by Drew Shiel

Starting from a Sartorialist photograph of Carlos Castillo, I’m now looking at jackets. I wasn’t sure if what I was looking at in the picture was a sports jacket, a blazer, or… well, I didn’t know what else was out there. It’s not a suit jacket, I’m pretty sure.

The general gist seems to be that a suit jacket is a well-fitted jacket in a fine fabric, which is matched by trousers. It usually has two or three buttons, or four on modern suits. A sports jacket is looser, has more buttons, pockets, pocket flaps, and so on. Different colours, too, sometimes patterned or striped, and often textured. And a blazer is a very plain item, in a dark colour, often with a crest for a school or club. It would also, normally, have naval-style brass buttons. Based on that, actually, I’m pretty sure that a lot of garments I’ve seen referred to as blazers weren’t.

But there are finer distinctions.  The “odd jacket”, which is derived from the sports coat, gave rise to the blazer. The odd jacket can have lots of variations, it seems, including the velvet jackets which were popular in the 60s and early 70s, and with which the vintage shops remain well stocked. Then there’s the patterned sports jacket, which has distinct patterns, stripes, plaid, or the like. This is intended, apparently, to make sure that it’s not mistaken for a suit jacket. So based on that, I think the jacket in the starting point image is a patterned sports jacket.

The blazer, by now, seems to have passed out the sports jacket, and become slightly more formal than its parent – while still not as formal as the suit jacket (and block colour suits are more formal than pin-stripe – but I think the whole suit concept merits a post or series of posts of its own). The double-breasted, brass-buttoned one is old fashioned, and the single-breasted anything-but-brass-buttoned ones are more “modern”.

This is, of course, a small subset of the garments that get referred to as jackets. You’ve got denim, various rain-proofs, wax jackets, and so on. These are just the less formal descendants of the suit jacket.

So those are the technicalities. In terms of my own taste, I dislike blazers. They don’t seem to have much in the way of redeeming features as garments per se, and they’re very often worn in an exclusionary manner, as a badge of belonging to a school or club; always some kind of elite. They don’t even have the benefit of practicality that military wear has; they tend not to have decent pockets, or be in any way weatherproof – both things the sports jacket can at least approach.

I have two jackets which I can now confidently identify as sports jackets, neither patterned nor odd. I’ll look at the precise features of each in another post, and see if I can pin down why one of them gets worn through most of the summer, and the other has only been worn a few times – and might even be demoted to gardening use soon.