Brainstorming: The Sportcoat?

Last weekend Richard Press and I swung by Designer Forum, one of the smaller market shows, to visit with Crittenden Rawlings. Critt, as he’s known by his friends and colleagues, is a menswear veteran who’s worked at Ralph Lauren, Norman Hilton, and Oxxford.

He’s currently producing an Ivy model sportcoat we’ve written about a few times. It’s sold at a number of independent menswear shops, largely in the South, and has done well with guys under 40. A couple of the latest fabrics for the jacket, including a check and classic gray herringbone, lie on the table in the photo above.

We started knocking ideas around, including offering an exclusive jacket here at

We’d start with Critt’s basic model (pictured below), but Richard and I would make a few tweaks. First off, neither one of us likes patch breast pockets. Next, Critt’s jackets are updated with darts, whereas we’d go undarted. The lapped seams and hook vent are already there. Sleeve buttons are negotiable; Richard is partial to the three buttons used at J. Press.

The trickiest part would be sourcing a fabric that would somehow exemplify the heyday, be plentiful enough so we could get more if the jacket is popular and requires a second production run, and yet not require a huge up-front commitment, as we have no idea how you guys would respond to it.

Critt thinks he can find some samples for us. Richard and I would argue endlessly over the selection (I’m partial to something with a vertical beaded overstripe, like in the sample above, which is very heyday and rarely seen today), Critt would make the pattern adjustments, and the Hardwick factory would make it.

I think that with an undarted chest but a lapel around 3 to 3.25 inches, the jacket would have broad appeal among the wide age range of Ivy Style readers. Best of all, it may very well be possible to offer this US-made, heyday-inspired jacket for under $450.

Keep in mind we’re merely at the brainstorm stage, though in a follow-up conversation Critt said he’d love to do it and believes it’s possible without unrealistic commitments and risk.

What we all thought should be the next step is that I should poll you guys. There are 50,000 of you: How many would dig something like this? — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD & RICHARD PRESS

70 Comments on "Brainstorming: The Sportcoat?"

  1. Really depends on the fabric. I would not be interested in any sort of striped sportcoat, but if it’s not a unique look, why buy it at all? There are plenty of blue blazers and wool sportcoats around.
    It’s a neat problem – design a new product for buyers devoted to an unchanging, traditional look.

  2. Agree that a distinctive fabric would be key. No sense in doing a basic gray herringbone.

  3. Personally, I disagree with the need for a “unique” fabric. What’s missing from the trad universe are affordable basics, a la Huntington Clothiers. The only options these days seem to be inexpensive but unsatisfactory garments from retailers like Lands End, and “correct” but very pricey stuff from the likes of J. Press and O’Connell’s. Where’s the middle ground anymore?

  4. I would love to see this! I know the distinctive fabric would be key, but don’t be so quick to disregard the gray herringbone! I loved the jacket you showed in your fall/winter minimalist wardrobe post a few months ago. Everything else about the design sounds great. But maybe if you had two offerings, a hard to find “hey-day” fabric and a basic for those of use who have yet to find the first perfect starter sport coat. I would love a hey-day fabric jacket, but would opt for a classic gray herringbone first. Also, maybe you guys could consider a lighter weight fabric, to allow the jacket to have broader use in more mild climates?

  5. +1 For AJC’s comment

  6. Christian – Bravo!

  7. A tan tweed with smaller red windowpane pattern

  8. Some sort of retro 50’s check would be nice. Watch old Perry Mason reruns. Paul Drake wore interesting jackets. Some nice, others hideous. Too bad the show was B&W.

    Can’t say I’d want a striped sport coat. UGH!

  9. In the first comment above, MJF mentions that he wouldn’t be interested in a striped coat of any kind. I, for what it’s worth, wouldn’t be interested in any sport coat with patch pockets. A lot of people have quirks of taste like that. If you try to design something that appeals to everyone, you’ll probably end up with something not very interesting, like a basic blue blazer. If you’re going to proceed with a project like this, just offer something that you’d like, and see who else happens to like it as well.

  10. I would forgo the ubiquitous gray herringbone in favor of a Navy herringbone. It’s the perfect storm of versatility, tradition and uniqueness.

  11. I get over to Crit’s shop in Midway often, own 3-4 coats of his. I’d buy it.

  12. Good idea.

    With these specs, I’m on board.

    But I’m picky about cloth.

    A few suggestions:

    If you with Harris Tweed, Holland & Sherry has a book. Lots of herringbonnes. Holland & Sherry also offer a Shetland tweed (Sherry Tweed) book. Very Heyday. Again, lots of herringbones.

    Harrison’s has a great Harris Tweed selection. My vote is for 24305, a light to medium gray herringbone.

    And then there’s Breanish. Superb.


    Their Shetland tweed stock book includes many herringbone patterns. This is real, classic Scottish tweed. A family owned operation. This would be a truly unique cloth for a unique jacket. A lot of what W. Bill (a merchant, not a weaver) sells is probably woven by Lovat. Good, but Breanish is special.

    I feel sure Mr. Rawlings has worked with Jodek, Breanish’s representative in the U.S.A.

  14. I want a jacket like you are wearing in the photo, Christian.

  15. Give it to me in that tartan

  16. With this pedigree, I think I’d go for one.

  17. I love the three patch pockets, but many find those coats harder to “dress up” or less refined. Sleeve buttons should equal the button holes on the front of the coat, 4 or 3, but at least 3. Make sure the coat length is adequate!

    I’d like to know what shops Crit’s jackets are available in, any sites?

  18. Christian, I am not as picky about fabric as I am about fit and jacket details. However, I would argue that something very versatile would be best. The price point sounds great, btw. I am on board with AJC’s comment

  19. Why not a classic tartan like Dress Gordon or Campbell?

  20. I agree with the herringbone ideas mentioned above over stripes. I love ivy but I cannot have something I would have to explain to co workers every time I wear it.

  21. Agree with MJF, if I had $25.00 for every stripe suit jacket I threw out because the pants were shot; I could by three jackets from you today. I have about a hundred winter jackets and I still wouldn’t buy a patch jacket with flap pockets(was that an after thought). Yes, I would buy Christian’s jacket. I would also buy the jacket you make from the tartan table cloth you are displaying the jacket on. Also, with the 787 grounded; do we really need 3.5″ lapels?

  22. +1 AJC – this is some of the best advice so far.
    CC’s jacket fabric is nice, would pair well with most basic grey slacks and khakis and blue OCBDs. I would consider buying a sport coat in it. Grey suit, navy suit, navy blazer + CCs jacket = basics covered.
    Striped jackets look like suit orphans.

    Good luck with this new enterprise!

  23. For beaded overstripe reference, the famous J. Press “Donegal Mist”:

  24. AJC nails it.

    Basics are good — with all the trad details.

    I’m in for that.

  25. agree that the fabric shouldn’t exactly be unique, but it shouldn’t be too plain either. I dont think that many of us would jump on the bead stripe pattern.

    By the way, thank you for coordinating this exciting opportunity for us readers, CC.

  26. I’d like urge traditional lengths & no slim cuts. If you do the ancient nobby hopsack in navy (unlined) w/ 3.25 lapels- I’ll buy.

  27. I like the details but am not wild about the stripe or the color. That said, I think stalwarts of style just put it out there while fashionistas bother to ask everyone’s opinion.

  28. I am interested in the significance of the number of sleeve buttons. I usually wear my grandfathers old Southwick-made Brooks Brothers suit to court. It has two buttons on the sleeves, but all of my more contemporary Brooks Brothers garments have three. I have a Ralph Lauren coat that has four. I was under the impression that two is “correct” for maximum preppiness. Am I wrong?

  29. Interesting remark, fancia. For the record I was gauging interest in the concept of the project. I said Richard and I would choose the fabric.

    But over the course of the day I’ve increasingly thought this should be a more interactive project for the Ivy Style community. We should present several fabric candidates and then you guys should vote. Now that would be a cool way to produce this jacket.

  30. Two button on sleeve is spot on. Why not do that?

    I’m okay with a Donegal tweed. So long as it’s Magee. Well. Of course.

    The best counsel yet is Foghorn’s, but if you do a Heyday blazer, it deserves a chest patch pocket. And lower patch and flap.

    Mr. Press relayed that English Fresco was used foe Heyday Press hopsack blazers. So…

  31. Clarence Emsworth | January 23, 2013 at 6:25 pm |

    Actually, I rather like the patch breast pocket, at least for tweeds and blazers. Otherwise, I like your idea and would certainly be interested in the resulting jacket. Perhaps something in a midweight olive and light beige (maybe even a cream) glen plaid or broken bone (with stripes, if you insist — but subtle, not as prominent as the grey coat’s in the picture)?

  32. cool! i’ve been searching for a sport coat of medium grey herringbone tweed or dark grey (but not charcoal) flannel with flecks of somewhat bright colors (red, green, blue, yellow). flap pockets, 3.25″ lapels, size 36.

  33. further down the line, i think a cotton black watch tartan with patch pockets would be nice, too.

  34. Christian,

    Love the voting Idea. Its your brain child, so you would retain control, but as you said, it could be really fun to poll the audience along the way. You could survey lapel width, number of sleeve buttons, etc. That would be neat.

  35. Still think your jacket in the Nov. 12 “Well-edited Wardrobe” post should be the baseline standard. Maybe a touch darker, just a touch.

  36. Ironchefsakai | January 24, 2013 at 7:58 am |

    I’m definitely a fan of no patch pocket, and I support the three-button option (two has always seemed unbalanced to me, and four excessive). I assume they’ll be made of horn, and that we can expect all of the additional trimmings from Crittenden? Unlined?

    As for color, I’d personally love anything in a brown or olive Harris or Shetland, since I’ve already got grey herringbones pretty well covered–but under $450, it’d be hard to say no to anything.

    How are you considering running sizing? I’m a super-slim 36S, so that would be a decisive factor for me.

  37. It’s interesting how this started as a “what would you guys think if we offered an Ivy jacket?” to some kind of radio request line where everyone gets to have his minute preferences catered to.

    If you have specifics you need to go custom. That’s what I did with H. Freeman (I’m on my second and planning a third).

    FYI, one of the things Critt said that makes this much more viable as a project, since is not in the clothing business and does not have a business loan or an investor behind this, is to eliminate the short sizes. So regulars and longs only, and even sizes probably starting at 38 and stopping where I’m not sure. 46 maybe.

  38. I’d love it, so if you do make it, please have a size 52.

  39. Ironchefsakai | January 24, 2013 at 9:20 am |

    Perhaps look into the possibility of using Kickstarter for additional funds?

  40. None of Critt’s (existing) coats currently offer L until 42. Would be nice to have the L option at 40 😉

  41. I’ll take one…I would suggest a glen plaid, grey or brown. I would prefer a windowpane to the stripe.
    I like the idea of a lighter weight.

  42. SE

    “Two button on sleeve is spot on. Why not do that?”

    I get your drift, but from a business point of view Crit still needs to market these jackets to his his regular clients to make a production run viable.

    From my styling view, tans and grey ground tweeds are best, but never too close in shade to khaki or charcoal, otherwise it limits versatility and approaches Gar-animal label matching.

    It would be great if Crit could hit a home run, a jacket we old timers would be proud to own and at a price point the younger crowd could afford.

  43. Slight misunderstanding there, MAC. Critt would not have to make concessions to his regular clients with this jacket. The whole point is that it’s an exclusive made for

    So while it would be snuck into his regular production run at the factory, this would be a separate pattern and fabric from his own Ivy model.

    The home run will be more like a touchdown, with multiple parties involved to get it right, including Critt and the factory, but mostly Ivy Style to promote the jacket and you guys to buy it and like it.

    As for sleeve buttons, I do two on all my jackets, as Brooks, Norman Hilton and many others did in the heyday. But Press did three buttons, and as Richard comes from the Press dynasty, I think he’s partial to three. I also know he’s not crazy about flap/patch pockets either, and that’s not one of my dealbreakers, so I can go either way.

    I think the most fun and interactive way will be for Critt to see what fabrics he can find, Richard and I to edit them down to 3-5 candidates, and you guys to vote on the fabric as well as certain details. Natural shoulder, hook vent and lapped seams I think we can all agree on. Sleeve buttons and pockets are negotiable. I’d like to be a dictator on lapel width, but we’ll see!

  44. NaturalShoulder | January 24, 2013 at 11:26 am |

    I think it sounds like a promising idea and I look forward to seeing the fabric samples.

  45. Caleb Godsey | January 24, 2013 at 11:49 am |

    Yes. Absolutely. Yes.

  46. Great idea. I’d definitely be interested in buying one.

  47. Just my $0.02 – don’t worry too much about the fabric being available for a second production run. I would prefer it, in fact, if the jacket was a limited edition one-off as it would possibly increase the re-sale value. Plus it would give you a chance at repeat customers by doing another limited run the next year (or whenever) in a new fabric.

  48. Christian, thanks for the clarification. I prefer patch and flap on my tweeds, but own both, no big deal. I’m with Richard on the three sleeve buttons, I haven’t owned a two button since my first Communion, come to think of it, that was in the “heyday” .


  49. Two buttons on the cuff and 3 patch pockets would be ideal for me. I like the patch chest pocket, as apart from on blazers you don’t see it much.

  50. It’s nice that we’ll have the opportunity to own an Ivy jacket new, as opposed to the skinny-lapel, waist-length offerings from Rugby or Brooks (the Cambridge), or a second hand. In my opinion, a good-looking jacket has 3-3.25 inch lapels and ends right around the tip of the thumb. I call it the ‘rule of thumb.’

  51. Jacket length is subjective, it depends on your body. I have a long torso and short legs, a jacket that reaches the tip of my thumbs looks too long on me.

  52. Definitely interested at that price point if size can be accommodated (38 long). Basic grey herringbone is fine with me.

  53. Aren’t patch pockets the heyday look?

  54. Keep it classy, and I’m on board. What would be nice is too have a few fabric choices and place the production order after you get to a certain amounts of deposits per fabric. This way you can have variety and reduce the downside risk.

  55. Original, contest-winning Henry here.

    Already in this thread we see two requests for 36S, but you already seem to have ruled that out. As a 36S myself, I, too, would hate to see the jacket unavailable in my size, but it’s your project and your call. A 36R could have patch pockets moved and the bottom raised—at significant cost—but altering a 38 down to 36 is so expensive that it’s better to just buy something that fits in the first place.

    Maybe you could solve the size conundrum by requiring partial pre-payment. This would give you a good idea of how many to make in each size, and you could refund the money of those whose size will not be offered due to insufficient interest.

    As for sleeve buttons, maybe offer it with three, so that those who prefer two can cut one off? Yes, I know the spacing is different, but maybe that’s the way to please the greatest number of people.

  56. Dutch Uncle | January 25, 2013 at 2:26 pm |

    People who wear anything smaller than a size 40 have no business dressing in Ivy style clothing, which is meant for adults.

  57. It’s interesting–what some deem an essential to the Look, that is.

    I can forgive a center vent that’s not hooked, but a sport jacket that’s not patch and flap pocketed looks odd to me.

    Brooks was neglectful about the hook, while their blazers and sport jackets have consistently featured patch+flap pockets.

    As for blazers: C’ mon, the chest patch pocket is a must.

  58. So Ivy League style isn’t for college students? Are they not old enough?

  59. That’s funny, Dutch Uncle!

  60. Responding to the poll–count me in!

  61. Why, everyone knows that since I’m skinny, I’m not allowed to dress Ivy!

  62. I suggest a magee donegal tweed will be nice. It must have suede leather elbow patch and with patch pockets

  63. @Mr. Wyllys:

    Everybody knows that orthodox Ivy clothes are not cut for the Jack Sprats among us.

  64. Or the elusive brown tweed. I prefer lambswool to Harris.

  65. And Shetland trumps both.

  66. Unlike Mr. Sprat, I however, eat as much fat as I want too…The weight just doesn’t seem to stick…Oh well, we all have our crosses…

  67. Grey Flannels | January 30, 2013 at 9:39 pm |

    Please, no brown tweed.
    Grey–particularly charcoal–suits everyone.
    Brown does not: it makes some complexions look yellow, even green.

  68. Dickey Greenleaf | February 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

    50,000 x $450.00= $22,500,000.00-$12,500,000.00=$10,000,000.00 profit, stupendous idea, go for it, to the max.

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