Brown and Beyond

The navy blazer is commonly considered the most versatile kind of sport coat you can own, and for good reason. You can pair with almost any kind of trousers, and if made in the right weight, it can be worn year-round. Or, if your climate is less temperate than ours in California, consider getting something in a mid- to heavyweight wool (like a hopsack weave) for the fall and winter seasons, and then a lighter weight tropical wool for the spring and summer months.

Although this is pretty good, standard advice, I’ve long thought that the most useful color for sport coats is actually brown. Especially for this time of year. Think of dark brown or golden tan corduroys, or any kind of tweed — solid brown Shetlands, fuzzy herringbones or houndstooths, or any of the checks you see in the first photo above (which is of the Duke of Windsor’s closet, who was a very daring and dandy dresser, but also know the value of sedate brown coats). 

In fact, if you don’t want to have a massive wardrobe, you could get along just fine with one or two navy sport coats and a couple more in brown. 

For a little more variety, however, my friend Andrew Yamato recently wrote a good post about fall jackets at A Suitable Wardrobe. As he notes, fall justifies the bringing out of colors such as rusty reds, burnt oranges, slate blues, ochre yellows, and mossy olives. I think olive sport coats are particularly useful in the fall — quiet and conservative enough for men who don’t want to stand out too much, but also a nice deviation from the usual colors most of us wear.

Pair these with ancient madder ties, chunky sweaters, suede shoes, and fuzzy flannel trousers. Ribbed corduroys and cavalry pants will also work well, if you want to expand your wardrobe in that direction. Otherwise, chinos make for a nice three-season, spring-through-fall alternative. Shirts should probably be light blue oxford cloth button downs, not just because they have the right visual weight to hold their own against heavier sport coats, but also because I think they’re the best kind of shirts

(Photos via Mister Crew and A Suitable Wardrobe

Linen Sport Coats for Summer
Everyone has their own pick for what they’d consider a summer essential. For me, it’d be a breathable sport coat. Something made from an open weave material — and has little canvassing, lining, or padding inside — will wear much cooler than your standard year-round wools. In fact, as hot as the weather gets in July and August, I don’t even touch my “year round” sport coats until October. 
Most open weave materials can be classified as one of two types: tropical wool and linen. More of than not, breathable sport coats will be made from linen, partly because tropical wools tend to be very smooth, so they’re reserved for suits. The upside to linen is that it not only breathes well, but it’s also a good way to take the inherent dressiness out of a tailored jacket. Nothing says carefree and casual like having a few rumples and wrinkles in your sport coat. 
You can wear linen jackets with almost anything, but I find they tend to look best with linen trousers. Something in a contrasting color, but similar weave, will make it so that your jacket and trousers are distinctive, but also harmonious. That is, pair smooth, tightly woven linens with other smooth, tightly woven linens; and slubby, spongy linens with other slubby spongy linens. A linen jacket will also pair well with cotton chinos, as both will have the same casual, summery sensibility. Between these two fabrics, you have a world of trouser options once you play around with color. 
Don’t get too hung up on rules though. Luciano Barbera once advocated wearing a linen jacket with wool flannels, and while I personally wouldn’t do it — who am I to argue with one of the world’s best dressed men? Patrick Johnson of P. Johnson Tailors is also pictured above wearing a linen jacket with denim. If you want to try that kind of combination, consider getting a jacket that’s slightly shorter in length and forgoing the tie. As usual, the danger with denim plus sport coat combinations is that they can look a bit discombobulated — very dressy up top, too casual down low. Play down the jacket by getting something that has a slightly less traditional cut, and forgo any neckwear. That way, you’ll bring the tailored jacket down a notch in its formality.
(Photo via Patrick Johnson Tailors)

Linen Sport Coats for Summer

Everyone has their own pick for what they’d consider a summer essential. For me, it’d be a breathable sport coat. Something made from an open weave material — and has little canvassing, lining, or padding inside — will wear much cooler than your standard year-round wools. In fact, as hot as the weather gets in July and August, I don’t even touch my “year round” sport coats until October. 

Most open weave materials can be classified as one of two types: tropical wool and linen. More of than not, breathable sport coats will be made from linen, partly because tropical wools tend to be very smooth, so they’re reserved for suits. The upside to linen is that it not only breathes well, but it’s also a good way to take the inherent dressiness out of a tailored jacket. Nothing says carefree and casual like having a few rumples and wrinkles in your sport coat. 

You can wear linen jackets with almost anything, but I find they tend to look best with linen trousers. Something in a contrasting color, but similar weave, will make it so that your jacket and trousers are distinctive, but also harmonious. That is, pair smooth, tightly woven linens with other smooth, tightly woven linens; and slubby, spongy linens with other slubby spongy linens. A linen jacket will also pair well with cotton chinos, as both will have the same casual, summery sensibility. Between these two fabrics, you have a world of trouser options once you play around with color. 

Don’t get too hung up on rules though. Luciano Barbera once advocated wearing a linen jacket with wool flannels, and while I personally wouldn’t do it — who am I to argue with one of the world’s best dressed men? Patrick Johnson of P. Johnson Tailors is also pictured above wearing a linen jacket with denim. If you want to try that kind of combination, consider getting a jacket that’s slightly shorter in length and forgoing the tie. As usual, the danger with denim plus sport coat combinations is that they can look a bit discombobulated — very dressy up top, too casual down low. Play down the jacket by getting something that has a slightly less traditional cut, and forgo any neckwear. That way, you’ll bring the tailored jacket down a notch in its formality.

(Photo via Patrick Johnson Tailors)

Why You Shouldn’t Hang Your Suit in the Bathroom
There’s a “trick” that often gets passed around on blogs and through magazines for how to get the wrinkles out of your suit. The trick is: hang your jacket in the bathroom while you take a hot shower. The steam supposedly helps the fibers relax, which in turn will let the wrinkles fall out. 
The idea sounds plausible, but in practice, doing something like this can be ineffective at best and damaging at worst. Depending on how big your bathroom is, you’re unlikely to even generate enough steam to make a difference. If you do generate enough steam, you can ruin your jacket by taking all the shape out. 
Why Steam Can be Bad
A long time ago, I wrote a post about the problem with steamers in general. The danger with these things is that you can “blow out” the seams and cause them to pucker if you’re not careful with how much steam you apply. What you really need is something that both pushes the steam through and sucks the moisture out, but those kinds of machines can be expensive (if not also cumbersome to use at home). 
With a suit jacket or sport coat, there’s other damage that can be done. Remember, a tailored jacket is not like a shirt. It’s not something that simply “hangs” from your shoulders. Rather, it’s shaped through careful ironing and pressing, which results in the jacket having a certain three dimensional form. In fact, the reason why people recommend half- or fully-canvassed jackets is because that canvas gives the jacket some shape. 
It’s true, when you run steam through your tailored jackets, you’re making the fibers relax. This does take out the wrinkling, but also takes out all the shaping as well. The result? A potentially limp jacket that no longer hangs on you the way it should. If you’ve put enough steam through, you may also make certain areas pucker, which will look even worse than wrinkling. 
How To Get Wrinkles Out
To get wrinkles out, there are really only three things you can do. One, let your clothes hang on their hangers for a few days. Wool naturally relaxes anyway, and should return to its original form (more or less) if you let it sit. For trousers, you can use clamp hangers like the ones our advertiser The Hanger Project sells. Those will help get the wrinkles out by letting the trousers hang by their own weight. 
The other ways include either learning how to press clothes yourself (which can be difficult on jackets) or sending it to someone who can do it for you (I use RAVE FabriCARE, as they’re one of the few places I know of that does it properly). 
Barring that, you can use a steamer in spot areas, but very conservatively. Avoid areas where shaping is perhaps most important, such as along where the lapel folds over, and around the chest.
The worst method is hanging your jacket in a steamy bathroom, where you have no control over where the steam goes. 
In the end, it’s worth noting that suits and sport coats don’t have to be completely wrinkle free in order to look good. In fact, wrinkles can make a jacket look a bit more lived in. How good a tailored jacket looks on you is more about its silhouette, which is determined by its cut and shaping, not the presence or absence of a little wrinkling. 

Why You Shouldn’t Hang Your Suit in the Bathroom

There’s a “trick” that often gets passed around on blogs and through magazines for how to get the wrinkles out of your suit. The trick is: hang your jacket in the bathroom while you take a hot shower. The steam supposedly helps the fibers relax, which in turn will let the wrinkles fall out. 

The idea sounds plausible, but in practice, doing something like this can be ineffective at best and damaging at worst. Depending on how big your bathroom is, you’re unlikely to even generate enough steam to make a difference. If you do generate enough steam, you can ruin your jacket by taking all the shape out. 

Why Steam Can be Bad

A long time ago, I wrote a post about the problem with steamers in general. The danger with these things is that you can “blow out” the seams and cause them to pucker if you’re not careful with how much steam you apply. What you really need is something that both pushes the steam through and sucks the moisture out, but those kinds of machines can be expensive (if not also cumbersome to use at home). 

With a suit jacket or sport coat, there’s other damage that can be done. Remember, a tailored jacket is not like a shirt. It’s not something that simply “hangs” from your shoulders. Rather, it’s shaped through careful ironing and pressing, which results in the jacket having a certain three dimensional form. In fact, the reason why people recommend half- or fully-canvassed jackets is because that canvas gives the jacket some shape. 

It’s true, when you run steam through your tailored jackets, you’re making the fibers relax. This does take out the wrinkling, but also takes out all the shaping as well. The result? A potentially limp jacket that no longer hangs on you the way it should. If you’ve put enough steam through, you may also make certain areas pucker, which will look even worse than wrinkling. 

How To Get Wrinkles Out

To get wrinkles out, there are really only three things you can do. One, let your clothes hang on their hangers for a few days. Wool naturally relaxes anyway, and should return to its original form (more or less) if you let it sit. For trousers, you can use clamp hangers like the ones our advertiser The Hanger Project sells. Those will help get the wrinkles out by letting the trousers hang by their own weight. 

The other ways include either learning how to press clothes yourself (which can be difficult on jackets) or sending it to someone who can do it for you (I use RAVE FabriCARE, as they’re one of the few places I know of that does it properly). 

Barring that, you can use a steamer in spot areas, but very conservatively. Avoid areas where shaping is perhaps most important, such as along where the lapel folds over, and around the chest.

The worst method is hanging your jacket in a steamy bathroom, where you have no control over where the steam goes. 

In the end, it’s worth noting that suits and sport coats don’t have to be completely wrinkle free in order to look good. In fact, wrinkles can make a jacket look a bit more lived in. How good a tailored jacket looks on you is more about its silhouette, which is determined by its cut and shaping, not the presence or absence of a little wrinkling. 

Q & Answer: Fixing Holes or Tears in Tailored Clothing
Craig asks: I recently developed a small tear on the right side of my suit pants, and the place that made the suit no longer has the original fabric, so I can’t have another pair made (the suit was custom). Is there anything I can do besides throw these away? I’m open to anything, but would like to not throw good money after bad. 
One of the biggest myths about expensive clothes is that they’ll last you a lifetime. Some things last a while, to be sure, but no matter how well made, anything can develop a hole, snag, or tear. When these things happen with suits or sport coats, the best solution is usually to have the fabric “rewoven.”
That can mean one of two things. The first is what’s known as French reweaving or invisible reweaving, where individual strands of thread are woven into the original cloth. It’s sort of like what I recently had done on my sweater. In this way, the new threads are “filling in” the hole. 
The other technique is known as overweaving or inweaving. Here, a small patch is used to cover up the hole or tear, and then the frayed edges are woven into the suit in order to help conceal the patch. As you can guess, French reweaving tends to be good for small holes or tears, while inweaving is good for anything that’s too big to easily “fill.”
Note, any kind of repair can be seen if you look hard enough. The question is just how well it can be made to look “invisible.” Often times, such are repairs are very, very good and will be hard to detect, but a lot depends on the damage and fabric at hand. Generally speaking:
Darker colors are easier to work with, although for some reweavers, black is the hardest of all.
The finer the weave, the more difficult it is to repair (no surprise).
Solids are typically easier to work with than patterns, but a lot depends on the type of pattern that’s being compared.
Anything with synthetics will be hard to work with, if not impossible.
You mentioned that you had the suit custom made. In such cases, it’s sometimes a good to keep a little extra of the cloth, just for situations like this. Otherwise, the reweaver will have to take material from an inconspicuous place on your suit, or try to find a closely matching material somewhere on the market. Sometimes your tailor will keep a little extra of the original cloth (even if it’s not enough for a new pair of pants) and have a reweaver he or she can recommend. It’s best to check with them. Otherwise, search around for a reweaver. For what it’s worth, I’ve had good experiences sending sport coats to Best Weaving & Mending, and sending knitwear to The French American Reweaving Company.

Q & Answer: Fixing Holes or Tears in Tailored Clothing

Craig asks: I recently developed a small tear on the right side of my suit pants, and the place that made the suit no longer has the original fabric, so I can’t have another pair made (the suit was custom). Is there anything I can do besides throw these away? I’m open to anything, but would like to not throw good money after bad. 

One of the biggest myths about expensive clothes is that they’ll last you a lifetime. Some things last a while, to be sure, but no matter how well made, anything can develop a hole, snag, or tear. When these things happen with suits or sport coats, the best solution is usually to have the fabric “rewoven.”

That can mean one of two things. The first is what’s known as French reweaving or invisible reweaving, where individual strands of thread are woven into the original cloth. It’s sort of like what I recently had done on my sweater. In this way, the new threads are “filling in” the hole.

The other technique is known as overweaving or inweaving. Here, a small patch is used to cover up the hole or tear, and then the frayed edges are woven into the suit in order to help conceal the patch. As you can guess, French reweaving tends to be good for small holes or tears, while inweaving is good for anything that’s too big to easily “fill.”

Note, any kind of repair can be seen if you look hard enough. The question is just how well it can be made to look “invisible.” Often times, such are repairs are very, very good and will be hard to detect, but a lot depends on the damage and fabric at hand. Generally speaking:

  • Darker colors are easier to work with, although for some reweavers, black is the hardest of all.
  • The finer the weave, the more difficult it is to repair (no surprise).
  • Solids are typically easier to work with than patterns, but a lot depends on the type of pattern that’s being compared.
  • Anything with synthetics will be hard to work with, if not impossible.

You mentioned that you had the suit custom made. In such cases, it’s sometimes a good to keep a little extra of the cloth, just for situations like this. Otherwise, the reweaver will have to take material from an inconspicuous place on your suit, or try to find a closely matching material somewhere on the market. Sometimes your tailor will keep a little extra of the original cloth (even if it’s not enough for a new pair of pants) and have a reweaver he or she can recommend. It’s best to check with them. Otherwise, search around for a reweaver. For what it’s worth, I’ve had good experiences sending sport coats to Best Weaving & Mending, and sending knitwear to The French American Reweaving Company.

Real People: Sport Coats with Jeans

My friend David in New York City is one of the best dressed guys I know. He’s a fine and rare wine expert, running a company called Grand Cru Wine Consulting with his business partner Robert Bohr. They’re a concierge service of sorts - advising wine aficionados and buying bottles for them at wine auctions. The Wall Street Journal wrote about their company not too long ago, and David was photographed in a fantastic navy double breasted suit (which was made for him by our shared tailor, Steed).

Above, he’s seen wearing a green tweed he recently received from Steed. I’ve said on a number of occasions that I think sport coats with jeans are very hard to pull off. When it’s done well, it’s usually with tweeds.

It’s difficult to tell from the photo, but the cloth is woven with a unique combination of both herringbone and barleycorn patterns, giving it a very interesting and classic look. There’s also a blue and chestnut overcheck, which you can faintly make out in the photos. David chose some really tasteful and original details, such as the one button front and single button sleeves. Most sport coats have three or four buttons at the sleeves, while a single button is more of an old-school casual/ sporting detail, particularly found in Southern Italy. The soft shoulder construction and slightly full chest and upper back are signatures in a Steed jacket, and I think it fits David’s style excellently. 

Tweeds and jeans go well together because of their equally casual nature and rustic background. With anything too smooth or slick - either in texture or sensibility - you run the risk of looking strangely dressy up top and too casual down bottom. The most obvious faux pas is to wear a suit jacket with jeans, but even as you go down the scale in formality, the combination can look very odd. A tweed sport coat with a pair of jeans, with an equally casual, blue button-down collar shirt (sans tie) and a pair of boots though? Excellent.

Incidentally, if anyone is interested in getting something from Steed, they’re touring the US in February and March. They do both bespoke and made-to-measure, and you can see their travel itinerary here

Try Bolder Sport Coats

I consider myself a fairly conservative dresser, at least compared to other men interested in style. Not to say that you can’t be well-dressed and adventurous, of course. Jesse made a great case for what he calls a "point of distinction," and some of my favorite style icons, such as, Beppe Modenese and Luciano Barbera, are known for their daring choices (though, like Jesse, I think such moves are probably best left to well-experienced). 

The one area where I think men can be safely daring, however, is in boldly patterned sport coats. A bolder pattern helps distinguish your jacket as a true sport coat, rather than something that was intended to only be worn as part of a suit. It’s also makes for easier coordination between all your elements, as presumably your patterned shirts and ties won’t be as striking. When combining patterns, varying the scale is always the easiest way to ensure that nothing clashes. 

See Gianni Agnelli above as an example. In a number of photos taken throughout his life, he was seen wearing a mid-brown jacket decorated with a fairly large glen plaid. Here specifically, he’s combined it with a subtly textured woolen tie, light blue shirt, tan trousers, and some suede boots. The boldness of the jacket lends a bit more visual interest in a way that a solid coat might be lacking, and if he were to wear it with a striped shirt, you can be certain that almost any stripe would work. Even the boldest of butcher stripes is unlikely to clash.  

Of course, there are ways you can go wrong with this. Some patterns are so large they risk looking like horse blankets, and there are certain environments where only a conservative coat will do. Still, a little boldness can go a long way in making a tailored jacket versatile, and if the design is traditional and color conservative, you can be daring without being foppish. 

Q and Answer: Which Sport Coats Can Be Worn with Jeans?
Kenny writes to us to ask: I wear jeans almost every day, but would like to get a sport coat for days I need to look a bit more dressed up. Are there certain ones I should be looking for? Is it even OK to wear sport coats with jeans?
The number of sport coats that can be successfully worn with jeans is much smaller than most men think. The problem starts with the motivation: most men, I imagine, are putting these things together because they’re trying to dress down a tailored jacket, which admittedly can look a bit formal in today’s world. The problem is, the more you try to dress down a sport coat, the more jarring the look becomes. In extremes, you can look like one of those children’s flipbooks, where you turn the pages to dress some character in bizarre combinations of shirts and pants. All dressy up top; strangely casual down below. 
There are sport coats you can wear with jeans though, and the key is to find ones where you don’t have to bridge such a big divide between casual and formal. In other words, find jackets that are inherently casual. Very textured jackets, especially ones with a rustic sensibility, are good choices. So, think tweeds and corduroys. The casual, rustic nature of those jackets plays well with the casual, rustic nature of jeans.
There are also slightly “fashion forward” sport coats. These are typically shorter in length, have unique details, and are made from casual fabrics. My co-writer Pete, for example, looks great here in his Engineered Garments jacket, blue button-down shirt, and dark jeans. Readers who closely follow our eBay roundups might have noticed that I list similar garments in our outerwear section. That’s because even though these have the semblance of a sport coat (two or three button front, buttons on the sleeve, notched lapels, etc), I think they’re better thought of as casual outerwear, rather than the type of sport coats you’d wear in a conservative work environment (e.g. law offices). Such jackets can always be worn with jeans.
Of course, this position is not without controversy or stipulations. Navy sport coats aren’t rustic, and they can sometimes be worn with jeans. And some people, such as Hooman Majd, look good in almost any combination. Certainly, you should always dress according to your eye, but in general, I think the rule of thumb is better followed than ignored: when pairing sport coats with jeans, choose ones that are close together in the formal-informal spectrum. Instead of trying to really dress down a jacket, you’re better off choosing something that’s a bit more casual, such as a tweed or corduroy, or swapping out the jeans for something dressier, such as chinos. Pick similarly casual shirts, shoes, and ties to go with the look (or forgo the tie altogether). Otherwise, you’ll risk looking like this guy. 
(Photo via voxsart)

Q and Answer: Which Sport Coats Can Be Worn with Jeans?

Kenny writes to us to ask: I wear jeans almost every day, but would like to get a sport coat for days I need to look a bit more dressed up. Are there certain ones I should be looking for? Is it even OK to wear sport coats with jeans?

The number of sport coats that can be successfully worn with jeans is much smaller than most men think. The problem starts with the motivation: most men, I imagine, are putting these things together because they’re trying to dress down a tailored jacket, which admittedly can look a bit formal in today’s world. The problem is, the more you try to dress down a sport coat, the more jarring the look becomes. In extremes, you can look like one of those children’s flipbooks, where you turn the pages to dress some character in bizarre combinations of shirts and pants. All dressy up top; strangely casual down below.

There are sport coats you can wear with jeans though, and the key is to find ones where you don’t have to bridge such a big divide between casual and formal. In other words, find jackets that are inherently casual. Very textured jackets, especially ones with a rustic sensibility, are good choices. So, think tweeds and corduroys. The casual, rustic nature of those jackets plays well with the casual, rustic nature of jeans.

There are also slightly “fashion forward” sport coats. These are typically shorter in length, have unique details, and are made from casual fabrics. My co-writer Pete, for example, looks great here in his Engineered Garments jacket, blue button-down shirt, and dark jeans. Readers who closely follow our eBay roundups might have noticed that I list similar garments in our outerwear section. That’s because even though these have the semblance of a sport coat (two or three button front, buttons on the sleeve, notched lapels, etc), I think they’re better thought of as casual outerwear, rather than the type of sport coats you’d wear in a conservative work environment (e.g. law offices). Such jackets can always be worn with jeans.

Of course, this position is not without controversy or stipulations. Navy sport coats aren’t rustic, and they can sometimes be worn with jeans. And some people, such as Hooman Majd, look good in almost any combination. Certainly, you should always dress according to your eye, but in general, I think the rule of thumb is better followed than ignored: when pairing sport coats with jeans, choose ones that are close together in the formal-informal spectrum. Instead of trying to really dress down a jacket, you’re better off choosing something that’s a bit more casual, such as a tweed or corduroy, or swapping out the jeans for something dressier, such as chinos. Pick similarly casual shirts, shoes, and ties to go with the look (or forgo the tie altogether). Otherwise, you’ll risk looking like this guy

(Photo via voxsart)

Why Pay for Canvas?

As many readers know, suit jackets and sport coats mainly come in three types of construction: fused, half-canvassed, and fully-canvassed. A fused jacket will have a lightweight fusible interlining sandwiched in-between the two outer shell fabrics, and a canvassed one will have a canvas made from animal hair (usually horse or camel) mixed with either cotton or wool. Generally speaking, canvassed jackets will cost considerably more than fused ones. So why pay for them?

Well, one of the reasons is that a canvassed jacket will have a lot more three-dimensional shape. Animal hair can be molded using steam, heat, and pressure, much like how a woman’s hair can be shaped using a hot curling iron. With that shape, you get a much more beautiful garment. 

Take a look above. The top most photo is of Alan See with his lovely wife at the menswear trade show Pitti Uomo. He’s seen here wearing a three-piece suit by Liverano & Liverano, a bespoke tailoring house in Florence, Italy. Notice how his lapel line “blooms” as it moves from the buttoning point to his shoulders? It has a “roll” to it, rather than being pressed flat against his chest. Similarly, just below him are JefferyD and MostExerent, both of which also have nice, shapely lapels that “roll” near their buttoning points.

To understand how this is achieved, look at the bottommost photo above (also taken from JefferyD). Moving from left to right, the first material is haircloth, which is made from wiry horsetail strands. This is used to add shape to the chest and shoulders (ever put on a Tom Ford suit and feel like you’re wearing a prosthetic chest? This is because he puts in a ton of haircloth into his suits). The second material is wrapped haircloth, which is a softer, more affordable alternative. Next, we have a wool canvas (the brown material) and a fusible (the black material). These are added on top of the haircloth and extend from the shoulders to the hem (the haircloth is only in the chest). Notice that the brown wool canvas has a natural roll to it while the black fusible is limp. This natural roll is what gives those lapels their “bloom.” 

Of course, this isn’t to say that fused garments aren’t worth buying. They’re considerably more affordable, which is nice if you’re on a budget or if your tastes are still developing. It can take a long, long time for your tastes to settle and for you to develop an eye for what truly fits and flatters you the most. It would be a shame if you had to make your mistakes on much more expensive garments. 

If you have the money, however, and you feel confident in your choices, canvassed garments can be much more handsome. And once you own some, know how to best preserve their shape (after all, that’s what you paid for). Make sure your jackets aren’t smashed against each other in your closet and use hangers with wide, flared out shoulders. Our advertiser The Hanger Project sells some really nice ones, but if you want something more affordable, check out Wooden Hangers USA. Also, stay away from bad dry cleaners, as they can really press the life out of your jackets’ lapels, shoulders, and chests. I ship my stuff to RAVE FabriCare, but you can look for someone more local. Finally, be careful with garment steamers, and don’t hang your jackets in the bathroom while taking a shower. Steam will take out the wrinkles, it’s true, but it’ll also take out the shape. If that ever happens, you can send your jacket to a place that gives a good handpressing. That should be done every once in a while anyway, just so your jackets can maintain their form. 

(Photos via NY Mag, JefferyD, and MostExerent)

What Is Balance?
If you’ve ever participated in online forums about classic men’s clothing, you may have come across people talking about a jacket’s “balance.” But what is balance? Sometimes, it’s a nebulous concept - just a way of someone saying whether they think a jacket looks off or not. Most of the time, however, it refers to something very specific: how a jacket hangs from the shoulders.
To understand this, you have to remember that a jacket takes on the shape of our bodies, so our unique contours and posture will affect how it fits. Which is why if you take two men with the same chest size, the same jacket can look very different on each of them.
There are two aspects to a jacket’s balance. The first is how the front and back lengths relate to each other. Very simply, if you look at a man from his side, the front hem of his jacket should be either roughly even with his back, or it can be slightly longer. The back, generally speaking, should never be longer than the front. If it is, you may see the quarters of the coat (the area of the front below the buttoning point) hike up and possibly “swing inward.”  
This can happen for a number of reasons. One might be that the person stands too erect, so the back essentially “dips down” while the front “hikes up.” It may also be that the person has a very large stomach, so the front of the jacket doesn’t have enough material to cover that area without disturbing how the jacket hangs.
The opposite of this is also possible. Someone might have prominent shoulder blades or stand with a stoop. In this case, he’ll need a bit more length in the back and less in the front. Otherwise, the quarters of his jacket might fall away towards his hips and the vents at the back might gape.
The second aspect of balance refers to how the left and right sides of a jacket relate to each other. Similarly, these should also be aligned. This might seem like it should occur naturally, but certain things can complicate it. If your right shoulder is considerably lower than your left (which is very common, by the way), you’ll notice that everything on the right side of your jacket will also be dropped accordingly.
Fixing this isn’t as easy as just adding length to the right side or taking away some on the left, however. It’s not just the hem that’s affected, it’s everything on the right – the way the left and right pockets align with each other, the notches on your lapels, as well as the buttons and buttonholes. A tailor can fix this for you, but it helps to know what to look for in order to assess whether a jacket fits you correctly.
All this can seem confusing and complicated if you’ve never thought about these concepts. In the end, however, you can simply think of it like this: if someone were to view you from the side, the front and back of your jacket should be even, or the front can be slightly longer than the back. You can examine this by seeing how the hem aligns. Similarly, when viewed from the front, the left and right sides of your jacket’s hem should be roughly even as well. If they’re not, it can be said that your jacket’s balance is off.  
(Photo via Voxsartoria)

What Is Balance?

If you’ve ever participated in online forums about classic men’s clothing, you may have come across people talking about a jacket’s “balance.” But what is balance? Sometimes, it’s a nebulous concept - just a way of someone saying whether they think a jacket looks off or not. Most of the time, however, it refers to something very specific: how a jacket hangs from the shoulders.

To understand this, you have to remember that a jacket takes on the shape of our bodies, so our unique contours and posture will affect how it fits. Which is why if you take two men with the same chest size, the same jacket can look very different on each of them.

There are two aspects to a jacket’s balance. The first is how the front and back lengths relate to each other. Very simply, if you look at a man from his side, the front hem of his jacket should be either roughly even with his back, or it can be slightly longer. The back, generally speaking, should never be longer than the front. If it is, you may see the quarters of the coat (the area of the front below the buttoning point) hike up and possibly “swing inward.”  

This can happen for a number of reasons. One might be that the person stands too erect, so the back essentially “dips down” while the front “hikes up.” It may also be that the person has a very large stomach, so the front of the jacket doesn’t have enough material to cover that area without disturbing how the jacket hangs.

The opposite of this is also possible. Someone might have prominent shoulder blades or stand with a stoop. In this case, he’ll need a bit more length in the back and less in the front. Otherwise, the quarters of his jacket might fall away towards his hips and the vents at the back might gape.

The second aspect of balance refers to how the left and right sides of a jacket relate to each other. Similarly, these should also be aligned. This might seem like it should occur naturally, but certain things can complicate it. If your right shoulder is considerably lower than your left (which is very common, by the way), you’ll notice that everything on the right side of your jacket will also be dropped accordingly.

Fixing this isn’t as easy as just adding length to the right side or taking away some on the left, however. It’s not just the hem that’s affected, it’s everything on the right – the way the left and right pockets align with each other, the notches on your lapels, as well as the buttons and buttonholes. A tailor can fix this for you, but it helps to know what to look for in order to assess whether a jacket fits you correctly.

All this can seem confusing and complicated if you’ve never thought about these concepts. In the end, however, you can simply think of it like this: if someone were to view you from the side, the front and back of your jacket should be even, or the front can be slightly longer than the back. You can examine this by seeing how the hem aligns. Similarly, when viewed from the front, the left and right sides of your jacket’s hem should be roughly even as well. If they’re not, it can be said that your jacket’s balance is off.  

(Photo via Voxsartoria)

Is This an Orphaned Suit Jacket?
I recently received a couple of emails from readers asking if I thought something they were looking at on eBay was an orphaned suit jacket. An orphaned suit jacket is a jacket that used to belong to a suit, but for some reason – whether because they were worn through, badly damaged, or just plain lost – the matching trousers are no longer available. It’s not uncommon to come across these when you’re looking at second hand clothing, and you’ll want to avoid purchasing them. Wearing an orphaned jacket can make you look like you spilled something on your suit trousers and had to change out of them. It’s not a good look.  
To be sure, there are no hard and fast rules, and some suit jackets can be worn as sport coats. Those made from cotton, linen, tweed, or corduroy are usually fine. There are also some wools that can be successfully used for both business suits and casual sport coats. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume the simplistic view that suit jackets should generally never be worn alone, as most of the ones you’re likely to encounter through second hand clothing are of a certain type that shouldn’t be.
So how can you tell what’s what?
Generally speaking, the rougher, fluffier, more visible the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a sport coat. Conversely, the finer and flatter the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a suit jacket. This is especially true if it feels very smooth, silky, and lightweight, and you can see diagonal lines on the surface of the fabric (like you can with denim). If the fabric has a bit of shine to it when you bend and move it, it’s almost certainly something that was designated for a suit.
Certain patterns can also be clues. Pinstripes and chalkstripes always indicate something was meant to be worn as a suit. Birdseye, nailhead, pinhead, and very fine herringbone - the kind that you only notice is herringbone when you inspect it up close, but looks solid from a foot or two away - also tend to be reserved for suits, though there are exceptions. If it’s a chunky, rough weave such as tweed, something like a birdseye would be fine. 
Similarly, pay attention to scale of patterns. Though suits can come in big, bold patterns, and sport coats in quiet and subtle ones, the more successful sport coats tend to have larger scale designs. It’s a way of announcing to the world: this isn’t something to be worn to a business meeting. Thus, if you’re in between whether or not a jacket can be worn by itself – if the pattern is very small or faint, you’re probably safer off passing.
Lastly, if a jacket has buttons made from metal or mother of pearl, or are covered in leather, you’re likely looking at a sport coat. Horn, on the other hand, can go either way, but one thing you can do is count the number of buttons on the sleeve cuff. If there are less than four, the chances of it being a sport coat go up.
In the end, however, you just have to use your own best judgment. Remember: the point is not to say whether something is definitively orphaned or not, the point is to not look like you’re accidentally wearing a suit jacket without the matching trousers. In the end, just keep that in mind and go with your gut. 
(Photo via Capnwes)

Is This an Orphaned Suit Jacket?

I recently received a couple of emails from readers asking if I thought something they were looking at on eBay was an orphaned suit jacket. An orphaned suit jacket is a jacket that used to belong to a suit, but for some reason – whether because they were worn through, badly damaged, or just plain lost – the matching trousers are no longer available. It’s not uncommon to come across these when you’re looking at second hand clothing, and you’ll want to avoid purchasing them. Wearing an orphaned jacket can make you look like you spilled something on your suit trousers and had to change out of them. It’s not a good look.  

To be sure, there are no hard and fast rules, and some suit jackets can be worn as sport coats. Those made from cotton, linen, tweed, or corduroy are usually fine. There are also some wools that can be successfully used for both business suits and casual sport coats. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume the simplistic view that suit jackets should generally never be worn alone, as most of the ones you’re likely to encounter through second hand clothing are of a certain type that shouldn’t be.

So how can you tell what’s what?

Generally speaking, the rougher, fluffier, more visible the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a sport coat. Conversely, the finer and flatter the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a suit jacket. This is especially true if it feels very smooth, silky, and lightweight, and you can see diagonal lines on the surface of the fabric (like you can with denim). If the fabric has a bit of shine to it when you bend and move it, it’s almost certainly something that was designated for a suit.

Certain patterns can also be clues. Pinstripes and chalkstripes always indicate something was meant to be worn as a suit. Birdseye, nailhead, pinhead, and very fine herringbone - the kind that you only notice is herringbone when you inspect it up close, but looks solid from a foot or two away - also tend to be reserved for suits, though there are exceptions. If it’s a chunky, rough weave such as tweed, something like a birdseye would be fine. 

Similarly, pay attention to scale of patterns. Though suits can come in big, bold patterns, and sport coats in quiet and subtle ones, the more successful sport coats tend to have larger scale designs. It’s a way of announcing to the world: this isn’t something to be worn to a business meeting. Thus, if you’re in between whether or not a jacket can be worn by itself – if the pattern is very small or faint, you’re probably safer off passing.

Lastly, if a jacket has buttons made from metal or mother of pearl, or are covered in leather, you’re likely looking at a sport coat. Horn, on the other hand, can go either way, but one thing you can do is count the number of buttons on the sleeve cuff. If there are less than four, the chances of it being a sport coat go up.

In the end, however, you just have to use your own best judgment. Remember: the point is not to say whether something is definitively orphaned or not, the point is to not look like you’re accidentally wearing a suit jacket without the matching trousers. In the end, just keep that in mind and go with your gut. 

(Photo via Capnwes)