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2 Questions for you about jackets (and by "jackets" I mean what laymen may call jackets/blazers/sport coats, etc. generically - you know, the article of clothing you wear to a business meeting with wool pants and dress shoes).

Until recently, I used to think of a jacket as some formal piece of clothing that I had to wear to a meeting or a wedding or to mass on Easter. However, I have recently gotten more interested in clothing and purchased two nice jackets and really worn and inspected them, and I have started to realize - a Jacket appears to be a garment that, originally, was meant as a true jacket, i.e., to keep the wearer warm. Things like working buttons on sleeves, the button hole on a lapel, the pockets (which can be opened - a new revelation for me), etc. have led me to the conclusion that the original purpose of a jacket, which now people normally just wear to a meeting or a nice event, was actually originally intended to serve as an article of clothing to keep you warm and to be worn frequently or whenever it was cold out.

So, I guess my questions are:

(1) Am I right in my conclusion that jackets were originally intended as an article to keep people warm and be worn frequently but have, over time, evolved into - across the general population - been relegated to business meetings and nicer dinners/events?

(2) Does anyone out there wear their jackets today as a true jacket? Meaning, do you roll up the sleeves? Turn up the collar? Toss it on when it is cold outside? Put your hands or small items in the front pockets, etc?

I have a third follow up but I wanted to get everyone's response to the first two before I ask it (it involves the versatility of getting a camel hair jacket to really "wear" this winter, meaning - toss it on each morning, wear it everywhere as a coat, turn up the collar, wear it with jeans on the weekend, wear it to dinner, etc.)

Thank you, all, for humoring me and taking the time to read through this post.

Best,

-Michael
 

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All:

2 Questions for you about jackets (and by "jackets" I mean what laymen may call jackets/blazers/sport coats, etc. generically - you know, the article of clothing you wear to a business meeting with wool pants and dress shoes).

Until recently, I used to think of a jacket as some formal piece of clothing that I had to wear to a meeting or a wedding or to mass on Easter. However, I have recently gotten more interested in clothing and purchased two nice jackets and really worn and inspected them, and I have started to realize - a Jacket appears to be a garment that, originally, was meant as a true jacket, i.e., to keep the wearer warm. Things like working buttons on sleeves, the button hole on a lapel, the pockets (which can be opened - a new revelation for me), etc. have led me to the conclusion that the original purpose of a jacket, which now people normally just wear to a meeting or a nice event, was actually originally intended to serve as an article of clothing to keep you warm and to be worn frequently or whenever it was cold out.

So, I guess my questions are:

(1) Am I right in my conclusion that jackets were originally intended as an article to keep people warm and be worn frequently but have, over time, evolved into - across the general population - been relegated to business meetings and nicer dinners/events?
Yes and no. Yes in that was one of their intended purposes, and depending upon the individual's social class and wealth, perhaps it's main purpose. It was part of a man's suit of clothes, either matching (Which we might now call a suit.) or contrasting. (A distinction of terminology largely not made during most of it's history, which we might now call a sport jacket.) It evolved after robes were foregone as a main outer garment. And the more tailored garment we now know as such evolved mainly among those with more means, and as such, became a marker of higher social standing, and hence ubiquitous among all social classes to the extent possible.

The term a man's suit of clothes often meant for many his only suit of clothes. While those of wealth might have many, most men weren't wealthy and might only have one, or if more fortunate, 2. Since outer coats were often lacking for such individuals, yes, it would be the prime source of insulation, but in most men's minds of equal importance was that it was proper, and marked them as a man of dignity.

All:
(2) Does anyone out there wear their jackets today as a true jacket? Meaning, do you roll up the sleeves? Turn up the collar? Toss it on when it is cold outside? Put your hands or small items in the front pockets, etc?

I have a third follow up but I wanted to get everyone's response to the first two before I ask it (it involves the versatility of getting a camel hair jacket to really "wear" this winter, meaning - toss it on each morning, wear it everywhere as a coat, turn up the collar, wear it with jeans on the weekend, wear it to dinner, etc.)

Thank you, all, for humoring me and taking the time to read through this post.

Best,

-Michael
I have some jackets which are very casual in nature with minimal construction and working sleeves. They serve as dressier casual jackets, and if inclined, and if in keeping with the rest of my attire, I certainly might turn up the sleeves, etc.

But, IMHO, more formally tailored jackets look silly and precious if worn in this manner.
 

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How far back in history do you want to go? Jackets and coats have always been practical garments. Certain styles are more formal than others. A "true" jacket is hip-length or shorter, has sleeves and is worn over a shirt and possibly other garments. The lounge jacket (the modern tailored jacket) used to be less formal than it is today, such as back in the time when many wore frock coats. But it was always intended to be a part of everyday dress, worn indoors as well as outdoors if the weather was warm enough. People would wear jackets indoors in the home or elsewhere because there wasn't the modern convention of central heating. People needed to wear more than just a shirt when the weather was cold because a fireplace wasn't enough. These clothes came from Europe, after all, not the Caribbean or South Asia.

The lounge coat was never meant to be an outer garment for the purpose of keeping warm outside. That's what overcoats and topcoats are for, to wear over a lounge jacket to keep warm outside. There are very heavy tweed jackets that men would wear for hunting in cold weather. These coats are often worn with the collar turned up and a throat latch fastening the collar together. They would also fasten the lapels together, which is why there's a buttonhole. These jackets were worn outdoors for hunting, but they were not removed indoors. If you're going to wear your collar turned up, it should be designed for that purpose.
 

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You can't get better history than from the two gentlemen above (and certainly not from me) - and I'm sure they could go into more detail - but as to your second question, I regularly wear "sport coats" as an outer garment on cold days.

If it's the high 50s - low 60s, I'll throw on a wool sport coat over a basic shirt (like and Oxford Cloth Button Down) and if it is colder, I'll put a sweater (the heavier as the temperature drops) on under the sport coat.

Depending on how cold it is, how heavy the sweater and sport coat are, I'll button up the coat or pop the collar to keep the wind off my neck, but I don't button the collar closed as, regardless of its original purpose, that might look too affected, at least for me. Playing around with the combination of sweater weights and sport coat weights gives me options from, as noted, the 40s-60s and even wider with a little thought and variation in fabric weights.

I love the sport coat as an outer jacket. It's darn versatile, has good pockets, can be dressed up (with dress slacks), down with jeans or in between with chinos or cords. Of course, the cut, weight, fabric, etc., are all details needing harmonizing as you get into it. The sport coat is the core of my wardrobe - I own more sport coats than any other item (excluding chinos and the aforementioned Oxford shirt).

If you're new to it, start slowly, grab a classic style book or two with images of how it's done, look at movies (Robert Redford in "Three Days of the Condor" and Steve McQueen in "Bullitt" give master classes in how to casually and functionally wear a sport coat) and just observe. Overtime, you'll expand both your collection and your use.

McQueen in "Bullitt" ⇩
Clothing Outerwear Street fashion Fashion Textile


Redford ⇩ in "Three Days of the Condor"
Sleeve Flash photography Street fashion Suit Gesture
 

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All:

(1) Am I right in my conclusion that jackets were originally intended as an article to keep people warm and be worn frequently but have, over time, evolved into - across the general population - been relegated to business meetings and nicer dinners/events?

(2) Does anyone out there wear their jackets today as a true jacket? Meaning, do you roll up the sleeves? Turn up the collar? Toss it on when it is cold outside? Put your hands or small items in the front pockets, etc?
(1) History is not my forte
(2) I wear my sport coat almost daily because I like the look and its versatility. Mine got fake buttons so, no, I don't roll up the sleeves. Yes, I do turn up the collar when necessary. Rarely because it's not that cold where I live and I don't want the fabric to touch my dirty skin and hair. I try not to place items or my hands in the front pockets because my tailor said not to--most of my sport coats are cheap and the front pockets don't have the strongest construction.
 

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Michael 1066:

The preceding responses are excellent. Just for a bit of added color--inasmuch as you are asking about historical outerwear--let's invite someone from long ago to add his two cents' worth. Since we here in 2018 are in the early days of spring, let's go back to another early springtime day: March 23, 1906. In the Racine Journal for that date, an anonymous reporter notified his readers that:

"The popular suit for business wear is either the single or double breasted sack, as these styles present a very dressy appearance and are comfortable for wear under all conditions. The coats of the suits are rather long, with broad, well shaped shoulders. In the single breasted sack the cut of the collar and lapels presents a new effect, the former being rather wide with peaked lapels of generous proportions. The coat is cutaway at the bottom and has a deep center vent. The double breasted sack presents a model this season which has plenty of snap and character to it....Trousers for both single and double breasted suits are of liberal proportions and will be worn with pronounced creases front and back....

"A question of dress which is often a puzzling one to the average man is the selection of his overcoat for spring. In the variable climate which is characteristic of the greater part of our country a lightweight overcoat is a necessity, not only during the spring and fall, but also for wear during the cool mornings and evenings of summer, and should therefore be a part of every man's wardrobe.

"For an all around, serviceable coat which is suitable for wear on all occasions, day or night, rain or shine, there is no better garment to select than the raincoat. This coat several years ago succeeded the mackintosh and other waterproof garments which were worn at the time. It gained popularity at once, owing to the fact that it was a fabric coat whose rain proof qualities were effectively concealed, and in appearance it was in no way different from the ordinary lightweight overcoat. This garment is made in all styles, but the most popular is the Chesterfield, a long, roomy garment which combines comfort and style. Where a more dressy garment is desired the surtout [a type of frock coat] and paletot [a type of topcoat] are selected. These coats are built on the lines of the frock coat and are therefore form fitting and are more suitable for wear by men who are tall and slender than by those whose figures present the other extreme.

"A coat which won long ago perhaps the greatest popularity of any similar garment ever worn and then lost it for awhile, to regain it later, is the topcoat, more generally called the covert, from the cloth of which it is constructed. This coat was originally an English creation, made to meet the needs of cross country riders. Several years ago the style was adopted in this country for a lightweight overcoat, and ten years ago it reached the zenith of its popularity. For a few seasons the topcoat craze raged from one end of the country to the other, and then the demand ceased and the topcoats worn were few indeed. As a handy garment the topcoat is acknowledged to be without a peer, and its return to popularity is welcome to many who were attached to the garment in former days.

"The topcoat which will be worn this spring is cut on generous lines and is longer and roomier than those of last season. It has deep side vents. The collar and lapels are wide and the general effect is dressy. This coat is made of fine covert cloths in tan, gray and olive shades....

"An entirely new creation of most attractive and dignified appearance which will be in vogue among men who favor the expression of stylish attire in their garments is the Chesterfield overcoat, which will be worn this season. This garment is built on new lines, as it is shaped to the waist and has a deep center vent with skirts which flare slightly at the bottom. This coat is serviceable for business wear, daylight social functions and formal evening affairs...."

*******

Back to 2018. Michael, feel free to wear just a blazer or tweed sport coat as outerwear if that's all you'll need to feel comfortable in cool or coldish weather. Add a topcoat if you need more protection or, if it's particularly cold, an overcoat instead. (Better yet, get yourself a surtout or paletot--or both.)
 

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You can't get better history than from the two gentlemen above (and certainly not from me) - and I'm sure they could go into more detail - but as to your second question, I regularly wear "sport coats" as an outer garment on cold days.

If it's the high 50s - low 60s, I'll throw on a wool sport coat over a basic shirt (like and Oxford Cloth Button Down) and if it is colder, I'll put a sweater (the heavier as the temperature drops) on under the sport coat.

Depending on how cold it is, how heavy the sweater and sport coat are, I'll button up the coat or pop the collar to keep the wind off my neck, but I don't button the collar closed as, regardless of its original purpose, that might look too affected, at least for me. Playing around with the combination of sweater weights and sport coat weights gives me options from, as noted, the 40s-60s and even wider with a little thought and variation in fabric weights.

I love the sport coat as an outer jacket. It's darn versatile, has good pockets, can be dressed up (with dress slacks), down with jeans or in between with chinos or cords. Of course, the cut, weight, fabric, etc., are all details needing harmonizing as you get into it. The sport coat is the core of my wardrobe - I own more sport coats than any other item (excluding chinos and the aforementioned Oxford shirt).

If you're new to it, start slowly, grab a classic style book or two with images of how it's done, look at movies (Robert Redford in "Three Days of the Condor" and Steve McQueen in "Bullitt" give master classes in how to casually and functionally wear a sport coat) and just observe. Overtime, you'll expand both your collection and your use.

McQueen in "Bullitt" ⇩
View attachment 21281

Redford ⇩ in "Three Days of the Condor"
View attachment 21282
+1.

Being incredibly lazy, I love that on colder days I can wear a sport jacket for double duty going in and out of doors without needing to remove a heavier outer coat and find someplace to park it.

Michael 1066:

The preceding responses are excellent. Just for a bit of added color--inasmuch as you are asking about historical outerwear--let's invite someone from long ago to add his two cents' worth. Since we here in 2018 are in the early days of spring, let's go back to another early springtime day: March 23, 1906. In the Racine Journal for that date, an anonymous reporter notified his readers that:

"The popular suit for business wear is either the single or double breasted sack, as these styles present a very dressy appearance and are comfortable for wear under all conditions. The coats of the suits are rather long, with broad, well shaped shoulders. In the single breasted sack the cut of the collar and lapels presents a new effect, the former being rather wide with peaked lapels of generous proportions. The coat is cutaway at the bottom and has a deep center vent. The double breasted sack presents a model this season which has plenty of snap and character to it....Trousers for both single and double breasted suits are of liberal proportions and will be worn with pronounced creases front and back....

"A question of dress which is often a puzzling one to the average man is the selection of his overcoat for spring. In the variable climate which is characteristic of the greater part of our country a lightweight overcoat is a necessity, not only during the spring and fall, but also for wear during the cool mornings and evenings of summer, and should therefore be a part of every man's wardrobe.

"For an all around, serviceable coat which is suitable for wear on all occasions, day or night, rain or shine, there is no better garment to select than the raincoat. This coat several years ago succeeded the mackintosh and other waterproof garments which were worn at the time. It gained popularity at once, owing to the fact that it was a fabric coat whose rain proof qualities were effectively concealed, and in appearance it was in no way different from the ordinary lightweight overcoat. This garment is made in all styles, but the most popular is the Chesterfield, a long, roomy garment which combines comfort and style. Where a more dressy garment is desired the surtout [a type of frock coat] and paletot [a type of topcoat] are selected. These coats are built on the lines of the frock coat and are therefore form fitting and are more suitable for wear by men who are tall and slender than by those whose figures present the other extreme.

"A coat which won long ago perhaps the greatest popularity of any similar garment ever worn and then lost it for awhile, to regain it later, is the topcoat, more generally called the covert, from the cloth of which it is constructed. This coat was originally an English creation, made to meet the needs of cross country riders. Several years ago the style was adopted in this country for a lightweight overcoat, and ten years ago it reached the zenith of its popularity. For a few seasons the topcoat craze raged from one end of the country to the other, and then the demand ceased and the topcoats worn were few indeed. As a handy garment the topcoat is acknowledged to be without a peer, and its return to popularity is welcome to many who were attached to the garment in former days.

"The topcoat which will be worn this spring is cut on generous lines and is longer and roomier than those of last season. It has deep side vents. The collar and lapels are wide and the general effect is dressy. This coat is made of fine covert cloths in tan, gray and olive shades....

"An entirely new creation of most attractive and dignified appearance which will be in vogue among men who favor the expression of stylish attire in their garments is the Chesterfield overcoat, which will be worn this season. This garment is built on new lines, as it is shaped to the waist and has a deep center vent with skirts which flare slightly at the bottom. This coat is serviceable for business wear, daylight social functions and formal evening affairs...."

*******

Back to 2018. Michael, feel free to wear just a blazer or tweed sport coat as outerwear if that's all you'll need to feel comfortable in cool or coldish weather. Add a topcoat if you need more protection or, if it's particularly cold, an overcoat instead. (Better yet, get yourself a surtout or paletot--or both.)
Superb history, Charles, thank you!

I'm currently reading Chernow's biography Grant and was a bit surprised to learn that the sack suit was well established by the time of the American Civil War with many men electing them over the earlier frock or tail coat for most occasions. It would seem certain that the industrial revolution and mass production was already having a definite effect upon male attire.
 

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I would only add that shooting jackets, styled like a sport jacket (with a few extras), but worn to protect one from the elements, and jackets such as the Pendleton's Topster were designed and sold specifically to be worn as outer garments. ;)
 

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"The popular suit for business wear is either the single or double breasted sack, as these styles present a very dressy appearance and are comfortable for wear under all conditions. The coats of the suits are rather long, with broad, well shaped shoulders. In the single breasted sack the cut of the collar and lapels presents a new effect, the former being rather wide with peaked lapels of generous proportions. The coat is cutaway at the bottom and has a deep center vent. The double breasted sack presents a model this season which has plenty of snap and character to it..."
I have never encountered either a SBPL sack or a DB sack!
 

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I have never encountered either a SBPL sack or a DB sack!
In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the term "sack suit" had a broader meaning than it does today. Back then, it meant ANY ordinary, daytime business suit. If a gentleman was wearing a "sack suit," then you knew he wasn't wearing a frock coat or any type of formal attire.
 

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Michael1066:

Compete history for you in the Sport Jacket chapter of The Encyclopedia of Men's Clothes.

The first section explains:

The word "jacket" is from the Old French word "jackquette" which is the diminutive of "jaque". The name comes from a nickname for French peasants (the first name "Jacques") and originated from the Arabic "sakk" meaning "coat of mail"

Coat of mail: Flexible armor composed of small overlapping metal rings, loops of chain, or scales [Middle English, from Old French maile, from Latin macula, meaning "mesh".

So a jacket was the name for a short version of the full coat of mail. It described a coarse and cheap medieval coat of defense, especially one made of leather.​
 

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In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the term "sack suit" had a broader meaning than it does today. Back then, it meant ANY ordinary, daytime business suit. If a gentleman was wearing a "sack suit," then you knew he wasn't wearing a frock coat or any type of formal attire.
This is really helpful as I was confusing the 20th Century sack with the 19th Century one and wondering if the entire history of the 20th Century sack was much older than I thought I knew it was. Thank you.

You and MattS (and some others) have an incredible wealth of knowledge.
 

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Last year, in the excellent "Ivy Style" blog, Christian Chensvold presented evidence that the practice of pairing a tweed jacket with odd flannel trousers (rather than with matching trousers) apparently began at Yale in 1928.

I'll add the following quotation, because--in addition to dovetailing with what Christian said--it seems to be one of the earliest written references (in the popular press) to the sports jacket phenomenon--at least the "sports jacket" as we know it:

From an article in the "Columbia Missourian" newspaper dated February 18, 1929:

"It is a winter of separate sports jackets....The jackets, as displayed some time last fall by a local clothing house, are of many colors, and make innumerable outfits with different colored and patterned flannel trousers. Gabardine, tweed and flannel are the most popular for separate jackets.

"The colored jacket, white or gray flannel trousers and colored linen makes a changeable and attractive outfit."

So--putting this article together with what Christian wrote--1928 does seem to be the beginning of the odd-jacket-worn-with-odd-trousers look--or at least the year it just started to gain traction. But did the look begin on the college campus and spread from there, or the other way around? Probably the former.

Oh--this newspaper article, if it is accurate, is noteworthy for a second reason—it points out the birth of another garment:

"A new fad in ties is making its appearance--the seven-fold tie. Instead of the ordinary three-fold tie with lining, the new tie will have an additional four folds inside instead of the conventional lining. It is a superior type of tie and popular in the East and South at present."
 

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I have a wonderful Kilgour tweed sport coat that I was given by a member of this forum many years ago. I occasionally wear it as a “coat” that I’ll take off when I get where I’m going. But, as it IS a sport coat, I do make sure it coordinates with what I wear. I’m not always as particular with coats worn for warmth.
 
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