This is our third and final piece on tailoring’s three Cs, ‘Construction’.
Part I, Cloth, can be found here. And Part II, Cut, can be found here.
Ready-to-wear tailoring is a lot like flat pack furniture. Competitively priced, quick to assemble, produced en masse, in cheaper materials and held together with allen key screws.
Made-to-measure is like employing your local carpenter. The unit will fit perfectly, in a beautiful, natural material, per your design and held together with joints.
But how does this apply to the central question of this series?
Why is it that my suit jacket looks a little off when I wear it with jeans?
- The construction of your suit jacket – it’s dark buttons, flap pockets, full interior lining and sharp lines – all inform the eye of it’s formality.
- Like the intricacies discussed in Cut, these components are visual cues that indicate that this is a formal garment – a Suit jacket.
- And like we said before, when paired with non-formal pants, you are asking that jacket to be something it’s not… Appear informal.
- And so, when it comes to sports coat or suit jacket construction, what can we do to separate one from the other?
Think of an image of suit jacket in your head for a moment. Visualise the pockets. What do you see? A flap pocket?
To make a jacket less formal (so that it pairs with simpler jeans and chino combos) I’d suggest patch pockets.
Patch pockets are not ‘cut in’ to the material like the flap pocket. Instead they’re an additional layer of fabric, stitched onto the jacket. About the size of iPad.
Not only are they incredibly practical for the modern man (additional pocket space is never a bad thing, particular when large enough to carry a tablet) but they immediately give a visual cue… This is not trying to be a suit jacket.
There are other options when it comes to pockets.
There’s the slanted flap kind (historically slanted to make it easier to fetch ammunition on horseback).
And the welted pocket, without the flap (sleekly cut into the jacket and thus, harder to notice) which is an outstanding option for those seeking a clean-lined, tuxedo-style jacket.
Another distinguishing feature of the modern suit jacket is it’s dark, sombre buttons. Predominately in black, regardless of the fact the jacket itself is mid-grey, charcoal, navy or blue, the colouring reflects the seriousness of the garment.
Again, this is at odds with a pair of jeans, with it’s copper rivets and buttons – an item of clothing originally conceived as the ultimate piece of workwear. Hard wearing, reinforced, rough and ready. None of which are terms you would associated with a sleek, worsted wool 2 piece…
And yet, we still try and force the issue (when pairing one with the other).
Hence it follows that, when looking to build a custom blazer (typically in a less sleek more slubby fabric) softly cut, the buttons should have a bit more ‘pop’.
Similarly, a blazer would generally utilize a fabric with a bit more colour and pop aswell.
So brown, tan, cream or even cinnamon buttons really lend your casual blue blazer the non-business feels. Same for green summer linens or brown heavy tweeds.
Light buttons, less sombre, more fun, more casual… Perfect with jeans and chinos.
So far, we’ve kept things light and easy when it comes to designing and differentiating our suit jacket from our blazer / sports coat.
Buttons, pockets (and prior to that, in our Cut piece) lapels and shoulders are all very visual cues that indicate formality.
The final piece of this entire series actually refers to what’s ‘under the hood’ – the jacket’s canvas.
And whilst it’s not wholly relevant to the our discussion on jacket and jeans debate, given we’re covering construction, it is an important difference between how a RTW jacket is built (versus a MTM one).
A jacket, for all intents and purposes, is a 3D garment.
If you run your eye across the chest of the jacket, over the lapel (the collar) it folds around and meets a lining of some sort.
What is within this fold is a major determinant of what you pay for a jacket.
At the cheaper end, we have fused jackets. The respective sides are glued together with adhesive. This is the cheapest and fastest way of doing things. Like assembling flat pack furniture, both pieces are assembled in the simplest way possible..
The downside is, the jacket can often end up stiff and lifeless. It doesn’t mould around you but instead, sits separate from the body. It can also be the reason that after a particular harsh dry clean, one may see bubbling appear on the outer cloth of a jacket.
This is where the adhesive has melted away or, come unstuck, bubbling to the surface. It is also unrepairable.
The alternative is to hand stitch a canvas within jacket, holding both inside and outside together with ‘joints’ or stitches as opposed to adhesive.
Historically made with horsehair, such handiwork comes with an increase in costs but, this is the mortise and tenon joint to an allen key and glue.
Craft is employed where previously there was none and, with it, increase benefits.
Namely, the natural floating canvas that sits within the cavity of the jacket is mouldable and, over time, will fit an mould to the contours of your shape. Your body heat ensures this.
The jacket has an element of life to it, no longer stiff and solid but floats with the wearer.
If you take a prime ribeye on the bone, slap it in the microwave for ten minutes, the end result – edible animal protein – is the same as if you bring that piece of beef up to room temperature, season it liberally. Add it to a red hot pan with rosemary, garlic, some butter. Sear it each side and let it rest. The end result remains the same – edible animal protein. But, the taste? The experience? Couldn’t be further from journey 1.
The conculsion is, with a little consideration, thoughtful execution, changing the journey, you get a completely different experience, sensation and presentation.
And that’s ultimately, what I want this series to be.
We’ve all been guilty of ‘throwing’ a jacket over a pair of jeans. A ‘that’ll be grand’ attitude. But, those with a keen eye will notice it’s off ever so slightly.
So by considering cloth, cut and construction of your jackets, suits, wardrobe in general, you can make more informed decisions.
And it doesn’t have to cost the earth.
One blazer, in a cloth that you’ve considered, in a relaxed cut, well constructed, is an investment piece. Versatile. Built to last. Suitable year round. That can be dressed up and dressed down. Is a foundational piece for any wardrobe. And will transition from dress down Friday’s, relaxed work environments, Saturday night drinks, Sunday lunch, the day after a wedding, the day of a christening… It’ll work with jeans and chinos, flannels and moleskins. Collared shirts, knitwear, crew necks and turtlenecks.
So don’t try and crow bar that suit jacket over a pair of jeans. It looks off for all the reasons explained.
A blazer is the answer to most of the issues presented in this series (if trying to nail that tricky smart casual look).
A suit is the answer for a formal look.
But remember, cut, cloth and construction – they’re the keys.
Leave A Comment