There are certain items of clothing that are so versatile, so perfectly refined, that they stay en-vogue for generations. Like a pair of Levis 501s, a navy blazer is one of the
basics every man should have hanging in their closet. Technically, a blazer will have a finer weave to the fabric, like a worsted Serge, and metal buttons while a sport coat will have a more textured fabric and off colored horn buttons, but the lines have blurred so much that people use the term almost interchangeably. Today, people usually use the term to refer to any odd blue jacket.
A Little History
While there are many different stories of how the blazer came into being, I give credence to the tale that they were first commissioned by the captain of the H.M.S. Blazer (fitting, right?). The captain and crew were scheduled to appear before Queen Victoria but the entire lot were so ragged-looking that the captain hastily ordered double-breasted jacket in Naval blue to be made for the entire crew. As legend has it, the Queen was so impressed by the appearance of the crew that she ordered similar dress for the entire Royal Navy and from those origins springs one of the most versatile pieces in modern men’s dress.
The Modern Incarnation
Today, the blazer is basking in it’s return to popularity and is seen everywhere from Pitti Uomo to street style blogs. Modern renditions have given way to a myriad of options: from lightweight linens to heavy flannels, patch pockets, and peak lapel variations are all now readily available. You can buy a blazer from virtually every retailer and fashion house these days, each with their own tweaks to the classic. Of course, with this being a such an essential piece, it pays to invest in the best one you can afford so make sure you know what to look for before buying.
The buttons on a blazer are the best way to show a little personality. While gold is the standard there are infinite choices including Mother of Pearl, brown horn, enamel, and other metallic options. This is the best way to customize your jacket, from family crests to university emblems, you can switch them out with a decent tailor to suit the season. The only rule to follow is that the buttons need to be distinctive, so no black or navy, else you risk looking like you’re wearing an orphaned suit coat. Just remember to have fun with it, a little whimsy is always a good choice.
Why It’s So Damn Important
Your version of this staple should be the most versatile piece in your closet; it’s a man’s equivalent to the Little Black Dress. It looks as great dressed down, with distressed jeans and loafers or dark denim, as it does dressed up with odd trousers and captoes. A good navy blazer will be at home in any environment and is perfect for that impromptu weekend trip to NYC with your lady – when in doubt you’ll always be well dressed turning to the Navy blazer.
How to Fit a Blazer
A blazer should really fit like any other suit or coat in your closet.
- You usually want the shoulders to follow your natural silhouette, not extending by more than 1/2″ with high arm holes to give you a full range of movement.
- You should have some room in the chest – to test, button your jacket and make a fist. The jacket should be snug enough that you can just barely get your fist between your chest and your jacket. If you have a lot of room it’s too big and if you can’t fit then it’s too tight.
- The jacket sleeves should extend at least to the wrist bone and show between ¼ to ¾ an inch of shirt cuff.
- The common rule of thumb is that any jacket should always fully cover your backside but with an odd jacket like a blazer it’s OK to hem it a bit shorter for a more sporty look.
Finding Your Own
The best advice for picking the perfect jacket for you is to first understand your own style. If you’re more casual you might lean towards a textured hopsack fabric with patch pockets, if you’re a peacock you might be best in a double breasted ensemble with peak lapels whereas if you’re like me you want a classic.
- Start with the fabric – something finer to be dressed up, or textured to be dressed down. Flannels for very cold climates or linen for excessively warm.
- Pick the details – Patch pockets, lapels, buttons to suit your personality.
- Silhouette – The British favor clean look and a structured shoulder with a single vent while the Italians prefer an unstructured jacket with dual vents and a lived in feel.
Once you have a feel for what you want, look around. Depending on your budget, Zegna, Samuelsohn and Isaia make good options for Ready to Wear or Made-to-Measure while J. Crew and Ralph Lauren are good on a budget. You’ll want to make sure you buy the right one so try on a lot before you commit and then wear the hell out of it!
- Michael Z