Navy blazer.
Navy blazer.
Image: 123rf

There’s a reason Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue or Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon, which are so emotionally charged in scale and depth, often leave the listener or viewer in tears. Classics earn a kind of reverence for a reason, and things are bestowed with greatness when they transcend time and space to leave their mark on the world.

When it comes to classic menswear, there is none more remarkable than the navy blazer. Perhaps it’s the equal measures of versatility and shape the jacket graciously offers that make this my number-one jacket and essential item in a gentleman’s wardrobe.

Our series, A Primer on menswear, discusses foundational clothing and accessories, revealing the history of classic menswear, while also providing tips on how to build a wardrobe that will cover all the aspects of a gentleman’s life, ensuring you’re covered, physically and metaphorically.

Broadly speaking, the blazer falls into the category of sports coats — a jacket worn without matching pants — a slightly more casual option to the suit. As with most classic menswear, the facts are muddled on its genesis. The first story has it  that the commander of the British Naval vessel HMS Blazer, wanting to make sure his crew left a good impression on the young Queen Victoria, had his crew wear a navy jacket for the royal visit. (During this period, aside from officers, standardised uniforms weren’t issued to sailors.) The Queen was so impressed she immediately requested that the navy blazer be issued as standard naval uniform.

The other tale is that the blazer didn’t start out in the ubiquitous navy,  but in a blazing red worn by members of the St John’s, Cambridge rowing club around 1825. Both stories are plausible as the blazer is very much a part of both institutions’ dress code.

Blazers can be found in shades of blue — with navy being the most popular — deep forest green, and red, without any pattern in the fabric (except for rowing stripes, which we'll discuss later), and with shiny brass or more subdued pewter buttons. These days it is not uncommon to find blazers with brown horn or plastic buttons for less contrast, or in white shell versions for a more nautical feel.

Double-breasted blazer.
Double-breasted blazer.
Image: Supplied

The jacket comes in two styles: single breast, notch lapel with two- or three-button variations; or double breast, and peak lapels with between four- and eight-button variations. The English cut is more structured and roped at the shoulders giving the wearer a distinct “V” silhouette.

The American cut is a little more “boxy” and known for the 3-roll-2 button configuration — it features three buttonholes and three buttons but only the middle one is intended for use. With the middle button fastened, the lapel has a natural roll, and the top buttonhole is obscured. You can notch this down as a charming idiosyncrasy of dressing. The Italians, particularly the Neapolitans, prefer soft shoulders, and the jacket is often left unlined, lending a sartorial nonchalance to the wearer while keeping him cool — something the stylish Italians do so well.

Versatility is where the navy blazer truly shines

Traditionally, the blazer is cut from worsted wool or flannel for cooler climates, but jackets  in linen, fresco and cotton are commonplace in warm climates. There are two styles of pockets — the more casual patch pockets, which are sewn over the front of the jacket, and flap-jet pockets that, aside from a flap and clean slit, aren’t visible on the front of the jacket. On the back you will find either no vent, a single vent or a double vent — which is often used on double-breasted styles.

The casual yet sophisticated styling of the blazer made it an appropriate addition to the dress code of various sporting activities such as rowing, cricket, tennis and golf. Rowing blazers sometimes have distinct vertical stripes or are tipped with contrasting grosgrain ribbon along the edges of the jacket. Another notable sporting blazer is the hallowed green jacket awarded to the champion of the Masters golf tournament.

Versatility is where the navy blazer truly shines and is the pragmatic reason it is considered an investment piece. From business casual to a night out on the town, with a navy blazer you will never look under-dressed.

Image: Supplied

Here are three of my favourite ways to style a navy blazer. For a smart business look, I would pair grey flannel trousers with a baby blue or pale pink shirt, red striped tie and brown leather brogues. Dress the navy blazer with white or stone chinos, open-collar, button-down shirt and a pair of your favourite loafers for a classy nautical look.

For an updated modern aesthetic, a blazer dressed over a plain T-shirt in melange grey or crisp white, paired with stonewashed denim jeans and clean low-profile sneakers will elevate a casual look. Considering how much value you can get from a blazer it pays to get the best you can manage. Keep it classic.

© Wanted 2024 - If you would like to reproduce this article please email us.