Hand-dyed Mandarin jacket from Prologue

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In the past five years, it feels like everyone has started doing some kind of shirt-jacket. 

It was a natural extension of the soft tailoring trend, perhaps, and it certainly gained traction when shirtmakers realised they could offer this too - a welcome new category for them. 

The only problem I found, personally, was that some of them were overcomplicated.

The more pockets, the bigger and more bellowed they were, and the more details like belts and epaulettes, the more the jacket became unusual and difficult to wear - the opposite of what they were usually aiming for. 

I think that’s why I’ve found this Mandarin-style jacket from Prologue quite versatile. 

For unusual as it is to see someone in a Mandarin (or Nehru, or Mao, or stand) collar jacket, the design is normally quite simple. 

There may be pockets, as there are here, but there are only two and they’re simply patches. No flaps, buttons or pleats. 

There’s no placket either, no lapel, and the cuffs are simply long sleeves folded back. It has more in common with a French workwear jacket than a tailoring-inclined Safari jacket. 

I’ve worn it with linen trousers and a dress shirt (as pictured) but also flannels and an Everyday Denim shirt, and a T-shirt with chinos. (Though not jeans - still too crisp for that.)

 

Above, Chris from Prologue wears his with a T-shirt.

He and the rest of the Prologue team have been working on this jacket for a while, and it’s been nice to see the design improve. Even though it looks simple, changes like raising the collar and enlarging the pockets have made a big difference. 

The collar has also been worked to sit better folded down, if you like that look (as shown by Chris, above).

And the changes are particularly complicated given the jacket has no separate sleeve - the fronts and the sleeve are one piece (below). 

Mine was made to measure, but we deliberately didn’t make it too fitted - like a shirt or tailored jacket would be. (A mistake I probably made with my Budd Safari shirt.)

So there’s a little shape in the back, but not much. We determined the length of body and sleeves (even though the sleeves roll back, you don’t want them too short or long) and we altered the front/back balance a little. 

The only thing we couldn’t quite get right was the collar - which would ideally sit flush with the back of the neck. That’s not easy with simple MTM, but it would be an improvement. 

As it is, the collar sits there with the jacket open, but not with it closed. 

The most impressive thing about the jacket, though, has to be the cloth. 

This is a hand-dyed linen/cotton, done locally in Hong Kong. The material is dyed with a mix of plant-based dyes, and then left to dry in the sun, with the amount of light determining its final colour. 

This traditional process is not that unusual (particularly in Japan) but the specific combination here creates a beautiful effect. The colour is deep and rich, and it looks like it has almost suede-like texture. In fact, that’s the most common response you get from people - asking if it’s suede. 

The problem with using such a process is that it is highly dependent on the weather, and as such Jerry and Chris at Prologue have had some problem getting consistent delivery times. 

The current advice is to contact them if you’re interested, and ask what the wait time is at the moment. 

The colour combination of this outfit is pretty typical for me, in that it’s a tonal look with the optional pop of colour - in this case, a Trunk tote bag. 

Having white on the top half and cream on the bottom is fairly striking and unusual (and means, practically, that it doesn’t look great with the jacket off). 

But as mentioned above, it works equally well with less striking things. A blue button-down shirt like chambray or Everyday Denim work equally as well as the white pictured. And normal suede loafers could replace the slipper-like Sagans.

Black shoes with combinations like are a continuing theme at the moment, as mentioned previously on the Gieves linen suit. I'm finding they work best when the colours elsewhere are fairly cold

It will be interesting to see how new Hong Kong set-ups like Prologue and The Anthology evolve over the next few years. 

At the moment, the things that set them apart for me are their taste in tailoring - the cuts they choose and the fabrics they suggest - and the development of original designs like this. 

It’s much harder than simply setting up a shop and selling the same craft brands as everyone else. But it also has much greater potential to set down long-term foundations for a brand.

Good luck to them.

The Mandarin jacket is £950 made to measure, and £475 ready to wear.

There are 10 lengths currently available of the hand-dyed cloth for MTM, and RTW is available in a green Moon lambswool tweed, navy mockleno and navy Sherrytweed. See images below.

In my pictures: 

  • White linen shirt: D’Avino
  • Cream cotton/linen trousers: Eidos
  • Sunglasses: EB Meyrowitz
  • Sagan shoes: Baudoin & Lange

Photography of me: Jamie Ferguson 

Photography of Chris: Milad Abedi

Others: Prologue

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Gab

Very nice jacket. A bit slouchy for my taste, but that’s only me. and beautiful color indeed? Regarding your comment on safari jacket and the current trend, Ring Jacket makes an excellent navy linen one, of which most of the complications you mention have been downplayed (simple cut, no buttons but very simple flap pockets – still has a belt, though).

jason

I see a ‘Grasshopper’ theme emerging . I am waiting for the flute to be the new accessory du jour.
That said, the colour is nice but I much prefer a safari jacket or shirt – I like the pockets and don’t find anything remotely confusing about them. What I don’t like are the black shoes. To be honest, I think they are too harsh with this outfit.
Full marks for giving original creativity air time.

Juan Santa Cruz

Hi Simon,

Thank you for this. Jacket looks great.

How can I get in contact with them to have a made to measure jacket made for me?

All the best,

Juan

Evan Everhart

I was pleased to see this article Simon! I used to wear something similar maybe 10 years ago; it was a muted royal blue cotton model with cream colored lining, a simple “Kung Fu” jacket with frog fastenings up the front that I picked up in the Los Angeles China Town district – it broke in beautifully with wear and washing, I suppose much like a cotton work jacket or denim might. It was quite comfortable as lounge wear, and I used to use it as a house coat, and while hiking or visiting the beach. A very versatile and casually stylish garment. Intrigued that it is now segueing into higher fashion as it were. I originally discovered it due to my interest in folk clothing and “ethnic” wear, such as Afghan coats, Gymnostroika shirts in vegetally dyed linen or wool, or Hindu kaftan style coats in their more basic and muted iterations. Thumbs up on this! 🙂

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

I think that yr precisely correct as to Asians looking to their local traditions as the passion for clothing has steadily grown over there, they are of course not just going to look to Europe, once the initial headwind has passed, but also to their own cultural traditions, and that fascinating with folk clothing and the “authentic”, at least to my eye is what originally attracted me to these types of traditional garments. I am eager to see where they go with it, and how, but at the same time, I will stick to my simple jackets with included trousers that I have gotten previously as the price point to me, is far more desirable, even in fairly acceptable silk or linen or cotton drill at the local Chinese import shops.

Thanks again for this wonderful article and discussion of yr very stylish jacket, Sir! 🙂

Peter K

I wonder how these shops are being affected by the demonstrations in Hong Kong?

Jason

I haven’t seen many demonstrators wearing them. They seem to favour umbrellas and face protection !

Fatih

Very nice and original jacket. Lovely color, too. I think if you‘d have made it a bit more fitted you‘d even look more stylish than you already do. It‘s a bit tenty as it is currently.

David

Is this the standard length or did you request it a touch longer?

Ian F

I think, if you’ll forgive me saying so, that you might have been better going with the RTW version. I hope the premium for MTM is mainly for the cloth rather than the fitting. For instance, the sleeves may have been changed but the turn back seems very large and the collar standing off when unbuttoned is usually a back balance issue but you say the balance was altered. I suppose if the extra cost was mainly for the cloth and the alterations were merely tweaks you could be happy with the uplift but the RTW version appears to me to be better value for money. Sorry.

Robin

I thought the jacket style was only one type but having seen the blue one I’m very impressed.

The one you’re wearing , Simon , look a little too relaxed but that cloth …..WHOOOAH!
It looks like suede.

Lastly, Prologue need to push this and their MTM more thru their website . The current website is more about the other brand products they sell .

P.S. would be good to know when they come again to London.

AJ

As you mentioned the Anthology, Simon, have you tried their navy lazyman jacket? From photos at least, that appeals to me more than this design from Prologue (not that they are directly comparable of course).

Anonymous

I enjoy reading the active threads you respond to Simon. The homepage only lists the last 6 responses — can set the page to list more? Thanks

Anonymous

I appreciate seeing your responses specifically. Seeing all of them would be nice, if you could make the “Active Threads” button clickable.

Anonymous

yes a whole page!

Ben

I’m with you on the fabric—really cool. Can swear that you wrote about something similar recently, a tobacco linen casual piece, but can’t identify the exact post. Interesting too to see your taste for the slouch unfolding here: this jacket, the denim kimono, the RL belted card, etc.

I’ve a general preference for a closed as opposed to open collar, crew as opposed to a v-neck underneath outerwear with a stood-up collar (e.g. mandarin, trucker jacket, mock-neck card). I find the latter in both instances unpleasantly redundant as outerwear with a stood-up collar both already feature an open collar and v-neckline. The pictures in this post reinforce this preference.

Tony

Hi Simon – I was wondering if you could expand on why you think the safari jacket was too fitted?

Is that a function thing, a style thing, or just a mismatch between the two?

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

I think that you have the character of the inspiration for yr jacket quite squarely in yr sights with yr louche Asian style jacket. It is in essence based upon the pan-Asian coat jacket which I typically refer to as a “Kung Fu” jacket as more people seem to know what I’m referring to at that point. Whether it has a double breasted, angled, or single breasted cross-over, buttons or frogs or toggles, it almost always has a Mandarin collar, over-long sleeves to be turned back for wide cuffs, and at least 2 hip pockets typically in a patch model, and sometimes interior patch pockets as well as a breast pocket, and the better quality ones at least traditionally typically have a white linen, cotton, or raw or plain woven silken lining. The key element of the actual structure, and what I was getting at here, aside from the variable details above, is that the jacket/shirt-jacket is meant to fit fairly trimly at the shoulders, with a one piece sleeve and body in the better models, but sometimes with a simple T tunic style sleeve or equivalent with seamed sleeves, or even a Magyar sleeve, but with a relatively closely fitted upper body for maximum dexterity and fluidity at the shoulders, which then skirts out gently or even dramatically like a soft angle or even a curved angle to the bottom hem giving fluid motion, excellent drape, and much ease.

I originally discovered these wonderful and highly comfortable and functional pieces of crossover lounge-sports wear when I became fascinated with ethnic garments and their use and construction while studying the origins of clothing and clothing history and function in general.

I determined that a purpose build garment is always more tasteful and “authentic” to me, than one with random details which have no real connection to the purpose, spirit, and structure of the garment, purpose built garments have a beautiful elegance and simplicity of form which speaks to the minimalist in me. Sorry to rant. But these jackets are a particular favorite of mine, and I really love the feel of this one. I think my ex-wife may have thrown out mine. I will probably go an procure a new one in China Town in LA. I think that the simple cotton ones run about $60 to $80 dollars now, and the silk ones not much more, depending upon the grade of silk, but they also include trousers with draw string ankles and waists in matching fabric. Maybe the raw silk one in mid blue would be nice…..?

Juan Santa Cruz

Thank you Simon.

Harry of Monmouth

Interesting “pop on jacket” Perhaps it could be “westerisan” with raglan sleeves?

John

Hey Simon,

Thinking about to order this from Prologue but wanted to hear your experience.
Does it age well with a year of wearing?
How thick is the fabric and do you think it would be wearable it Hong Kong summer?
Also, maybe it’s more interesting if the sleeves have the same detail as your Liverano Ulster coat?

John

Thanks for your input!