Style / March 2017

What Is A Blazer?

The history and essential qualities of this most versatile, elegant of gentlemen’s garments.

No question about it — easily dressed up or down, the perfect travel garment, the blazer is the most internationally civilised, adaptable, all-purpose and essential tailored item in a gentleman’s wardrobe.

The multipurpose jacket, at home in the boardroom or on board a yacht, the blazer can be worn with lisle polo shirt, jeans and loafers, or pristine broadcloth dress shirt and tie, dark grey worsteds and suede shoes; and virtually anything in between when it comes to trousers — lightweight flannel, cavalry twills, gabardines and linen, cotton poplin, fine wale corduroy, khakis, or even tartan trousers — a very ‘American country club’ look.

Before we go any further, though, I wanted to bring up this business of nomenclature. Some of the less enlightened have taken to referring to any sports coat as a blazer. This is wrong. All blazers are sports jackets, but not all sports jackets are blazers. A true blazer is defined by its very dark blue colour, an absence of pattern, and pristine cut. And it’s the only sports jacket that traditionally takes metal buttons. (This will become important later on.)

There are three important areas of consideration to keep in mind when we’re talking about the real thing, an authentic blazer: the fabric, the cut, and the buttons. Fabrics for cooler-weather jackets mean flannel, twill or cashmere. For warm-weather dressing, lightweight cashmere, silk, linen, serge or tropical worsted weaves. And of course, the true colour is navy blue, falling between the almost black of midnight blue, and a simple dark blue.

Today, blazers can be either single- or double-breasted. Both versions find their origins in 19th-century England, but they started out as two very different jackets. Everyone knows the story of the enterprising captain of the HMS Blazer, a frigate in the British Navy, who dressed his crew in smart, dark blue double-breasted jackets with brass buttons to impress Queen Victoria. The story has been told so many times, it almost deserves to be true.

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G. Bruce Boyer