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Guide to the sophisticated Blazer

The blazer is an iconic piece of men’s clothing and an important part of any man’s closet. The meaning of “blazer” has become less clear over time, which is a shame.

To make sure you’re taking advantage of the blazer’s amazing versatility, we’ll talk about what a blazer is, where it came from, how it has changed over time, and how to wear it best.

What is the Blazer?

Let’s begin by answering the most important question: What is a blazer? One might be tempted to think it’s any jacket worn without pants that match. It is called a “sports jacket that isn’t worn with matching pants” in the Oxford American Dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that it is “a coloured jacket worn by school children or sports players as part of a uniform” or “a plain jacket that is not part of a suit but is considered appropriate for formal wear.” “A light, often striped or brightly coloured sports jacket with pockets and notched lapels,” says the Free Dictionary. And Merriam-Webster defines it as “a jacket worn over a shirt that looks like a suit jacket but is not part of a suit.” Easy as pie, huh?

The 8 Things That Make a Blazer a Blazer

It’s clear that none of the dictionaries are very specific or complete, but we can figure out a few things from men’s clothing encyclopaedias and what we think a blazer is. In many places, a “blazer” is any kind of jacket, especially for women. For this article, though, we’ll use the technical definition of a “blazer”:

  1. A jacket that stands alone and is worn with pants that are a different colour, pattern, or material.

  2. It is one colour or has stripes that are big and bright.

  3. Solid colours are almost always in different shades of navy blue, but they can also be white, red, or bottle green.

  4. May have piping, braiding, or trim in a different colour.

  5. It has a double-breasted 62, 63, or 83 or a single-breasted 1–3 button configuration.

  6. The buttons are one of the two things that make a blazer stand out. Most buttons are made of mother of pearl, silver, pewter, brass, or gilt and are embossed with an anchor and a scroll (Nelson buttons) or the crest or logo of the school, college, club, sports team, or association.

  7. In some cases, the second distinguishing feature is the crest or badge of the school, college, club, sports team, association, etc. on the breast pocket. Most of the time, the crest or badge shows the person’s position in the organisation.

The Blazer’s History

If it was hard to describe the blazer’s features correctly, it’s just as hard to figure out where it came from. There seem to be a lot of different ideas about how the blazer got its name. One source even lists ten! But to narrow things down, it looks like the blazer as we know it today came from two places.

There are several stories about where the garment came from. One can trace it back to the bright red “blazers” worn by the Cambridge boating team of St. John’s College in the 1820s. Another says that in 1837, the captain of the HMS Blazer gave his crew navy-blue double-breasted jackets with brass Royal Navy buttons so that they could welcome Queen Victoria on board. Or, the name may have come from the stripes on country club jackets in the 1870s, which were called “blazes.” Any way you look at it, the term has grown beyond what it was originally used for, moving from the water to the shore and beyond the sports club. In the same way, colours expanded beyond black and navy, and blazers are now sold in a wide range of colours and fabrics.

The blazer came back into style for the first time in a big way in the 1950s, when British students changed the style of their school blazers. Giorgio Armani brought the blazer back into style about 20 years later. In 1975, he showed his first collection of unstructured men’s blazers. The jacket wasn’t as formal as a suit jacket because it wasn’t lined or ironed, but it was still professional. Armani’s blazers could be dressed up or down, like a sweater or a jacket. In the 1980 hit movie American Gigolo, Richard Gere wore an Armani blazer. This made Armani the “King of the Blazer.” The blazer was finally starting to look hot.

Blazer Fabrics

Navy Serge

The Classic Navy serge is a worsted wool that is probably the most popular fabric choice for a blazer. It is finely made of merino wool and has a twill structure. In my experience, it tends to get shiny in places where it rubs against other things a lot. Be careful when ironing or dry cleaning because too much heat or direct contact with the iron will also make it look shiny in an unpleasant way. If you want a blazer that is meant to be shiny, look for a blend of wool and mohair. This looks much more stylish than a worn-out serge.

Hopsack

Hopsack has an open weave that gives your outfit more texture right away, but it is also much more likely to get threads pulled. So if you have children, pets, or often come in contact with items that could pull a thread, hopsack may not be the best choice for you.

Flannel

For winter blazers that won’t be worn often, a true wool flannel is the best choice. If you plan to wear the jacket a lot, choose a worsted-weight flannel so the blazer will last longer. Both will get warmer over time, and the flannel nap will make them better for fall and winter outfits.

Cashmere or Vicuna

Choose cashmere or vicuna in the winter if you want a more luxurious alternative to wool. Even though they cost many times as much as a regular blazer, these luxurious fabrics will look and feel great. Still, pieces that can be worn in different ways are seen as the best place to put your money.

Fresco or Linen

If you live in a warm place all the time, you might want to look into linen or fresco blazers. Many men don’t like how wrinkled linen looks, but others like it that way. If you’re not one of them, I can wholeheartedly recommend Fresco.

Blazer Details

As mentioned before, you have plenty of choices for buttons. Most buttons are gold or, less often, silver, but white or grey mother-of-pearl buttons can look just as beautiful as light-colored horn buttons. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what kind of buttons to wear, so think about it and choose what feels right to you.

When getting a custom-made piece of clothing, many men seem to choose one with a red lining. When paired with a navy blazer, I think a solid green or yellow lining looks great. Also, any kind of boutonniere looks great with a solid navy shirt.

Last piece of advice: it’s best not to wear a badge or crest unless you’re going to an event that your club or association is hosting. On the other hand, embossed buttons are standard, and they can be a great way to add a subtle, personal touch to your outfit.

Today, striped blazers are often worn with outfits from the 1920s or in certain clubs. The striped blazer is the best choice if you want to stand out in a classic way. From what I’ve seen, they are still pretty easy to find in England, either in vintage shops or through custom orders. In the US, they are harder to find and are sometimes only available when certain movies catch the public’s attention, such as The Great Gatsby.

Blazer’s Fit

In general, a blazer should fit like a suit jacket, but some men prefer it to fit like a sport coat, which means it should be a little looser, wider, and longer. Other than that, there’s nothing special about blazers, and all the usual rules, like the right length for the sleeves, still apply. Most double-breasted blazers have a more structured canvas and some shoulder padding, but since the Neapolitan jacket has become so popular, there are now more unlined blazers with little or no shoulder padding and very soft interlining. As always, there is no objective right or wrong. What matters is what looks good on you and makes you feel good.

You can sometimes tell the difference between an American, English, or Italian silhouette.

American has one breast pocket, two buttons, is navy blue, and has soft shoulders. Notched lapels, patch or flap pockets, and a single vent.

The English style comes in either a single-breasted or double-breasted cut. The single-breasted cut has a notched lapel, while the double-breasted cut has a peak lapel. Both times, it will have two vents. There will be three buttons on the one-breasted one.

The Italian or European style is different from the others because the fabric is lighter and the blazer is less structured.

Conclusion

Today, the blazer is a very versatile piece of clothing that can be worn in casual, business casual, or business informal settings. It can be worn with many different kinds of clothes, from a shirt and tie to a shirt with an open neck. If you are just starting to build your wardrobe, keep in mind that the blazer will probably be your most versatile piece.

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