The Swiss Army Knife of Tailored Jackets

I banged out a little piece on the navy blazer for Gilt MANual, calling it the Swiss Army Knife of tailored jackets. And yes, I’ve actually worn it as a warm-up jacket to the tennis court. That’s probably a bit affected.

But it’s all part of downplaying the blazer’s stuffiness, since many guys find them garish (gold buttons) or boring.

While writing it, I thought of the 1964 Yale student in the photo above, who downplays his rep-striped and blazered propriety with sunglasses indoors and no socks, which, speaking of affectation, somehow seems a lot more natural in front of the lens of LIFE Magazine in 1964 than in front of street-style photographers in 2011. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

23 Comments on "The Swiss Army Knife of Tailored Jackets"

  1. It also helps that he looks like Don Draper

  2. I picked up a navy double-breasted blazer just a few months ago. I spent a fair amount of time trying to decide on the buttons, but went with traditional gold in the end. The fact that gold is currently out of “fashion” makes them all the more alluring.

    I did discover an interesting factoid during my navy blazer research. A friend of mine is a retired British R.N. submarine commander. He advised me that while gold buttons are the standard for British navy and merchant marine, black buttons are traditional on navy blazers of U.K. yacht club officers.

  3. Notice also the classic East Coast styling: two-button sleeves and a three-two roll front.

    I wonder if in today’s casual world the navy blazer is still as versatile as it once was (and ought to be still). Regardless, I still wear one once a week. I often wear one to church, too; somehow, that just seems right.

    J Kraus, I’m jealous–I’d like to pick up a nice double-breasted one someday, too. If I could only find such a beast!

  4. I think you can wear one anytime, anywhere. Once I was told I looked like a preacher, but the guy that said that was wearing a jogging suit with Crocs shoes.

  5. How long did you wear it warming up on the tennis court? I could imagine getting hot very quickly in a jacket like that!

  6. But without street style photographers, I would still think that tan cargo pants don’t mix well with a peak-lapel dinner jacket. Silly me. And who can forget: http://i.filmot.com/tTne7.jpg ?

  7. James, I said I wore it TO the tennis court, not ON it. I’m not that affected!

  8. Since when is an off-the-peg navy blazer a “tailored jacket”?

  9. A “tailored” jacket as opposed to a parka or Baracuta jacket.

    “Tailored clothing” is an apparel industry term for suits, sportcoats and trousers, as opposed to sportswear.

    Perhaps I should’ve used a non-industry term.

  10. I think “tailored clothing” is a term known well beyond industry insiders. No need to dumb it down, Christian.

    Scott

  11. Amen as to the no-socks look. Just about as affected as deliberately spilling paint on your pants.

  12. I think the picture above (sunglasses, sockless)is rather stupid. When can sartorial world abandon the obsession of going sockless? And I personally find the excessive nostalgia of “people in the 60s were better dressed” annoying. Sure student body did dress conservatively back then, but it was due to the conformist environment of “getting in”, “be part of the group” other than”I dress to better present myself and showing my individuality.” That is why we see so many dumb dressers in the 60s magazines and the way of dressing traditionally went down hill in the wake of the civil right movements. There was simply no solid base even back then.

  13. Chenlong, young people (late teens-early twenties) are at the most group-conscious stage of their lives. Young people are extremely conformist in their dress: they conform to each other. It just so happens that at present, the way to be cool is to be “non-conformist,” so many young people conform to that by getting tattoos, wearing ghetto clothes, wearing baseball caps backwards (or at an angle), etc.

  14. BlazersKhakisNattys | September 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm |

    The more things change, the more things stay the same.

    http://totalfratmove.com/227900?page=4&filter=all

  15. The only bad thing about wearing ivy clothing back then was that it made one look like a frat animal.

  16. Well, unfortunately I do fall into the age group of late teens-early twenties and I don’t quite share your opinion. Young lads like me are still largely in a conformist environment, except the dressing norms have changed: instead of suits, sport coats and sweaters we have sweat shirts, sweat pants, jeans and sneakers. And minority who wants to”make a statement” opt for tattoos and ghetto clothes. Tattoos and ghetto clothes are somewhat like hot pink pants and loud madras: they are sometimes admired, but certainly not majority’s choice. So to conclude, people haven’t changed as much as time has. But then again, I do know people around my age surf the internet and get the right knowledge about clothes, so there is yet hope…

  17. Christopher Landauer | September 29, 2011 at 1:03 am |

    I’m wondering if this is a dig at me, as I’m the only one here who’s entitled to use a Swiss army knife!

    Maybe I’m getting paranoid…

  18. Chenlong,

    The thing I’ve noticed is that at least some young people are rebelling against the Kasual Kulture of their parents (largely the Boomers) and are opting for jackets, ties, and chinos. I read that sales of bow ties have risen sharply in the past few years as well.

    This bodes well for men dressing well, dressing nicely, dressing appropriately again, rather than treating every occasion as another opportunity to thumb their noses at “the man” and wear sweats, jeans, and tennies.

    (I can hope, can’t I?)

  19. There was/is plenty of room for individualization and expression of personal taste and values within the supposed “conservative” style of dress. It may be that fewer people are aware of where to look for the cues, for example in the picture featured here.

    Personally, I don’t think any “style” is inherently “better”. For me, its just a matter of what rationales motivate an individual’s choice. In any era, two people could arrive at the exact same look based on either wanting to fit in or a deep appreciation of and/or the personal significance of a garment.

  20. For a young guy like me that doesn’t have the bank account to buy all sorts of odd jackets, the blazer is the most important item in my closet. I wear it with a different pair of pants each time, and it looks like I have a completely different outfit on each day.

  21. I bought my first BB two-button blue blazer two sweeks ago and just picked it up Sunday after alterations. It fits fabulously and gives you a very trim and tucked-in profile. I can’t wait to wear it out. I have prescription sunglasses that are gold-mirrored that I think will look wonderfully incongruous. Like a lot of people, I got tired of wearing sloppy clothing and gradually started to incorporate a more tailored look into my wardrobe. It’s not difficult, you feel much better and people react positively for the most part. Thoses that don’t probably hate that they look so disheveled standing next to you. I look forward to finding different ways to give it an edge.

  22. jiheison,

    Absolutely: there is a surprising amount of leeway for personalization in business attire. Of course, there’s more for some environments than others, but even physicians and lawyers can do a lot with a suit and tie to look trustworthy and sharp at the same time.

    I disagree with the notion that “all styles are created equal,” however. This is not the level of “a two-button jacket is better/worse than a three-roll-two”; this is the level of “dressing like an adult is better than not.” It means dressing for the time, place, and occasion (and season, of course).

    So shorts and flip-flops, while great at the beach, are wrong for church.

    But I might be misinterpreting what you meant. Perhaps you were talking about the former and not the latter.

  23. Coolest guy who ever lived.

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