The Suit 101 – Blazer, Jacket, Tunic, and Coat Explained

It is clear why confusion plagues so many men about how they should dress when the basic nomenclature employed is consistently misused and abused. The terms ‘jacket’, ‘coat’, and ‘blazer‘ are often used interchangeably. While I enjoy the casual nature of modern life and the greater equality it affords us this laziness in language reduces a man’s capacity and his ability to be present in the world in the way he both desires and deserves.

George Orwell put it this way in 1984, “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”.  Ludwig Wittgenstein stated in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” To this end, let us move away from a corrupt and limited world into one fashioned for a gentleman.

All of the terms in discussion relate back to the early 19th century when clothing that covered a man’s torso was either an ‘over’ or ‘under’ coat. While the term ‘overcoat’ has persisted in use, the term ‘under-coat’ has not. The garments discussed here are in the class of being an under-coat, and as such some still carry the suffix of coat.

A Brooks Uniform Co. blazer with the 1923 Princeton University insignia

A Brooks Uniform Co. blazer with the 1923 Princeton University insignia

Blazer – This garment finds its origins in the world of varsity athletics, with the Lady Margaret Boat Club of 1825 laying claim to the term. The team’s bright red club jackets were nick-named ‘blazers’ and the term later expanded to include all manner of flannel-based jackets used in gentlemens sports, such as boating, cricket, tennis or rowing. Consistent to the blazer is the use of patch pockets and brass, or otherwise ornate, buttons. A crest or insignia is often affixed to the outside left breast pocket of a blazer.

Diagram of a Patch Pocket

Diagram of a Patch Pocket

The point of wearing a blazer is to mark yourself with your connection to an activity or organization and as such may be worn in place of a dinner jacket at dinner. A special type of blazer evolved from the late-Victorian naval officer’s uniform that featured a navy double-breasted jacket with brass buttons; the reefer jacket. Please note that to refer to a pea coat as a reefer jacket is lazy and spurious.

Edward VIII in a Reefer Jacket

Edward VIII in a Reefer Jacket

Tunic – In regards to men’s clothing a tunic applies specifically to the jackets worn by members of the military. The tunic is a jacket that usually ends between mid to lower thigh and is of sturdy construction. It will use large and often brass buttons.

British Army Officer's Tunic

British Army Officer’s Tunic

The military tunic has consistently played a key role in the development of men’s jacket styles.

Jacket – A jacket is a garment that has sleeves and a front closure that is worn over a man’s shirt. It is the last layer of under-coat before donning any type of overcoat. The jacket is the broadest term for this piece of clothing and as such has many distinct types – the dinner jacket, sports jacket, riding jacket, etc. Also included are the previously mentioned blazer, reefer (jacket) and tunic. All jackets are considered under-coats, hence them sometimes being called a sports coat, dinner coat, morning coat, etc.

The jacket is considered one half of the suit, the basic mens outfit, the other half being the trousers. Hardy Amies wrote about why the suit is important,

“It is the most comfortable costume in which a man can conduct the life which modern conditions make for him. It is a second skin in which he has placed pockets. He needs the pockets to carry the paraphernalia of living: money, keys, drivers license, and a handkerchief. Deprive a man of his pockets and he will need a handbag.”

When I think of the various types of handbags and purses being foisted on men today Sir Amies words become prophetic. A gentleman uses a wallet, briefcase, or satchel – never a ‘man-purse‘ – but that discussion is for another time. The point is, that as the modern male has abandoned the jacket and its pockets, he so too has abandoned a portion of his masculinity and certainly his maturity.

Sean Connery as James Bond in a Dinner Jacket Beating the House

Sean Connery as James Bond in a Dinner Jacket Beating the House

Cary Grant in a Suit Jacket Out-running a Plane

Cary Grant in a Suit Jacket Out-running a Plane

Zach Galifianakis Not Wearing a Jacket and Not Doing Anything

Zach Galifianakis Not Wearing a Jacket and Not Doing Anything

Insight from The Crazy Truth and Ryan Gosling in a Well-Tailored Suit

The aphorism has become a staple in modern philosophy and the tumblr The Crazy Truth continues this tradition by mashing up pithy insights on relationships with images reflecting the aphorism’s meaning. Interspersed among these ‘aphorimages’ is an advice column. While this site does target women about relationships, several of the posts are equally valuable to men, and this picture of Ryan Gosling in a suit is a perfect example:

Ryan Gosling in a Well Tailored Suit

Ryan Gosling in a Well Tailored Suit

A well-tailored suit indeed. Gentlemen, you have to wear clothes anyway so why not make them work for you.

 

Handkerchiefs 101 – The Pocket Square

The Pocket Square - A Gentleman's Essential

The Pocket Square - A Gentleman's Essential

Most likely invented by Richard II, the last Plantagenet King of England, the handkerchief has become one of the ‘must haves’ for any fully dressed gentleman. Also called a pocket square, the handkerchief started as a small, thin piece of cloth hemmed at the edges and carried on the person to use for all many of personal needs. They are typically made from natural fibres like cotton, linen and silk, as these fabrics are gentle on the nose and cheek. I can only imagine the trouble you’d get into with an scratchy and non-absorbent wool pocket square, or a ticklish fuzzy Angora pocket square!

Being fully dressed with a pocket square

Being fully dressed with a pocket square

The pocket square evolved from the handkerchief keep in a sleeve or trouser pocket in the 18th century to the smaller pocket square kept in a man’s jacket pocket at the beginning of the 20th century. It wasn’t long before they also became part of a gentleman’s fashion statement as well. Edward VIII demonstrates the ability for the pocket square to add both polish and ease to an outfit (Note the Jacquard on the pocket square does not match his tie!) :

Edward VIII Sporting a Silk Pocket Square

Edward VIII Sporting a Silk Pocket Square

The pocket square is an accessory for a multitude of looks for the active gentleman. I’ve provided a few examples of how this works to create either a serious or jaunty presence:

Business Pocket Square

Mad Men Roger and Don are all business with their pocket squares

Mad Men Roger and Don are all business with their pocket squares

Jaunty Pocket Square

Fred Astaire uses his pocket square to look jaunty

Fred Astaire uses his pocket square to look jaunty

Sexy Pocket Square

Ryan Gosling sports a pocket square to up his sexy quotient
Ryan Gosling sports a pocket square to up his sexy quotient

Don’t F*ck with Me Pocket Square

 Winston Churchill sets his 'Don't f*ck with me' look with the casual use of a plain pocket square

Winston Churchill sets his 'Don't f*ck with me' look with the casual use of a plain pocket square

Suave Pocket Square

Gary Cooper does suave with a pocket square

Gary Cooper does suave with a pocket square

Formal Pocket Square

Humphrey Bogart styles a formal portrait with a pocket square

Humphrey Bogart styles formal with a pocket square

The choice of pocket square decoration, textile and fold provides a wide spectrum of styles to an outfit. More on that soon! The most important aspect of a pocket square for a gentleman is to insure you do not veer into foppishness when wearing one. The key is to put utility before all else. Keep in mind that the pocket square is functional beyond looking pretty and you’ll avoid the decorative trap.

Contest of Note – Crown Tailors Taiored Suit Giveaway

For those of you looking to win a tailored suit made of fine Italian wool Crown Tailors in Bangkok, Thailand this is an easy contest to enter. For those of you not looking to win a tailored suit, I think you may have the wrong site and may wish to go to this site until you grow up and are ready to dress like an adult.
Win 100% tailored suit from Crown Tailor

Win 100% tailored suit from Crown Tailor

Who wins? Whoever gets the most likes on his/her post on crown tailor’s wall. 3 easy steps!

1. Enter contest at www.facebook.com/CrownTailor?sk=app_121121694568521
2. Post on Crown Tailors’ Facebook wall: “I just entered to win 100% tailored suit from Crown Tailors! Please Like my post :)”

Get your friends to like the post!

And that’s not all! Crown Tailors is giving away free tailored shirts to the people who enter and get more than 50 likes on their post.

Enter soon; I did!

Kingpin Chic at Kingpin Chic Vintage Mens Clothing at Wychwood Barns Gadsden’s Toronto Vintage Clothing Show

Kingpin Chic Vintage Mens Clothing at Wychwood Barns Gadsden’s Toronto Vintage Clothing Show

Kingpin Chic Mens Clothing at Wychwood Barns Gadsden’s Toronto Vintage Clothing Show

By special request Kingpin Chic will be opening up our collection of fine gentleman’s apparel one day only on Sunday, October 23, 2011 at the Gadsden’s Toronto Vintage Clothing Show Wychwood Barns located at 601 Christie Street Toronto, Ontario. The hours for the show are 11 am – 4:00 pm and admission for adults is $8.00, and for children 12 and under there is no charge!