One of my friends recently told me that he wanted three things from all garments of clothing he purchased; quality, versatility and style. If one of these ingredients was missing, he rarely considered completing the transaction. I agreed to an extent but warned him, naturally, that men often have different interpretations of the first and last ingredients; quality is relative and style is personal. However, I did agree with him that versatility was likely to be crucial for anyone on the hunt for decent clobber; you don’t buy an overcoat to wear it with only one particular suit.
As the subject progressed on versatility, we discussed the most adaptable garments we could think of – blue blazers, khaki chinos, black loafers – and reflected fondly on our own experiences. It was then that I added the velvet jacket to the growing inventory, to which my friend reacted with derision; “A velvet jacket is not that versatile; I can count on one hand the number of times I have used mine!” However, I asked him to consider that it was possible that his interpretation of the third crucial ingredient – style – was affecting its use; for example, if you only believe velvet jackets should be worn when hosting an in-home black tie dinner party, low use should be unsurprising.
Like the colour purple, velvet is closely associated with royalty. Although well noted for its smooth texture, it is also desired because of its depth of tone; a burgundy cotton jacket has nothing like the tonal complexity of a burgundy velvet jacket, which sets the latter apart. It has gorgeous, lustrous qualities, and when worn with even the most incongruous ensembles is always likely to prompt an approving ‘ooh’ or ‘ahh’ from the welcoming crowd, not to mention the indulgent pat of a palm or two.
I own two velvet jackets, one of which I have ‘converted’ to an evening jacket (by adding black silk buttons), the other of which I currently wear infrequently as it is overdue a few adjustments, but which I plan to wear more and more as the days get colder. A casual velvet jacket sounds like an oxymoron but velvet is an ideal fabric for the chilly winter weekends; in my experience, a cotton velvet jacket is significantly warmer than a mid-weight woollen blazer. It is also splendid as an ‘all dayer’, something a friend informs me that many weekends call for, as they are often frantic affairs of shopping-then-eating-then-visiting-then-dining that do not allow for that most Victorian of dignities; changing for dinner.