The smoking jacket fills a very particular niche in the menswear world. While it closely resembles a blazer, it really can’t be worn like one. In one way, it’s far too formal, usually made of luxe and plush fabrics like velvet or silk and adorned with tuxedo-like shawl lapels.
In another way, it’s far too casual, resembling a robe in many iterations, with a belted closure, and definitely evoking relaxation and comfort rather than business or business-casual, for that matter.
Like so many garments, the smoking jacket is truly the result of the intersection of fashion and necessity. Along with the 17th century spice trade, luxurious fabrics (such as silk) traveled from the far east to the western world, and quickly became emblems of class.
At the same time, traders brought tobacco from the middle east, with the influx of Turkish tobacco into England reaching a high during the Crimean War of the 1850s. Thus, the (usually silk) smoking jacket emerged in order to protect one’s attire from the smell of smoke and the stains and damage of ash and embers.
Also, remember that this was the Edwardian era, when situational rules for attire were still followed very strictly – think morning coats and dinner jackets, country attire versus city, and so on. The smoking jacket became the uniform de rigueur for gentlemen indulging in a puff or two.
These days, the smoking jacket has emerged from the cigarette parlors to find it’s own place, largely among the fashionably bold black-tie-event attendees looking to break away from the monotony of black and navy tuxedos – much thanks to celebs like Hugh Hefner and his trademark party attire.
It takes a bold man to rock a smoking jacket, but it’s all in finding the right style and the right moment. Navy or black are classic. Rich red pieces make for a killer holiday or New Year’s getup, while something in ivory or pastel fits a summery ‘Gatsby-esque’ with equal aplomb. It’s a balancing act for sure, but if pulled off properly it’s a look that can own a room!
Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style