MANual of Style

Lesson 12: Jackets by Shreyas
4 February, 2010, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Casualwear | Tags: , , , ,

I love jackets. Living in New England, you don’t have a choice but to have a warm layer you can wear all the time, and I find that in cold places like this, you’ll find that almost everyone has a great coat—because you need to wear one so often, it’s a smart thing to invest a little extra thought and money in. (If you live in a warmer climate, put in the thought anyway, but also keep in mind that you can make good use of an item with a shorter lifespan, since you won’t be using it as hard.)

Today we’re going to talk about short jackets. The trench and long woolen coat are a little more formal, despite the best efforts of Dick Tracy and Matrix lovers to turn the trench into everyday wear.

Choosing a Color

Remember what I said earlier about outerwear: it is easier to make it work with your whole wardrobe if it’s one of your neutrals. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should never have colored jackets (In my time I’ve had red, green, sky blue…), but they require a little more thoughtfulness to integrate into an outfit. If you do choose a strong color, it must be a color that looks really good on you, not one that’s merely okay, since while you’re wearing it, it’ll be the most visible color in your outfit.

When to Wear a Casual Jacket

As a rule of thumb, I think that as you shed layers you should become less formal, not more. Ergo, don’t wear a casual jacket with your interview suit. There’s a sort of cognitive dissonance that happens if you take off a piece of clothing and start looking more dressed up, and I generally think that your casualwear shouldn’t be unsettling.

Formal jackets should never be worn indoors, but lighter casual jackets can, especially if you’re somewhere you can’t settle in, like the mall. I wouldn’t suggest that you wear a snowboard jacket to your Sociology class, but you can certainly leave your track jacket on in a café and no one will think anything of it. Anything less massive than a biggish sweater can act as an integral part of an outfit, rather than as a removable outer layer.

The Bomber

Shades of Greige Herringbone Bomber, $165

Descended from WWI pilot gear, the bomber jacket has lots of functional details: a high collar, snug cuffs, a fitted waist, and a wind flap over the zipper closure. It’s designed to keep cold air out in windy conditions. The constructed silhouette of the bomber flatters the waist, but it can be bulky, particularly since many bombers have quilted or shearling linings. Don’t put anything in the breast pockets; if you do, they’ll sag. I particularly like the flat pockets of the jacket above; you’ll find that many military-styled items have pleated or bellows pockets, which add a lot of weight.

The bomber-and-scarf look is traditional and iconic, by the way, for a good reason: it looks cool. The most traditional implementation uses a pretty hefty scarf, but it’s more modern to use something more lightweight, which will drape rather than bulk up—the softness and motion add contrast with the jacket’s structure.

The Puffy Coat

Fred Perry Quilted Jacket, $215

Puffy/quilted jackets are often quite warm, but they also tend to add a lot of volume in an overstuffed way. The jacket you see above is one of the slimmest specimens I’ve seen. Skiing and snowboarding jackets are usually of the puffy kind as well; as a matter of personal taste I don’t wear snow-sports jackets unless it’s actually the season for the sport. Since they add so much bulk and erase the contours of the body, I suggest wearing with caution unless you’re quite thin. Wear them with narrow pants to counteract the Michelin Man effect.

The Track Jacket

Oakley Faded Track Jacket, $46

Track jackets generally offer a slimming silhouette, backed up by ribbed cuffs and waist. They also have a collar that can be zipped to a stand-up position; that can add some height to your look, but if the collar is so tight it stretches when you zip it up, the folds that result from stretching it will cancel out the effect. Personally, I don’t wear my collar up unless it’s windy. Track jackets sometimes come with raglan sleeves, so if the raglan look works for you, you should go and find one. As with other sports jackets, I personally feel like it’s a little more appropriate to wear track jackets when the sport is in season, but don’t let that stop you.

I wouldn’t ordinarily accessorize a track jacket. The collar isn’t the right shape to accommodate a scarf, and it’s too lightweight to wear with gloves. You should generally zip up a track jacket whenever you’re wearing it, because the structure of the collar makes it drape in an unattractive way when it’s open.

The Leather Jacket

Diesel Lade Leather Jacket, $550

Just some notes about leather here—jackets of many styles are made from leather, from the track look here to the iconic double-breasted motorcycle jacket. Leather jackets often have metal details and linings of some delicacy, so they require extra care. Since leather shouldn’t stretch very much (it weakens the material), you should be absolutely sure you have the right size before you choose a leather jacket. Unlike fabric, a tight spot in a leather jacket won’t gradually creep into place and become more comfortable, without damaging the stitching and lining. I recommend trying jackets on until you find one that’s uncomfortably small, and then go one size up from that; don’t get a jacket that’s too big, either, because the way leather folds breaks up your silhouette and adds a lot of visual distraction you don’t want.

I prefer to wear wool gloves with leather jackets. For some people, wearing matching leather gloves works, but it’s not for me.

The Hoodie

Unconditional Zip-Off @ ASOS, £290

Since hoodies have more substance around the neck, they’re good for adding volume to your shoulders; by the same token you shouldn’t wear a hoodie with a scarf or turtleneck, because all the mass will make it look like you don’t have a neck at all. Although historically hoodies have been baggy rather than tailored, more recently designers have been introducing slimmer and more constructed silhouettes, and playful pieces like the one above (which is pretty damn cool if you ask me, but since it’s so unusual it’s a big style statement).

There are more jackets in the world, but I hope that’ll give you an idea of what you’ve got to look for and think about. Remember: wardrobe integration, silhouette, accessories. Should you ever wear it open? Collar up or down? At some point I’ll talk about layering in greater depth, too. For now, I’m signing off. See you on Saturday, when we’ll talk about what it means to be a douchebag.


11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I got a black peacoat. Even though I am tired of seeing peacoats on other people, I had a hard time finding another jacket that I thought looked good on me.

I wore a puffy for the last five years, so I needed a break.

Comment by Bret

Peacoats are like that. Every recent post I’ve found about them while researching for jackets was like, “Man I love peacoats but do you think they are overplayed this season?”

I’m considering making a trip to the military surplus store (or military-themed shop at the mall) and getting something with epaulets.

Comment by Shreyas

I think the peacoat that mated with a hoodie and had that cute baby jacket at the end of the post had the right idea.

Comment by Elizabeth

I have a black jacket with epaulets that is military esque but it is not a winter jacket.

Comment by Bret

I have a question and it goes like this:


Comment by DWeird

It’s on the calendar!

Comment by Shreyas

I am curious about your thoughts regarding windbreakers. I like them because they are really light and they warm you up when the cold is not all that intense (which uses to be the case down here where I live), but they tend to have odd shapes, textures and colors.

Comment by Lobo Gris

I’ve been known to wear the occasional windbreaker. I see what you’re saying about the odd textures and colors; what I’ve found is that they are often making reference to some team uniform. If it works for you, then go for it!

The main thing I’d be concerned about is the kind made of cheaper materials, that tend to crumple and hold their wrinkles. I’ve had one or two of those and once they lose their off-the-shelf finish, they just never look the same. Make sure you’re getting quality material and you know how to launder it, and you’ll be all right.

Comment by Shreyas

I don’t know what that last thing is, but it’s not a hoodie. Hoodies are hooded sweatshirts, either pullover or zip-up, but in any case are clearly sportswear. That’s some kind of fancy hooded jacket, but it’s certainly not a hoodie.

Comment by Philip

You can certainly look at it that way. The way I see it, the hood is built like it would be on a sweatshirt (zipper notwithstanding), and that makes it hoodie enough for me. It speaks to my current interest in dressed-down formalwear.

Comment by Shreyas

When I looked at the additional photos on their site, I saw how from the back it does look pretty much like a standard hooded sweatshirt, but from the front, nuh-uh. Is it dressed-down formalwear or dressed-up casual wear? It can’t decide! Oh wait, yes it can: £290?!? Nothing that costs over US $500 can lay claim to the very offhanded nickname “hoodie”, as far as I’m concerned. I maintain that that does not at all represent what anyone’s thinking of when “hoodie” is used.

Comment by Philip

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