One Thing: The Blue Blazer

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Over the past year or so I have occasionally highlighted essential pieces of a man’s wardrobe. The “One Thing” columns have covered a variety of items, but today I want to get back to basics with the blue blazer.

A blue blazer is the backbone of any serious wardrobe. The ever popular Preppy Handbook even dubbed it the male exoskeleton. Preppy or not, a blue blazer is the one article of dress clothing all men should have hanging in the closet. It is universally useful and chameleon-like when it comes to meeting your needs in a sartorial pinch.

When they hear “blue blazer” people tend to think of the classic brass button type found on the bridge of a yacht in a Ralph Lauren advertisement. Of course that version is the most traditional, but blue blazers come in a range of fabrics and styles; from lightweight linens to beefy flannels. As the king of odd jackets, a blue blazer can fill the gap when you need to dress somewhere between a suit and a sweater, regardless of the season.

Styles vary as much as materials. Some blazers have horn or resin buttons instead of shipshape brass ones. They can come with single, double or no vents; notched or peaked lapels. Other design variations can change the overall feel of the garment. A double breasted blazer, with its nipped waist and dramatic massing of buttons can impart formality. A single breasted sack jacket with no darting can give you a more casual “drinks at the club” New England persona.

When it comes to shoulders, there are some cultural variations as well. American blazers often have a soft natural shoulder, while English tailors tend to prefer them padded and more structured. This is particularly true with double breasted jackets. American makers like Brooks Bothers and J. Press are arbiters of the natural shoulder; a style I tend prefer.

When shopping for a blue blazer, approach it as a major investment. This should be a jacket that can carry you for years to come and something that you are happy to reach for in the morning. A well constructed blazer made from good fabric will be as comfortable as your favorite sweatshirt and its classic styling will conquer the vagaries of many fashion cycles.

The core benefit of the blue blazer is its inherent versatility. It can make jeans, Chuck Taylors and an old polo shirt look city cool or give khakis, boat shoes and an oxford some un-stuffy dressiness. The blue blazer works because of its balance between formal and comfortable. It’s one of those rare garments that has both stood the test of time and evolved to meet the needs of each generation.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice