Rare Moment: Check Jacket

Odd jackets might have fallen from favour in recent years, but there have been encouraging signs of their return. Gone are the days of the stroller – odd jackets and trousers are strictly casual nowadays – and close to disappearing are the classic brass buttoned blazers, but thanks to recent trends the concept of wearing a jacket, similar in cut and design to a suit jacket, with an odd pair of trousers is still very much alive. As ghastly and inappropriate as some of the choices may be, the practice itself is pleasing. The presence of odd jackets in a gentleman’s wardrobe increases his range of presentable ensembles; the more odd jackets, the wider the range. Pairing them with patterned trousers, coloured trousers and even denim is a realisation of their potential; even the least sartorially aware of my acquaintance still possess an odd jacket.

Tweed and plain, dark jackets are without doubt the most popular odd jackets; the former with the older generation, the latter with the younger. The usual tweed tends to be a classic Harris the colour of stale Weetabix, if patterned very subtly and the plain darks worn by young people tend to be suit orphans or poly-mix creations from River Island. Both are a badge of the clothing conservatism of the wearers. They are not exactly anonymous, but they have none of the outré explosiveness of the odd check jacket: a jacket which, in my experience, is rarely seen. For it is without question a risky choice.

Amongst the Weetabix and the poly-mix it looks rather exaggerated; one of the lonely eccentricities that receive tongue-in-cheek pleasantries. It’s different, yes and challenging, certainly but once it has been mastered will prove one of the most valuable items in the wardrobe. An odd check jacket has effervescence, lashings of character and, importantly, youth – even before you have stuffed a square of silk or matched a waistcoat. A check jacket seems always to be worn by those accustomed to smiling. It is the coat of a chuckler, a back slapper and a generous friend. About it there is a delightful, Pickwickian naivety. It is perpetually happy.

Controlling the overall volume of your attire is rather like legislating for a raucous party guest by inviting a hatful of dullards; plainness is the best partner for pattern. Depending on the colour variation in the check jacket, plain shirts of almost any colour will work well, particularly mid blues and white. Checks will also work, but prior experimentation may be required. Wearing stripes can produce a pattern clash, which can be occasionally brilliant, but they are generally too lacking in harmony; width of check and stripe would need to be taken into consideration. Wide stripes would look better with a small check, and vice versa.

The other advantage of a check jacket being the ‘loudest sailor at the bar’ is that the others in attendance, items of individual eccentricity, begin to look rather ordinary. The red trousers, the bow tie and the patterned shirt recede in significance. Therefore, items that get few outings because of their ‘oddness’ suddenly seem more civilised and more adaptable.