Dress Down Fridays – The Jacket

For most professionals, the last decade has seen seen dress-down Friday’s become a thoroughly entrenched part of corporate culture. There are few organisations still enforcing a rigid approach to Friday dress, except in some industries where it would still seem inappropriate, at least to Management, to be out of a suit.

in Australia, this one of our great attributes as a nation, a willingness to ease in to a weekend of beaches, bay-runs and generally enjoying life. In general, it’s been a good change, allowing for a more relaxed but still professional day in the office, but it brings with it a unique challenge of needing to understand another style of dressing, different to the more formal Monday to Thursday suit and tie regime.

Once you get into the details of any style of dress, there are a several nuances that make what you wear appear effortless and coherently put together. But the very small details aside, there are a few big miscalculations that a significant number of men make, easily noticeable from a few minutes of people watching in any city.

The most frequently worn combination for professional men on a Friday falls towards tailored jeans, business shirt, suit jacket and leather shoes. Well-tailored, but less formal trousers in a weight and cut appropriate to the season are always going to look smarter, however with jeans holding the majority vote in this instance (not to mention how good they look when properly faded) it’s best to use them as an example. This post is focused on jackets and in later posts I’ll move on to other areas of a Friday wardrobe.

The most common error made with the jeans/jacket combination mentioned above is wearing jeans with a regular suit jacket. This issue comes down to texture and pattern. The cut of the suit jacket may compliment the jeans nicely, particularly if the jacket is well fitted, however the refined texture and lack of pattern found in a typical suit jacket clashes with the less polished look and handle of jeans. The best option here is an odd-jacket/sport-coat that has either more texture in its surface, or a pattern, or both.

Daniel Craig in a rare moment of sartorial miscalculation
Daniel Craig – formal jacket, casual jeans. 2 styles clashing with each other.

Texture: A cloth with either a matte or less smooth surface texture instantly changes the entire feel of the outfit (article here on understanding the different characteristics of cloth), compared to a jacket cut the same way in say a 9oz worsted wool, with a tight weave and lustrous finish. Less formal textures such as linen and hopsack for the warmer months, or tweed and flannel (my favourite) for the colder months, should all pair perfectly with jeans. For those who can afford it, cashmere is a great option as it typically has more body than wool.

Colour aside, the picture above is a perfect example of combining texture (tweed) and pattern (Herringbone). The patch pocket ads even more surface interest
Colour aside, the picture above is a perfect example of combining texture (tweed) and pattern (Herringbone). The patch pocket ads even more surface interest

Pockets are your allies here, too, and are underappreciated for the impact they can have on any item of clothing. Most suit jackets will have either flapped or welted pockets (link is to the different styles of suit pockets and their respective formalities) which add formality to the jacket. If a more casual feel is what you’re aiming for, then you want patch pockets. In the coming weeks I’ll be having a navy linen sport coat made (edit, final coat is here), which will have patch pockets, so I’ll go in to more detail in those posts.

Pattern: Like a garments texture, pattern has a significant part to play in the feel of an outfit to an audience. If you think of the most formal types of clothing, they tend to be made of smoother, more lustrous surfaces, in block colours. Take a formal dinner suit – black or midnight blue, no pattern, satin lapels, leading down to matching trousers and highly polished or patent leather shoes. If you were to then throw a blue and orange check into that mix it would completely take away from the outfit’s formality. So it’s with this in mind, you understand that patterns such as hound’s-tooth, windowpane checks, prince of wales checks and many others relax the mood of an item of clothing. Match this with the cloths mentioned above (or even a less refined, more openly woven worsted) and you can see how it harmonises so well with jeans or chinos.

Whilst a bit rich for some (myself included) the jacket above shows how by simply changing the from a solid, to a pattern, the appearance moves instantly from formal to casual
Whilst a bit rich for some, the jacket above shows how simply changing from a solid, to a pattern, the appearance moves instantly from formal to casual

Always invest in buying the best you can afford and if bespoke is not yet an option, try to invest in a quality jacket (both in terms of cloth and construction) that will last a long time.

Remembering these 2 simple guidelines, texture and pattern, will help to ensure you don’t look like your torso had an argument with your legs about what day it was.

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