Like so many of the clothes which we wear today, the double breasted, jacket, or blazer (or db as it is commonly referred to) has it’s origins in nautical history. Derived from a sailors Pea Coat, which takes it’s name from the Pilot Cloth from which it was made, was a short coat woven from heavy blue wool twill, which offered protection against the elements, as well as protection from the rigours of the sailors life manning a ship’s deck.
However, whilst the overcoat’s woollen cloth was robust and versatile, it’s buttons were often sawn-off by the coarse ‘mauren rap’, later, mooring rope, used when mooring their craft and sliding down the mooring line on their stomachs. A redesign was commissioned.
By off-setting the buttons which fasten the front of the coat, sailors were able to lean, lay, or slide on the mooring line, or, indeed, rigging, while working, without sawing through the cotton thread which attached the buttons to the overcoat. And voila, the double breasted coat was born.
More recently, the double breasted jacket has enjoyed several resurgences. Firstly, in the 1940’s when messrs Douglas Fairbanks, and Fairbanks Junior, and Bristol’s own Cary Grant ruled the silver screen; with their broad shoulders, and even broader lapels, nipped at the waist and cut with a relaxed jib, it really was the style of the day.
Fast forward to the 1980’s when Miami Vice had Crocket and Tubbs blazing a pastel-shaded trail across our TV screens sporting their Armani inspired deconstructed double breasted suits, cut loose, broad across the shoulders, but narrower at the ankles than their 1940’s counterparts; better for showing off a tan and the obligatory espadrille shoes!
More recently, Dunhill tailored a double breasted suit for Jude Law, which has helped the renaissance no doubt; in fairness they could have dressed Mr Law in hopsack and it would have been a hit. But what was different about this cut was that it was closely tailored from top to bottom, as well as nipped at the waist. Moreover, the bottom button of the 6 button 2 fastening design was left unfastened: radical at the time, but now the order of the day.
And what of Bristol’s local tailor? Well, I’m currently sporting a navy blue pinstripe, from Harrisons of Edinburgh, worn, by today’s standard anyway long in the coat and well-fitting but not too narrow at the waist; perfect for conducting one’s business throughout the day without feeling the need to remove it.
And what is it that we appreciate about the DB? For those of us that have traditionally worn three piece suits, it offers us the same level (and when I say level, I am referring to the position of the ‘V’ shape of our vest or, indeed, coat, at chest height, around the solar plexus as well as the amount) of security.
But we’re also enjoying a resurgence of the db as blazer. Not, necessarily, in the traditional blue worsted twill cloth that it is associated with, nor, with the obligatory brass buttons; though Brown in Town does receive such commissions from time to time, and is always happy to make such a traditional staple of the gentleman’s wardrobe.
But, more conducive with today’s closely tailored styles, not to mention their environment, todays Italian dandy’s have adopted the db as their own and are themselves blazing a brightly coloured trail of linen, mohair and cotton versions; cut short, and adorned with contrasting coloured buttons and nipped very tight at the waist, very ‘sprezzatura’ as they say in Italy!
So, whether you consider yourself a traditional dresser, a modern day dandy, or, indeed, favour the Italian style of tailoring, there is, without question, a double breasted, jacket or blazer to meet your sartorial needs and suit your personal style, ahem.