“IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…” Rudyard Kipling(1895)
I recently took a punt on a few items from An Affordable Wardrobe shop. I say punt not because this is an unreliable source, far from, but because buying vintage clothes can be a bit tricky at the best of times. Buying vintage at a distance of 3000 miles away is even trickier. But I’m glad I followed my gut instincts.
Aside from a vintage shirt, previously discussed, I picked up two blazers. The pick of the haul was a genuine 1960s J Press black hopsack blazer. In fact, I was rather excited when I bagged this one. J Press is one of those wonderful labels that have entered the annals of sartorial folk law, being both a progenitor of the Ivy League look, and of course the guys that dressed Jack Kennedy. Not a brand with the slightest interest in ever coming to Britain, to get my hands on a bit of their kit from that golden era of 1960s, well I was chuffed beyond measure.
Now, this is not a tale of bitter disappointment and woe, the exact opposite in fact. Both blazers were in mint condition, particularly considering their age. No, the reason for bringing it up is to highlight the characteristics of a perfect summer jacket, for this is what both are.
Just to confound the doubters the last few days in England have been absolute scorchers. Hot, bright and uncomfortably close. By virtue of my new jacket and some profuse sweating on the days I’ve opted for a suit, I fully intend to rethink my summer work wardrobe incorporating certain characteristics into bespoke suits and jackets to be commissioned around March next year.
So what are the key components of a perfect summer suit or odd jacket?
Hopsack is a loosely woven coarse fabric of cotton, linen or wool. As Hardy Amies points out in his ‘ABC of Men’s Fashion’, the name refers to the weave not the pattern, which has the appearance of minute squares.
Of course hopsack isn’t the only option available, but my experience is that it wears lighter than linen or mohair and wool mixes. A nice little article here (written by Simon Crompton) on Timothy Everest’s blog introduces Fresco. Another open weave cloth made from high twist wool yarns it’s perhaps more suited to suiting.
There is little point in having a lightweight open weave cloth if you then go and add layers of interlining and lining. Buggy lining as the picture above shows refers to a loosely attached lining which comes either 1/3 or 1/2 way down the back of the jacket. This means for reducing weight and layers is equally appropriate for odd jackets or summer suits, as demonstrated here.
Keep the padding to a minimum
As with the buggy lining the concept is a simple one; reduce layers, reduce weight and increase air flow. People often mistakenly use the term soft shouldered when they mean lightly structured. Soft shoulders follow more closely the natural curve of the shoulder and don’t have the acute angles from the neck and between the arm and the sleeve-head that normal more structured jackets do. My jacket is lightly structured. The only padding is a small amount in the sleeve-head. This makes for a light jacket and allows for a great deal of movement.
Another means of reducing layers and increasing air flow is having patch pockets. The pocket is attached directly to the outside facing cloth of the jacket, thereby removing the need for a pocket lining. Regular pockets not only have their own pocket linings but are usually attached to the inside lining of the jacket, and a good summer jacket should have as few linings as possible.
While it is too late to get suits made for this summer I shall be incorporating these lessons learnt in time for next year, where I hope to have the perfect summer suits. If you can keep your cool while all around you are losing theirs…