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The Good Life

Cashmere Sport Coat

| By Jack Bettridge | From Richard Branson, Sept/Oct 2007

You almost hesitate to call it a wardrobe staple because it is so luxurious, but if you have the means it should become one. Versatile, handsome, functional and kind to the touch, the cashmere sport coat is the definitive step up for those who have been limping along with the standard navy-blue blazer.

Since the nineteenth century, blazers have been the go-to jackets that dress up any ensemble when you haven't (or choose not to wear) a suit. Navy blue has trumped as the standard color as it goes with almost anything. But the garment's old-boy-sport-club and nautical roots tend to make it a bit stuffy, especially when tricked out with brass buttons and pocket emblems. Consider on top of that the rough-hewn worsteds that they are typically cut from and you have a garment that says: "Back off."

Sport a jacket in cashmere, however, and you have an instant sartorial upgrade. First, its range of colors, while subtle, is huge compared to the uniformity of the navy blazer. Choose from richer blues, a spectrum of warm browns and black (as in the Brioni jacket pictured) and you'll still look classic without having to seem regimented.

Cashmere's anomaly is that it is so elegant and yet so utile. Because of the fineness of the thread, even lightweight weaves can be very warming and yet breathe well in hotter climates. Of course, one classic cashmere jacket has the brushed facing that looks like a camel hair in dark color. With all the warmth that that garment affords, it can double as outerwear in a range of weather.

The weave is also resistant to wrinkles, which comes in handy on the road. The best cashmeres, as they are lighter and more comfortable, are the worsted type, as opposed to woolen. The former is, alas, more expensive, but softer and won't pill as easily.

This isn't a replacement for your blue blazer, so resist the temptation to stick with standard navy and opt for horn buttons instead of brass (unless you actually belong to a yacht club or have a family coat of arms you want to show off). On second thought, just avoid the latter pitfall altogether.

The eye quickly recognizes the subtle weaves that are possible with this regal fabric, but it is the hand that will luxuriate in it. Custom tailor Alan Katzman, who makes clothing for the New York Jets, says that they appreciate more than the way the cloth feels, but the way it is felt by the ladies.

Visit www.brioni.com or call Alan Couture at 212-583-1181.

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