Silk Jackets: Not Just For Sleazeballs

May 3, 2017

Silk Jackets: Not Just for Sleazeballs

Silk isn’t something you’d normally imagine for sport coats. Most us wear wool, linen, and cotton for our jackets, then reserve silk for finer accessories such as ties and pocket squares. Much of that is because silk has a natural sheen and is known to wear warm – and nobody wants to look like they’re baking in a polyester suit.

In the right weight and weave, however, silk can make for a great summer sport coat. Italian mills – who I think are particularly good at making livelier, more creative summer fabrics – often use silk to get more textured cloths. Wool in the summertime tends to be a bit finer and smoother, but with a bit of linen and silk mixed in, it can look as nubby as your favorite fall tweeds.

Just see some of the photos above. The black and white images show the kind of silk suits and sport coats men used to wear a generation ago. Many silk jackets from that era were constructed from what’s known as Dupioni, a crisp, plain weave that’s been tightly woven from raw silk yarns (raw here means the silk hasn’t been chemically processed to strip it of its sericin, a bonding chemical that keeps the fibers together).

The problem with Dupioni is that it’s shiny and warms warm – the two qualities that drive men away from silk today. If you’re looking for a pure silk jacket, aim for something with a more open weave. Jeff Hilliard at The Armoury says he has something from Ring Jacket made from pure silk. “I find it wears comfortable even temperatures hit the mid-80s,” he says. “I like better than mohair, which many people recommend for summer.” The Armoury sells pure silk jackets through their various custom tailoring programs, and our sponsor Chipp can make sport coats out of Matka (which they currently use for ties).

The other option is to get a silk blend, which is what I prefer (if only because good silk blends are a lot easier to find than wearable pure silks). A silk-linen blend will wrinkle a little less than pure linen – allowing the jacket to drape more cleanly at the end of the day, rather than riding up on your body. I also really like wool-silk-linen mixes. Wool-linen tends to have a very dry look, but when you add just a touch of silk, it can have a nice, not-over-the-top sheen. Plus, silk gives a fabric a bit more strength, which is important for open weaves that would otherwise be too brittle.

No Man Walks Alone at the moment has a bunch of silk-blend jackets from Eidos and Sartoria Formosa. Even this plainer, brown silk jacket from Eidos sports a gummier finish – much like ancient madder – which to me just speaks to the uniqueness of silk cloths. The Armoury also carries some nice unstructured travel jackets made from distinctive wool-silk-linen blends (Armoury co-founder Mark Cho apparently choose the pink cloth based off a sport coat he commissioned years ago from Liverano & Liverano). I’m not usually one for dandier colors, but if you’re going to wear something as bold as pink, this sort of textured weave seems perfect.