How to Own a Blazer
Posted: Jun 03 2015
The blazer, or sport coat, is one of the most versatile pieces in any man’s wardrobe. In this article we will give you enough information to understand and own this iconic piece of menswear.
Understanding what classifies as a blazer is essential, and since the British are the fathers of this fine garment, we can take their word for it.The Oxford dictionary dates the word blazer to the late 19th century and defines it as "a plain jacket not forming part of a suit but considered appropriate for formal wear".
There are two stories behind the origin of blazer jackets, both dating back to the mid-19th century. Some sources indicate that the Royal navy played a central role in the invention of the garment back in 1837. At that time, standard uniforms were yet to be introduced and each ship had the faculty of choosing the crew’s outfit. According to this version, the Commander of the H.M.S. Blazer first introduced it as part of a coordinated outfit involving a double-breasted blue jacket with brass buttons.
A second narrative indicates that the Lady Margaret Boat Club’s members introduced blazers around 1825 in Cambridge. The rowing club’s sportsmen wore bright red flannel jackets and the colour was so intense that it burned, it blazed, hence blazers.
The second version is backed up by Jack Carlson, author of Rowing Blazers , a book on the history of the intriguing jackets, and a champion rower. According to the author, blazers were originally made of heavy flannel and cut to allow enough movement to row during training sessions. In his book, Carlson mentions that members of rowing clubs used to earn blazers by accomplishing remarkable tasks. While most blazers were awarded for sporting merits, some others were earned for less formal virtues:
"The legend of how you get the rainbow-striped blazer of the Cambridge Archetypals is as follows," Carlson explains "You have to row in the Oxford/Cambridge boat race three times, have gotten a third in your degree (for nearly failing), and spent three nights in jail."
Since their origin, blazers have slowly worked their way into mainstream society, and what started as a symbol of distinction for navy, sports clubs and schools across the British Empire, slowly became a fashion staple. Blazers were diffused by popular events, such as the annual rowing competition Henley Royal Regatta, which since 1839 is to blazers what Wimbledon is to the polo shirt.
Dandies were the first to wear blazers outside their original context and at the beginning of the twentieth century Brooks Brothers was the first company making the garment available to the public.
Blazers evolved into a less exclusive attire between the 60s and the 70s when the British mods adopted them and a member of “The Who” posed in the iconic Union Jack blazer. The attire finally found its place in mainstream wardrobes in the 80s, and today it is possible to find them in different shapes, colours and fabrics.
HOW TO OWN A BLAZER
Blazers come in a range of fabrics, but the classic choices are wool flannel, tweed, hopsack and linen. The classic blazer was generally solid coloured or striped, though checks have become extremely popular, especially in more casual versions, such as tweed. Blazers can also be fitted with a choice of buttons, pockets and badges, bringing personality to the attire.
This is the classic choice, especially in its navy variation, and the easiest to match with a broad range of pants and shirts of different fabrics.
The slightly rough texture of hopsack gives it a more casual vibe, appropriate for blazers, and also makes it both breathable and crease resistant. It comes in a wide range of colors that all work great as separate jackets.
Tweed is an intriguing fabric, with a thick, wooly feel, typically in dark, strong color tones and often herringbone or check patterns. Although it might seem like an old-fashioned option, tweed can land you a very modern look and is quite easily matched for more casual occasions. Tweed and wool flannel are both best suited for winter and autumn.
Linen fabrics come in a wide range of styles and the rough texture of the fabric lends itself well to bold colors and patterns. A light and cool linen blazer is perfect for less formal events as the natural breathability of the fabric make them ideal for summer use, and the characteristic creasing adds to the personality of the fabric.
Single vs double-breasted
A classic feature on many blazers is a double-breasted front. While it certainly holds an old-school charm and is flattering for some, the single breasted jacket is still reigning supreme in terms of a clean look. If you opt for double-breasted, make sure the fabric is not too heavy, so you don’t end up with a very thick front.
A word on pockets, buttons and badges
Blazers come fitted with both flapped pockets and patch pockets, and while the first option is the classic one, patch pockets are increasingly popular and a good way to mark your blazer as more casual than your suit jackets. Badges are typically reserved for sporting associations and gaudy fashion brands. Buttons however, can be used to give your look a stylish touch, and the casual nature of the blazer allows you to experiment more with, for example, light colored horn, bone or metal buttons (yes, metal - we have a nice matte version, made in Italy, to make sure you won’t look like your grandfather).
Now that you know everything there is to know about blazers and their colourful history, you are ready to own one. Let it be for a casual cocktail party or that holiday in the Med, this versatile item of clothing should feature in your wardrobe’s arsenal. Remember that a blazer is best worn with contrasts and that choosing a good combination of trousers, shirt and accessories to match is half the fun.
Our most popular blazer is the hopsack - named after the sacks used to carry hops to beer production - which you can read more about here.
One of the most underrated blazer colors is brown, which we discuss in detail here.
Don’t hesitate to email us for more advice (or to order yourself one, of course).