Sartorial quiz: If a man has but one jacket to pack for a summer weekend, what is it? The answer—the standard blue blazer with its casual, but regimented look—while kind of obvious, shouldn’t be taken to mean that there isn’t any room to spiff up a part of your wardrobe that you might have dismissed as basic.
Don’t worry. We’re not suggesting a color change. Blue may not define a blazer, but it is a fairly safe bet. By the original definition, the jacket can come in any color or stripe. In fact, all the blazing, multicolored coats with awning stripes and fat piping that the Brits trot out at the Henley Regatta every year are how the blazer supposedly got its name. (A competing theory is associated to the uniform of a British warship named HMS Blazer.) Nevertheless, the garment, as we know it stateside, is decidedly tame in color and pattern. And that’s the point. Dandies can wear their Henley jackets once a year to watch a rarified sport. You can wear your blue blazer almost anytime and anywhere. With the exception of formal events and biker bars it is a welcome uniform almost everywhere, including ball games, golf outings, dinner parties and keggers. And it pairs with everything from a necktie and handkerchief to a tee shirt.
But if you’re limping along with the same poplin blend jacket with brass buttons that you’ve worn for years, it’s time for an upgrade. Jack Simpson, the always-debonair purveyor of his self-titled, custom-couture line, suggests starting with the fabric. No reason to sport a rough-hewn cloth she might cut her hand on while dancing with you, when you might have his jacket (pictured here) in a soft, luxuriantly draping Escorial wool fabric. For that matter, the coat from a casual mohair suit with patch pockets can be called into service. Next, swap those brass fasteners with horn or pearl buttons. (After all, clunky brass ones were first meant to keep sailors from wiping their noses with their sleeves.) Then rethink the pocket emblem—unless you actually belong to a yacht club.
From there, consider the very elements that make Simpson’s styles look so sharp—and the basic blue blazer seem so, well, basic: fit and cut. Boating jackets may traditionally have been fitted loose—but so what? A boxy cut with notched collar puts you in a box. A long, sinuous shape with peaked lapels (which are typical to a double-breasted coat) confers the two things most men want: height and slimness. Talk about looking shipshape.