John Tinseth explains the complicated rules surrounding of the Double Breasted blazer, and what the jacket says about the man wearing it.
“It’s over yonder — by that Fry-toe Lay truck. ” I looked ‘over yonder’ to see a Frito Lay truck in a shopping center parking lot somewhere in North Carolina. ‘Frytoe Lay.’ ‘Over yonder.’ Language I’m still unsure of but understand.
Beth Hyer gave me a small bag of Frito Lay chips in 4th grade at St Thomas More in Chapel Hill. She was stunning in her plaid jumper and crisply starched white shirt with Peter Pan collar. I wore a blue blazer, dark grey trousers, a white shirt and a navy clip-on tie. There was one kid in my class who wore a double breasted blazer. I didn’t like him. Not even a little.
It’s hard to write about a double breasted blazer. Not because it’s too damned hot to even think about it but, like a middle-aged purchase of a Porsche Boxster, it comes with a whole lotta baggage. The rules are simple: Navy only. Peak lapel. Side vent. Six button. Never with a button down collar shirt. Good rules. Nothing is more vacuous than a notch lapel DB blazer — unless it has a center vent and comes in maroon. One shudders at the thought.
A small detail overlooked by ready made retailers is the required button hole on each peak lapel. For some unknown reason, I’m guessing cost, ready made double breasted usually has only one button hole. This is as criminal as a notch lapel to the cognoscenti.
A simple fix is to have the retailer add a button hole to the other lapel. It’s not easy and they’ll try to talk to you out of it, but stand your ground or go someplace else. Chicago’s Michigan Avenue Brooks Brothers did it for me and they did a good job. The head tailor also told me what a pain in the ass it was but he assured me he understood my desire for balance.
A friend lives in Los Angeles and he’s mastered the not-so-balanced West Coast casual look. Sockless & Gucci-ed, open collared & waistcoated, he runs every day and looks 10 years younger than his age. He also has custom shirts made with double cuffs, button down collar and a monogram on the pocket. And while he likes to wear this shirt with a DB blazer, I blame this lapse in judgement on L.A. and not him.
There is an old rule about never wearing a button down collar with double breasted anything. Once aware of the rule, it’s easy to see the clash between soaring peak lapels and a constricted collar anchored with buttons. It’s just wrong. Spread collar is preferred even if it’s open which the English like to do. But what about a unbuttoned-button down collar?
The highly evolved know they’re breaking a rule so they leave the collar unbuttoned. This is language to those in the know that you know what’s going on. The DB is complicated language.
Yanks prefer the blazer buttoned up to the Brits who prefer to wear it unbuttoned. Wearing it unbuttoned in the States or buttoned up in London leads to more language problems. It’s another language I understand but am never sure of. This much I do know—Never give a double breasted blazer to a nine year old.