It’s one thing to wear a blazer to staff meetings at work. But it’s quite another thing to wear a Bookster sportscoat done up in one-of-a-kind Hainsworth khaki whipcord based on the fabric used for British officers’ tunics in World War One.
Yes, the fabric of this jacket is made of Hainsworth’s “True Heritage” 16-ounce merino wool whipcord in the original muddy brown “khaki” shade first designed for the British Army in 1899. This fabric isn’t smart and snappy like dark navy serge, nor does it sport the subtle multi-colored tones we find in many tweeds. This fabric is intentionally drab, originally designed as camouflage at a moment in history when machine guns made colorful uniforms suddenly obsolete. You’ll note from the pics here that British khaki is a different color than the beige shade we call “khaki” in America. British khaki is more of a medium brown olive.
Before I continue with a description of this jacket, a word is in order about Bookster Tailoring, which was founded by Peter and Michele King in 2007 as a natural progression of their business dealing in vintage tweed since the 1970s. Their experience with older tweed garments gave them an understanding of the construction qualities needed for a garment to last decades. In 2014 Bookster was acquired by new owners with a century’s tailoring experience in Leeds, an historic center for tailoring and cloth production, while Peter and Michele remained involved. Today they offer an excellent entry point for anyone who wants smart, timeless, durable tailored clothing. Their UK showroom is located at Harwood House, a 16th Century timbered building in Gloucestershire.
Getting this blazer made was very fun, primarily because Bookster agreed to make it in return for an honest article about the experience for Ivy Style. After a series of emails back and forth with Michelle, I dialed in the fit and style details. Instead of the English hacking silhouette, with roped shoulders, angled sash pockets, nipped in waist, and high button stance, I chose the slightly frumpier American Brooks Brothers / J Press style with softer shoulders, 2/3 button front, rear center hook vent, and patch/ flap pockets. Before I placed the order, a friend here in Pennsylvania warned me that it would be impossible to expect the Brits to do a totally natural shoulder as we still occasionally find in the States.
The results were very agreeable, adequately smart, and extremely comfortable to wear. (When the jacket arrived, I wore it so often my dad joked that I would start sleeping in it.) Although based on Hainsworth’s original military fabric with historically correct color dyeing, their modern-day merino wool seems to have a much softer hand than the rougher worsted they presumably would have used for officers’ tunics a century ago. The softer hand of this modern fabric is amazing: firm, heavy, slightly floppy, and oddly comfortable in weather ranging from ice-cold through warm and sunny. For daily use in the Philadelphia region this jacket is perfect. It’s casual enough to not look overly formal when other guys are dressing down, and it’s smart enough to wear at any coat-and-tie event not requiring a suit. Internal details are top-notch:
To get the right fit, I followed Bookster’s measuring instructions online, traced the dimensions on my three best-fitting suit jackets and blazers at home, averaged these numbers, and arrived at basic jacket sizing that was 95% perfect straight from the box. If I want to get fetishistic about total precision, I may take it to my tailor in Chestnut Hill once COVID restrictions ease up for some final tweaking as he sees fit. Of course, when I put it on, he may tell me it looks great and there’s nothing he can change.
For this jacket I have no complaints. Although I asked for the jacket to have a quarter lining, it came with a full lining. Functionally, this doesn’t seem to make a difference in perceived warmth/ coolness. When it’s too hot to wear this jacket, a full or half lining won’t make any difference. All told, I like this jacket well enough to get another made this Autumn—in yet in another Hainsworth Heritage fabric of Royal Airforce Blue-gray (of which there are many example if you’ve ever seen the 1969 movie Battle of Britain).
In closing, as a history nerd, it’s nice donning this jacket for the office with the knowledge I won’t be needing to leap over the parapet at the sound of a bobby’s whistle anytime soon, like Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie did in the final—tragic—episode of Blackadder Goes Forth. — ANDREW MESCHTER
G. Andrew Meschter is the author of “As Iron Sharpens Iron: An Adventure In Building Gentlemanly Character.”