Real Deal: Ralph Lauren’s Dartmouth Sportcoat

Gradually I’ve come to the decision that the two most important characteristics in a sportcoat are natural shoulders and the right lapel width. Everything else — two or three buttons, darted or undarted, patch pockets or not — is negotiable. Things like lapped seams and hook vents are cool Ivy details, but are far outweighed by lapel width.

I like a lapel that’s a bit slimmer than the industry standard  of 3.5 inches, but not so narrow that when I’m walking down the street everyone says, “Here comes Narrow Lapel Guy.”

The magic lapel width for me is about three inches. Ditto for the item lapels most closely correspond to: neckties. But while three-inch ties are easy to come by these days, three-inch lapels aren’t — especially if the other requirement is natural shoulders.

The new Norman Hilton sportcoats fulfill both requirements beautifully, with Nick Hilton agreeing that 3.5 inches was too wide for the lapel while 2.5 — J. Crew territory — was too narrow. But at $695, the Hilton jackets lack one other desirable quality: affordability.

With my closet freshly purged I was down to few options in the jacket category. Then last month Ralph Lauren came to the rescue with one of his historic reproductions: The Dartmouth sportcoat, which was offered a year or two ago and is now popping up on eBay from professional sellers.

The jacket features natural shoulders, three-inch lapel, lapped seams, swelled edges, 3/2 roll and patch pockets. The jacket is made in Italy, which won’t win over the sartorial patriots, and is darted, a dealbreaker for certain orthodox trads.

The seller of my jacket said the Dartmouth originally sold for $1,300, which is probably right since that’s about the price of Polo’s current “updated sack” sportcoats. I got mine for considerably less, so when I say the Dartmouth is affordable, I mean only when it’s being liquidated on eBay long after its original release.

I like the jacket so much I set up an eBay alert to find more, and recently a batch of eight — all new with tags and in several patterns — came up. Sadly there’s nothing in my size, but you should considering grabbing one while you can. And when you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner tonight, give a little thanks to Ralph for keeping things like this alive. — CC

8 Comments on "Real Deal: Ralph Lauren’s Dartmouth Sportcoat"

  1. Bill Stephenson | November 26, 2010 at 3:32 am |

    http://www.cablecarclothiers.com/luxurious_pure_camel_sportcoat.html

    One of the interesting things about Ivy Style is that it allows people like us, who are anal over Ivy, to compare fetishes with kindred spirits.

    Personally, I would jump to one of Ivy’s advertisers to illustrate the sine qua non in an Ivy jacket. Small differences, but check out the right way to do a 3/2 roll. Ralph seems to have gotten that almost right, but not quite. The one from CCC is the real deal.

    The other deal breaker is the departure from the true sack profile, by RL. A purist can spot darts a city block away, and avoids them like a vampire avoids the cross.

    Lapped seams, hooked vent, narrow lapels are also a given. However, once you start obsessing about stuff like this, you become unbearable to normal people.

    My guess is, that if you love Ivy, you would still own the jacket from CCC 30 years later, with elbows blown out, and patched. The one from RL however, would be back looking for a new home on Ebay, in short order.

    Really, that is why we are here, it would seem. Most people would think a discussion like this was absurd, in the cosmic scheme of things, and they could have a point.

  2. CC
    This is a good lead, eBay, but risky if you dont know how it fits until after you have purchased it.
    That is unless you tried it on in the shop all that time ago!
    The other drawback is – i have spent at least 2 hours looking this minute, at eBay for Ralph Lauren clothing. Its VERY time consuming and kills your eyes! Also – how do you know for sure you are getting the real thing – that is until its too late?

  3. Bill, thanks for stimulating debate, though you seem to have entirely glossed over my main point, which is lapel width. The RL has that, while the CCC does not.

    And it didn’t take much to goad the lapel into a longer roll than the one on the jacket pictured.

    And obviously this is not cut like a sack, though it shares some of the details of the traditional undarted sack jacket.

    City Gent, my seller offered returns, so the risk was minimal. I was expecting the jacket to run small, but mine turned out to be true to size.

  4. Bill Stephenson | November 26, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    No debate on the lapel width, Christian. We agree completely.

    However, in life, we are faced with a constant series of choices and trade offs. I would be in the camp that would opt for the exact 3/2 roll, and the sack silhouette, as a trade off, for the slightly wider lapels.

    Most people on the other hand, would think that both of us might have too much time on our hands, and should have more important concerns. I couldn’t argue with that either.

    This is why I value the Ivy Style forum. There is a chance to exchange ideas with kindred spirits on subjects that would cause most people’s eyes to glaze over.

  5. Addendum: The recent deadstock O’Connell’s jackets were spot on, but people were short back then. Even the “longs” were shrunken!

    http://www.ivy-style.com/lost-treasure-oconnells-discovers-60s-era-tweed-stash.html

  6. Sorry for asking this (maybe) dumb question, but who made these chinos with the dogs on at the picture?

    I am from Northern Europe, cannot blame me for asking, though I am sure all American preps knows the answer…

  7. Umm, that’s not me in the photo.

    The whole outfit is Ralph Lauren.

  8. Wow. That is one seriously ugly model.

    Nice jacket, though.

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