippers.

Can you wear a jacket indoors?

While jackets are often outerwear, some styles, like blazers, are suitable for indoor wear.

Is a cardigan a sweater or a jacket?

A cardigan is a type of sweater, often with buttons or a zipper in the front.

Do sweaters always have long sleeves?

No, there are short-sleeved and sleeveless sweaters as well.

Why are some sweaters called "jumpers"?

"Jumper" is a term used in British English; in American English, it's typically called a "sweater."

Do jackets always have collars?

No, some jackets, like bomber jackets, have ribbed necklines instead of collars.

Are sweaters suitable for all seasons?

While sweaters are popular in colder seasons, lightweight sweaters can be worn in warmer months.

Is a hoodie a jacket or a sweater?

A hoodie can be considered a type of sweater, but with a hood. Some might resemble jackets if they have a zipper.

Do sweaters stretch out over time?

Some sweaters, especially those made of wool, might stretch or shrink if not properly cared for.

Are turtleneck sweaters?

Yes, turtlenecks are a type of sweater characterized by a high, close-fitting collar.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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