Regardless of creed or class, every man should own a blue blazer. It's tempting to think you can go tweed or gray or even wear a suit to every party, wedding, or shindig you attend, but you can't. The day inevitably comes when you reach for the old blue and gold. "The navy blazer is essential," says Cooper Ray, the Brooks Brothers designer and founder of Social Primer ties. "It's the armor."

His point is that the stuffy image associated with blazer – think: School Ties, Scent of a Woman, and The Dead Poets Society – is as outdated as it is incorrect. The blazer is an all-weather go-to that gets better as it gets worn in. "A blazer should be able to be thrown in your backseat," says Ray, who says he – like other boys from Charleston – got his first one early. "It's the first thing we probably were ever bought for big boy clothing."

Ray says the holy grail, as it were, is a single jacket for all seasons. But, practically speaking, it's more likely that you'll need a combination of the following: a heavyweight flannel, a lighter weight wool coat, and a cotton – or linen – jacket for summer. Each presents its own problems and solutions. Wool isn't ideal for warmer temperatures but holds its shape. Cotton is ideal for summer, but tends to look rumpled.

The classic way to wear a blazer – Ray refers to this as the Charleston tuxedo – is with khakis and a white shirt. Put it on and, as Ray says, "You can pretty much go anywhere you want." The key is to stick to the established look and pick up a blazer that seems timeless – Ralph Lauren is a great place to look. Once you have the classics under control (braided belt, patterned tie, vintage specs) feel free to experiment with something double breasted or darker (Band of Outsiders has you covered). Still, when it comes to the classics, it makes more sense to read them then to attempt a rewrite. [Social Primer's Tailgate Blazer, $548; brooksbrothers.com]