The Not-So-Odd Jacket, 1954

Last week we ran a photo from 1954, the dawn of the Ivy heyday. The post was entitled “The Ideal” and featured tennis player Vic Seixas wearing a J. Press sportcoat for a Sports Illustrated clothing spread. Now, as promised, is the rest of the article.

The piece is entitled “The Not So Odd Jacket” and briefly sketches the origins of the combination of sportcoat and slacks as opposed to matching suit. The fashion is credited to Yale:

The story of the student at Yale who launched the sport jacket appears so often in the annals of men’s fashions that though his name is unrecorded and it may be in part apocryphal, it must contain the essence of truth. This young Eli, class of ’28, ripped the trousers to his brown tweed suit—as standard an item in his day as the Oxford gray flannel is for the class of ’55. Nothing daunted, and being of a strong fraternity and reputation, he teamed his brown tweed jacket with a pair of flannel “bags.” The combination was such a success that by 1932 tweed jackets and flannel slacks were college uniforms from East to West, superseding the four-piece suit (knickers, long pants, vest and jacket) of Scott Fitzgerald’s heyday.

The piece then goes on to point out that while odd jackets had existed for several decades, they were relegated to specific sporting events and endeavors. The novelty was pairing country tweeds and flannels for everyday wear, albeit not for the city office, but the leafy confines of a college campus.

Head over to this page in the SI vault to read the brief text, and click on the link on the right to see the full layout.

As a sportcoat-and-grey-trouser man myself, I am most grateful to this unknown Eli of legend for his sartorial innovation. — CC

9 Comments on "The Not-So-Odd Jacket, 1954"

  1. Grey Flannels | June 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm |

    Readers who missed this posting will find it–and the comments–of interest:

  2. I feel like I am missing something when the author writes, “superseding the four-piece suit (knickers, long pants, vest and jacket)”

    What is meant by knickers? I assumed this meant bags – but paired with long pants it must mean something different. This is the first time I’ve heard of a four-piece suit.

  3. Knickers refer to plus-twos or plus-fours, bags refer to oxford bag trousers. I’m not certain but I believe a four piece suit had both knickers and trousers in the same fabric, Marc C?

  4. Bags and tweed.
    Such an odd couple, them.

    A book about fashion in the “Great Gatsby era” references the acceptable dimensions of Oxford Bags: 24″ at the knee, tapering gently to a 21″ to 24″ cuffed hem. (Hopefully they erred toward 21″ more often than not). Outrageous as this seems in the era of super-skinny-hipster pants, compare/contrast with the Bills M1: 23″ knee tapering to a 19″ hem.

    I hereby decree a return to a version of Oxford Bags.

  5. Norm Crosby | June 2, 2017 at 5:21 pm |

    I’m just fascinated that SI once had a column dealing with sporting clothing. These days, unless the story is about the NBA or the NFL, it doesn’t seem to run in the magazine.


  6. Marc Chevalier | June 2, 2017 at 6:52 pm |

    DCG: yes, the jacket, vest, trousers and knickers of the four-piece suit were all made of the same cloth.

    Even more ‘top’ was the FIVE-piece suit: all of the above, but with a flat cap made of the same cloth as the suit.

  7. @ Marc

    Just was going to mention the flat cap in matching fabric. I recall in the late 1960’s, a local Army/Navy store sold the suit material caps, eight panel I believe, for $1.98. They were probably old stock from the 1940’s -1950’s. The caps were silk lined, very well made. A far cry from some of the junk made today.

    Wore those caps for golf and such for years.

    A tip: It’s a good idea to always have extra clothes in your car, or at the office. This post reminds me of the time my pants ripped at the office. Fortunately, I had an extra pair of pants in my car, making my suit coat an “odd” jacket.

    After that, I never left home without pants, a dress shirt, tie, extra underwear, and aspirin and other OTC stuff, all in a nice college gym bag. I don’t know how many times, that stuff really came in handy.


  8. Vern Trotter | June 3, 2017 at 9:03 am |

    @Norm Crosby,

    SI also once had a column dealing with bridge. Now it is a near worthless magazine.

  9. EVAN EVERHART | August 31, 2018 at 12:40 pm |

    “Knickers”, meaning knickerbocker trousers, AKA knee breeches in the plus four or eight model, also an item for which the New York Knicks (originally Knickerbockers) were named, and after which the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles was named, though the term was “originally” shall we say, also a pseudonym for Manhattanites and New Yorkers, in general.

    My grandfather wore suits like that when he was young, 5 piece, with matching cap, in tweed. I’ve got pictures, somewhere.

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