David: I very much enjoy your blog and find it to be a great source of inspiration in my desire to master the art of permanent style. I was hoping you could help me in the matter of choosing odd jackets. I am starting a new job where most people wear a jacket but no one wears a necktie. I will probably wear grey flannel trousers, beige chinos and a light-coloured shirt. But I am not sure what odd jackets to wear. I don’t currently own any. What would you recommend to me if I have only one, three or five odd jackets to use for work?
The first thing to ensure about an odd jacket is that it goes well with the trousers. They must not clash in their pattern and they must be of a similar formality. As both your suggested pairs of trousers are plain, pattern is not much of an issue. And as they are both relatively informal, the jackets should reflect this in their cloth.
So my first suggestion to you would be a jacket in a pale grey, with a heavy texture in the cloth and in a relatively informal wool. So not worsted, but flannel, tweed, camel hair or something similarly rough. The heavy texture could be a herringbone or a hound’s-tooth. (Like the one pictured – from J.Crew)
The reason I suggest this for your first jacket is that the pattern is not too bold or eye-catching – there is enough visual interest to distinguish it from the trousers, but it is not a loud tweed. It is also classic and simple without being uniform – a blazer would offer less personality in your one item.
Your second jacket should be a blazer, though. Navy blue, preferably in something heavier than standard worsted wool, and fitting immaculately. Too many Americans wear a blazer and chinos out of laziness. Neither is likely to fit well and the jacket will rarely be buttoned. To differentiate yourself, get a blazer that is slim-cut, perhaps with just one button. And don’t go for brass buttons – something different, either plain blue or a different metal; perhaps even a cream colour like the Italians.
Third for me would be a tweed. The colour is a question of personal taste, as is the size of the check, but make sure it is slim (again) and smart enough to look at home both in the country and the office. I have a Donegal one-button tweed from Kilgour, in mid-grey, that I would put in this category.
Fourth, something for the summer – a tan linen or cotton gabardine. Make sure the linen is heavy, and if you think tan would be too casual, switch to a navy or a grey.
The fifth jacket can be something more adventurous: a classic black stroller if you want to add formality, something in an unusual colour like mid-green if you want to add flair.
When building the collection, just bear in mind that you want a spread of weights for different seasons and a spread of formalities for different occasions.
There’s some great jackets in jcrew at the moment plus the styling of the looks on their site is fantastic. They are way ahead of polo, banana republic….well done guys!
Might raise a few eyebrows but for you guys in the UK there’s actually some great tweed jackets in M&S currently…if you hunt. In the ‘collezione’ range there’s some soft construction jackets with nothing in the shoulder which fit well (buy a size down) there’s tan herringbone (£99!!!) also a double face, buggy lined, patch pkt jacket I bought for £149. Its mid grey brushed flannel on the outside and tan h/bone inside. It really is a great find! I’m a 42L normally but bought the 40R which is shorter (more on trend) plus it fit really well…. worth a look !
Great advice as always, Simon. I particularly liked the suggestion of a stroller, though if David finds black too severe, he can always go for charcoal gray.
As for blazers and blazer buttons, I’d say your first blazer should be single-breasted and the second one double-breasted. My blazers have antiqued silver buttons, but I really like your suggestions for alternatives. I’d consider cream for a summer blazer.
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simon, while looking for a new odd jacket ive begun to look at the type and weight of wools used to judge where and when it may be suitable to wear.
i have a question on the super 100s wools, if you go up in terms of the super number, say a s130 instead of a s120,the fibres are finer (which makes it feel softer but negatively affects durability i assume), does this also mean the jacket will wear warmer if the weight is the same, say 9 oz wool? my logic is that a finer wool (the s130 vs s120) for the same weight of wool would contain more yarn and therefore be more dense?
You’re right on the durability Andy, but the difference to how warm it wears will be negligible
Where in the above “scheme” would you rank the W Bill cashmere jacket GB made for you? Would it do as a first “light grey”?
Yes I would say so. Nice texture to it, very versatile
You have previously advised against wearing a suit jacket on its own.
I am planning to get a navy suit made in Naples, my intention being to wear it also separately as a true navy blazer. Patch pockets.
Is it purely down to fabric choice that would or would not allow it to function separately as a blazer, even though it is actually part of a suit?
Largely material, yes, and you’ll always struggle with a worsted cloth. Woolen cloth or open weaves like hopsack will be easier. But then anything that breaks up the jacket also helps – patch pockets and contrasting buttons, such as metal, mother of pearl or light-coloured horn. Of course most of those then make the suit look a little odd.
Sorry…. Could you clarify what you mean by “woolen cloth or open weaves” as a worsted or a flannel or both equally woolen surely?
Worsted and woollens are very different: worsted is a treatment that is applied to a woollen, to give it that smooth finish. Flannel is a woollen, as are most other cloths of a similar feel. Open-weave cloths are things like hopsack, fresco and others.
Hi Simon, I recently picked up (thrift / vintage) a RL SB navy blazer (notch lapels with two buttons). It’s pretty much classic American prep. On the button front, it has gold buttons which I’d like to replace (but hold onto.) You mention “plain blue or a different metal; perhaps even a cream colour like the Italians.” / or “contrasting buttons, such as metal, mother of pearl or light-coloured horn.” Do you know of a good source for buttons, since I’d be buying them to bring to a tailor. What do you think about converting it to a single buttoned jacket?
I’d avoid trying to convert it to a single button. You’d need to sew up the lower buttonhole.
I use Bernstein & Banleys to source my buttons
God, of course! And, thanks for the tip about Bernstein & Banleys, that’s a great help. Much appreciated.
What’s the difference between an odd jacket and a blazer?
An odd jacket is any jacket that does not match the trousers. A blazer is often used to mean the same thing, but is actually much narrower. A tweed jacket, for example, cannot be a blazer
Narrower in size or?
The meaning of the word is narrower, as in it refers to fewer things. Originally a boating jacket, now usually a navy jacket with contrasting buttons.
I would like to know what do you think about wearing chinos with an odd jacket and a tie. I tend to wear chinos in grey, cream and white in casual settings when I don’t want to wear dress pants. Are chinos suited for being used with dress shirts and ties?
It’s certainly possible, but it’s hard to pull off – shirt, jacket and tie must all be more casual than those you would normally wear with a suit or smarter trousers. Eg, an Oxford button-down shirt, a soft-construction woollen jacket, and perhaps a knitted tie. The key is balancing the casual nature of the chinos with everything else you’re wearing.
Hope that helps
I personally don’t like button downs with ties. Is a blue shirt with spread collar too much?
No – it’s more the material than the button down. An Oxford weave is bigger and therefore more casual. If everything else is casual it should be fine though
is a grenadine tie informal enough?
Should be, yes.
Thank you for the advice! What ballpark weight would you recommend for a fall/winter blazer? Also, I’m just building up my wardrobe and my budget is fairly limited since I’m in my mid twenties. Would you recommend spending the extra money on a wool/cashmere blazer or split the budget to spend on a wool winter blazer and a hopsack blazer? Currently I’m in London, but I’ll be moving soon to the southeastern US.
Weight: 13oz or above
Split between hopsack and wool. Spend extra money on adjustments rather than cashmere
How versatile do you think a camel’s hair in a traditional tan, and an appropriate weight, would be for fall/winter wear? I imagine it could pair well with gray, charcoal, or dark brown flannels.
It would be fairly versatile yes, and work with those colour choices. The only thing restraining its use will be that it is a fairly strong colour