THE ODD JACKET
The separate, or “odd” jacket, developed in the early decades of 20th century as an organic reflection of the growing phenomenon of leisure time. No longer entirely constrained by more formal dress codes of work or worship, men of the growing middle class found themselves free to indulge a little whimsy into their wardrobes while remaining firmly within the emerging standards of modern male dress.
The first odd jacket, intended to worn to sporting events, the beach, or just a day in the park with the family, was simply the top half of the then-ubiquitous navy serge suit, worn with contrasting white trousers. A century later, the navy blazer remains the most versatile single garment in a man’s wardrobe, able to be smartened up with pressed trousers and a tie, or dressed down with denim and an open collar. The metal shanked buttons which traditionally connote a maritime or club affiliation are by no means de rigeur for a man seeking a more understated look; contrasting horn or mother-of-pearl works just as well to distinguish a blazer from a navy suit jacket.
Between the world wars, no garment was more synonymous with the youthful and modern spirit of the era than the odd jacket. Made from the rustic tweeds first popularized by elite university students on both sides of the Atlantic, and featuring all sorts of sporty details like fancy belted backs and patch pockets, they instantly imparted a sense of refined nonchalance to their wearers. Taking full advantage of advances in textile and tailoring technology, today’s more streamlined sportcoats are made in richer colors, bolder patterns, lighter weights, and with softer constructions than previously possible.
Work or Pleasure?
With the relaxation of workplace dress codes, the odd jacket is increasingly assuming a professional prominence as the most formal element in many men’s wardrobes. The inherent elegance of the sportcoat’s tailored shape, combined with the virtually limitless selection of cloths in which it can be rendered, ensures that it has a bright future on both sides of the commute.