Bespoke double-breasted denim jacket – from Cifonelli, Paris

Friday, April 7th 2017
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The attraction of denim for the modern, sartorial man is easy to understand. 

In an age when clothing is increasingly casual, making tailoring less formal through the use of casual cloths is attractive. 

It retains the benefits of tailoring - the elegant lines, the flattering silhouette - but avoids alternatives like shrunken sizing or bright colours and patterns.

We have seen as a result, in recent years, a big growth in denim suits, cloths, shirts, even ties and shoes. As well as many indigo-dyed items that aim for something similar.

I wear denim shirts regularly, but have tended to avoid it in tailoring. (As well as steering well clear of denim shoes and ties).

This is because unfortunately, the very things that make denim attractive also make it difficult to tailor.

Its coarseness and stiffness are what make it a pleasure to wear in, beautifully personal as it fades, and hardy enough to last for years.

But coarse, stiff materials do not tailor well (particularly in a jacket, particularly when cotton).

They have no drape and are harder to shape with the iron. They risk losing those very benefits of tailoring we're looking to retain. 

I made my first exception to this approach last year with Parisian bespoke tailor Cifonelli. 

The prime reason was the material. It is a heavy Japanese denim, but uses a slightly finer cotton than normal denims to make it easier to tailor. 

For me, this is a better approach than trying to reproduce denim in wool (as Zegna have done, for example), using lightweight cottons, or sticking with regular denim (see Timothy Everest, Richard Anderson and others).

Its fineness means it won't wear in the same way as a normal denim, but it is the same in every other respect - the weight, indigo dye, the 3x1 weave. 

Unfortunately, Cifonelli aren't willing to talk about their supplier, so I cannot confirm how to source the same material.

The style is a typical Cifonelli double-breasted, with wide, curved lapels.

But I deliberately avoided their 6x1 configuration, where the lapel is cut to fasten at the bottom button. It's distinctive but - for me - a bit too showy. 

The buttons are dark-brown horn, the lining a matching silk, and the finishing (of course, being Cifonelli) absolutely superb. 

Ferdinando Caraceni used to say about cotton suits that the cheaper the material, the better the finishing should be - to raise it up and exalt it. 

This is certainly not a cheap material, but it doesn't have the luxurious richness of wools, and the Cifonelli finishing sits very well on it. 

There's almost no point mentioning the fit, it's so good.

We did take three fittings at Mark's Club (where Lorenzo now sees clients) to get it perfect, but perfect it is. 

The only thing I might have changed was to have a softer shoulder - Cifonelli do a version of a shirt shoulder, and I might have been better going for that.

It would have made the jacket a little less dramatic and easier to wear with more things. Although the lapels are pretty dramatic as it is.

It's something I can always change later on. 

In other regards, the jacket is wearing in nicely. A heavy cotton is a wonderfully comfortable and reassuring thing to wear, even if it is less practical than wool.

I'll be interested to see whether the material starts to wear and fade.

This is likely to happen less at bend points - such as the inside of the elbow, where you would expect it on a regular denim - and more at the openings to the pockets, the edges of the cuffs and so on. 

I've already experimented a little with a pumice stone on one or two areas, to see how that wears the cotton, but I want to avoid any chance of that being too much, too artificial.

I certainly don't want to start washing it, which I know Cifonelli can do and I've seen work with some success. 

Oh, and this is actually part of a suit - in that a pair of matching trousers was made at the same time. 

I'm unlikely to ever wear them as a suit (it's all rather too 1970s), but the trousers themselves are beautiful, and again incredibly comfortable. 

I'll include them in a separate post at some point. 

The cost of the suit was 6000 euros.

In both sets of pictures I am wearing:

  • Brushed cotton shirts by Simone Abbarchi
  • Linen handkerchiefs by Simonnot-Godard via Mes Chaussettes Rouges
  • Grey flannel trousers by Anderson & Sheppard

Exterior photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Interior photography: Private White VC, taken during our talk on British manufacturing.

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Nick Inkster

Love it, denim amd milanese. Well done Simon!

Mike

If this was a streetwear post I would’ve replied with 64x fire emoji’s… Wow I never imagined that I would like a jacket made out of denim after seeing multiple failed attempts from RTW brands. Cifonelli with another home-run.

Jeremy

I have to say this is the antithesis of what denim as a casual material is all about. The cut of the jacket is great but it feels like you’re at the point of having commissions made for the sake of it as you have exhausted your options?
Surely once it fades the jacket will have the opposite to the desired effect of how casual clothing fades and you’ll find less reasons to wear it.
I swear by the modern mix of smart and casual but this just feels too forced a collaboration and I’m not convinced it’s a good value proposition.

Jeremy

I think the formality of the cut against the way denim ages will mean it becomes obsolete and definitely wouldn’t work with the ‘matching’ trousers once the fades really kick in.
It really feels too forced Simon.

Piyu 1154

Jeremy you are just bloody old fashioned and thank goodness Simon has a wider and more versatile sense of style. Kudos to Simon for a fresh of fresh air. Absolutely love the denim jacket, just have to save up!

RoSaCe

Hi Simon,

a great idea you had, and the masterwork of Lorenzo Cifonelli made an amazing result. Many people would say it’s a sacrilege to turn this typical Cifonelli shoulder in a shirt shoulder (even if they can do it very well). You could also have thought of patch pocket? Anyway, it works pretty well, and I think it will be very interesting to see how it ages. I think it can be very interesting to wear it with your long sleeves polos also?
Thanks for your work, always a pleasure to read you

Anon

Question – do you mean that you can have the shoulder altered from its current form to something softer? I recall reading in earlier postings that shoulder alterations are not possible. Am intrigued – certainly have some cotton jackets that I would love to soften at the shoulder.

Néstor Valiño

Amazing. Tailoring at its finest.

S

Simon,

Great looking jacket.

I see you wearing more and more Simone Abbarchi shirts. Do you now prefer them to Luca Avatabile?

Thanks,
S

Md

Simon,

This looks very good. It would be interesting to see a normal ‘full body shot’ in order to see how it looks with your trousers, shoes and so on.

Double-breasted seems an interesting choice for denim. Could you explain why (other than it being C’s signature) you went for this over single-breasted with patch pockets, for example? I suppose the combination of informal cloth and formal style/cut makes it more of a statement piece, but for the average reader, who has a less extensive wardrobe, would combining an informal cloth with an informal style of jacket be more versatile and better value?

John

Sure, but less interesting for being sartorially less challenging !

Anonymous

Kilgour did a Denim suit a little while ago, one of the gentlemen working in their store wore it as uniform, beautiful and this was RTW Kilgour no where near Cifonelli so i’m sure that it’ll look lovely. I for one would love to see the whole suit and im sure im not alone,

Matt H

I like the curve of the lapel…. but, denim tailoring always looks wrong to me. I can’t shake the image of Justin Timberlake’s epic double denim fail at the 2001 American Music Awards.

Anonymous

Are the trousers cut in a formal style, with a crease and cuff? Or something more casual. I assume the former, and have seen some nice images of it done on the satorialist.

Anonymous

Would this be a style you would encourage for bespoke jeans?

John

Hi Simon,
This a very chic jacket! But allow me to warn you against any temptation to change the shoulders. Understandably, keeping them creates a challenge. That is, how to tame the jacket, as it were, thanks to its singular aesthetics.
I think you’ve found the right answer: dress it down; and yes, without even a tie in order to constrain it within assigned boundaries.
But then, another challenge arises: a jacket to be worn as separate or not separate? Yet while the idea of wearing it as a separate is a good one, I do think that as a suit it could be a very nice option for less formal evenings. That is when you could make the most out of this suit!
What I can’t figure out still is at which level of formality should the trousers be when you wear the jacket as a separate. Your choice here seems to work. Be that as it may, perhaps striking a middle ground might be a safe bet. I know it’s too vague!
May I ask you how you have stumbled upon this fabric.
John

Anonymous

This might be slightly off tangent, but I recently commissioned a navy sports jacket and a pair of light grey trousers, both in flannel, and I’m thinking about what shoes to wear with them. I recall that you’ve mentioned before that shoes should always be darker than the trousers, but does one have to take the jacket into account, especially when it’s significantly darker than the trousers? In my case, would you think that tan shoes (oxfords/suede loafers) may work well, especially when a more casual feel is desired? Or would you recommend a darker shade of brown?

Anonymous

Even if they are worsted flannel?

Anonymous

The look I’m trying to create is something like the Solito cashmere jacket in this thread of yours: https://www.permanentstyle.com/2016/02/which-office-are-you-or-a-sliding-scale-of-formality.html
I thought worsted flannel would be similar to a cashmere in terms of texture?

Anonymous

I see. Thank you for this important piece of advice. Would you say some hopsack for the summer might be too light for the trousers?

AK

Simon do you think a navy doeskin blazer is a good idea. Can that not go with flannel trousers. Thanks

Jeff from Chicago

I started my clothing, style – etc., pursuits by way of being a nerdy denim guy. I read all the denim dude things I could find. This all lead me down a path to bespoke clothing. For this reason (among others) I found this article of particular interest.

Simon – please post some pictures down the line of the fading and wear process this jacket goes though. Would be very interesting.

Walter Sickinger

Double breasted is a fairly formal cut while denim is a casual material, albeit this example is a beautiful cloth. As the jacket ages and the denim fades,creases,etc the contrast between style and material will create even more discord. A more casual cut such as a 3 button single breasted with patch pockets would seem more in harmony with the fabric. Also 6000 Euros (almost 9000 CAD) seems an outrageous price for a denim jacket no matter how fine the tailoring.

BW

Simon any idea where one can source the jersey fabric that Cifonelli has or is that also a secret. Many thanks

AK

No I meant the light grey cotton jersey patch pocket blazer they do and call it their Wharton model thanks

Gonzague

Regarding the milanese:
– it looks more and more like a Tom Ford milanese.
– Caraceni wrote one should never put a milanese on a casual jacket. I do not agree but would like to know the rationale behind it, tradition?
Regarding the shoulder: allthough I tend to think the Cifonelli shoulder head is generally too strong , I think one still needs a roped shoulder to match the strong lapel.

Gonzague

For the same reason, I can’t see how some recommends a polo to wear with this jacket. The polo collar would be ludicrous vs the jacket lapel. The shirt you are wearing on the pic perfectly does the job in my opinion.

RoSaCe

I’ve bben suggesting that. Permanent style’s polos are meant to be worn with tailored jacket. Their collars are sharper than a usual polo one

Alec

Hi Simon. I was interested in your comment about the challenge of tailoring with a stiffer denim. Quite recently you had a db jacket made by Ferdinando Caraceni in a coarse cotton. I would have thought that this material would be pretty similar to denim in terms of stiffness and drape. Are they quite different in reality?
Look forward to seeing how your cotton jackets age. Partly inspired by that earlier post of yours, I’m currently having a sports coats made in a coarse Japanese selvedge (1/2 lined, 3 patch pockets and pick stitching). I expect it’s going to take a few years to beat it into shape. Will be interesting for me to contrast versus the aging of your jackets.

Anonymous

I think denim and flannel is a bad combination. Not something I would even do. Very informal meets rather formal. Better with chino/linen/cotton. A lot of your outfits are a bit muddled in that sense although your skill is knowledge about making rather than style.

Mike

I mean no offence but I have to smile at the fact that you have commissioned an (expensive) finely tailored Canadian tuxedo. Perhaps the right occasion to go full kit will present itself for you someday.

Next I’d suggest a Kenora dinner jacket!

Peter B

Might need some bespoke Platform shoes for that one!

Anonymous

Irregardless of the following observations I’d like to thank you for being open to your vicarious readership by taking us along on commissions like this. Many interesting observations but for me the issue is the cut itself. For denim a slimmer line is required. You mention 70’s disco and that is where it may best be at home; slightly too long (one and a half inches), lapels too wide and too round on the belly, wrong pocket style (vs. patched), shoulders too roped. I think the cut of your A&S April 2014 check DB would have had a superior style for you and, long term, more wearable. The large swaith of stiff denim seems to swallow you. I like casual DB’s but they require a sense of casual, louche, sporty elan (see Lapo for an example) – I think the cut is too formal for the material to successfully deliver this commission.

David

Simon,
What an interesting post.
I think the cut of the jacket is superb. You were absolutely right not to go with his 6×1 configuration – it is way too dandy – and that’s being polite.
Leave the shoulders as they are – they look great and as you say, the finish is beyond good.
All of that said, the most fascinating aspect of this project is the use of the cloth to bring a casual air to formal clothing without resorting to the bizarre ‘Pee-Wee Herman’ honey I shrunk the kids look or garish patterns.
This experimentation with alternative cloths is a furrow worth plowing with a view to finding different alternatives for louche suits and in this regard how comfortable it is to wear, particularly in different climates, and how it ages will be absolutely key. I do hope you revisit the project regularly to keep us informed of these aspects.
I’d also like to see it as a suit to see if you really are channeling your inner Jason King!
When it comes to accessorising it, personally I’d go with a Friday Polo, a roll neck or a plain navy or grey shirt.
If wearing just the jacket I’d probably go with navy cotton trousers and certainly when it comes to shoes it would have to be suede Chelsea or Desert boots.
Regards,
David

Nick Inkster

I didn’t spot it the first time I read this post, but picking up on the comments above regarding flannel I have to say I agree that it is probably not the best choice of cloth for a trouser to match with this particular coat, as they are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of formality.

Whilst I think the silk thread on the lapel button is a neat touch, I would dial down the bottom half a touch.

John

Very interesting reply! Do you have a rough idea yet of the range of fabrics for the trousers that would work with this jacket?

PJM

The interesting thing about a jacket like this that mixes formal and informal elements, is that theoretically, you should be able to pair it with things that gently nudge it in one direction or the other. The dark green drakes corduroy might be nice, a little texture softening the transition from top to bottom. Also, dare I say it, a white chino could work well if you were that way inclined.

hugh

Love it. One of my favourite things you’ve commissioned Simon. I think you should get a (3rd?) corduroy to match- Cifonelli’s modern, hip designs are far more suited than stuffy old A&S (and i say that with a great deal of love for A&S’ work)

S

Simon,

Did you have to pay for this? Or did you receive it free / large discount?

Always good to know with these posts.

Thanks,
S

Burt

Your honest answer is much appreciated 🙂

Jesper

It’s a wonderful jacket, Simon! I especially like how the denim fabric doesn’t at all detract from the jacket’s quality as a tailored garment, but rather supplements it in a subtle yet uniquely powerful way. I appreciate how things easily could go terribly wrong here, especially considering the relatively formal and somewhat dramatic Cifonelli cut. I imagine the easier and safer (and thus predictable) option would be to go with a SB, soft shoulders, patch pockets, etc. However, this style offers something more unique and striking. Hadn’t the overall balance been spot on, the result may well have been quite outlandish. Fortunately it is anything but. The superb fit probably has something to do with this as well. I also think the roped shoulders and Milanese buttonhole fits well with this overall image. However I am not sure whether wear and tear and resulting fades will make the jacket even better or rather throw the balance off completely and make it much less wearable. Time will tell, I suppose. Looking forward to a future post on the jacket’s aging process. Well done!

Regards,
Jesper

Laurent

Simon,

Very interesting! Reading your post, I started out very sceptical and ended with full acceptance. I do dislike denim and still believe that the jacket would probably be too stiff and heavy to wear, but the colour, the contrast between cut and material, the idea of something casual coming from (haute) tailoring, rally appeals to me.

Laurent

Frank

Wonderful post and pictures I must say that I usually do not wear denim but after seeing this jacket I will reconsider it
Cifonelli seems to be the only one able to make masterpieces like this ?
Congratulations and thank you for sharing this great content.
Frank

Raj

Does the $6000 Euros include VAT?

I think without VAT and at current exchange rates, this makes for a pretty great deal for an American or anyone outside the Euro Zone.

Stefano

Stunning!

What’s the price ? In $

David

Thank you Simon for the post – informative as always. Love the blog!

What would you wear with the trousers to this suit?

I recently commissioned a pair of denim trousers very similar to this suit from Salva Ambrosi, and getting ready to pick them up. Trying to get ideas how to wear them.

They look similar to this fabric, and are cut with formal styling – single pleat, side tabs, two inch cuffs.

Thank you in advance for your response.

David

Thanks for the quick response Simon.

Any ideas for spring summer with the denim “trousers”?

Would a linen shirt and some sort of checked sport coat work? Polo?

Thanks

David

Thank you Simon.

Tristan Rayson-Hill

Dear Simon,

I enjoy your writing and appreciate your passion and dedication to fine craftsmanship.

Alas, with this commission I think you have crossed the line into pandering to expensive indulgence. History will show the fashion for denim suits and shirts will quickly fade.

Personally I read you writing to inform me on building a tightly curated curated wardrobe that will be stylish and long lasting. The names Mao Tse-tung and Dirk Diggler come to mind. Very disappointing.

Best regards,

Tristan

S.

Dear Simon,

Would you recommend having dress Napolitain style trousers (2 pleats, large waistband, etc.) made from regular 10 oz denim ? Thanks !

S

Ok, thanks a lot !

S.

Did you ever do a post on the trousers ? Thanks !

S.

Great idea, I would find that particularly interesting ! Thanks!

AJ

Hi Simon, what are your views on chambray for a sports jacket to achieve a similar kind of look but maybe not be as heavy and stiff as denim? Thanks.

Rico

Hi Simon,

How’s this cifonelli jacket? Has it faded?

Hamza

Lovely shoulder and lovely lapel.

Chris

Just stumbled on this one Simon and it’s absolutely sublime.
How’s it aged and have you managed to wear it much? I’m actually surprised this jacket hasnt taken over menswear since this post – it feels like it achieves something very similar to tobacco linen in being both effortlessly stylish and casual simultaneously.