One of the more difficult aspects of dressing well is learning to balance timeless style with current trends. You have to incorporate both in order for your clothing to be as effective as you want it to be. For the most part, other men will respond favorably to your timelessness while women will take note of your currency.
The beauty of men’s clothing is that – even when it’s on trend – it still draws from classic elements and stylish cues of decades past. For example, let’s look at the one article of clothing that will be the biggest, most-current trend this summer – the double-breasted jacket.
The first thing you need to know about the modern DB is how different it is from what was popular in the 80’s and 90’s. Unlike single-breasted jackets, you can’t just pick up a DB from the thrift store and have it tailored to have a current look and fit; there are just too many differences.
Compare the two images above.
The most obvious is that the jacket length overall is much shorter. This is even more true if you are purchasing the jacket by itself as a sport coat and want to ensure it doesn’t look like you left the second half of your suit at home. On top of that, an obvious improvement is the trimness of the fit. Everything including the torso proportions, arm holes, and sleeve circumferences are all slimmer throughout the the jacket to better show off the natural shape of the man wearing it.
From there we can move onto the finer details. The button stance on the lower jacket is much higher and of a different configuration. While there are the same amount of buttons, the lower four function in the updated version (he still leaves the last one undone) whereas only the bottom two work in the upper jacket. Raising the stance makes the legs appear longer and helps the chest appear broader.
The lapels are still wide and peaked but notice how much higher the gorge (where the collar meets the lapel and forms the peak) is on the chest in the second picture. This helps elongate the chest (to balance out the higher button stance) and visually broaden the shoulders.
By default a double-breasted suit is both more traditional and more formal. As a way to balance that its inherent formality and make it more wearable as a sport coat, there are a number of different details to dress it down.
The first is to start with a more casual, light-weight material. Things like tropical-weight wools, linen, cotton and any mixes of those three are all going to breathe much better and wear more casually. They are also more appropriate materials for spring and summer.
Next, a properly casual DB jacket has no structure or lining whatsoever. This means no shoulder padding, no canvassed construction, and no interior linings at all. Essentially you want this to be as formless and minimal as a shirt. Not only does it make it appear more casual, this lack of structure also allows the garment to breath, making it even easier to wear in the warm months approaching.
Add patch pockets on the breast and hip. These were used in sporting coats to allow more space, easier access, and more garment durability when men carried things like shotgun shells in their pockets. You may not put anything in them now, but their shape and appearance are more casual and sporting than formal.
Embrace louder colors and bolder patterns. There is nothing subtle about a DB jacket – especially now when they are just starting to make a comeback. While they may be popular and ubiquitous five years from now, wearing one today makes a statement. So embrace that statement by choosing an attention-getting color or pattern. The social risk will pay off.
Smaller details like lightly-colored buttons (more casual), elbow patches (more sporting), and contrast threads in buttonholes (more garish) all help modernize a DB and keep it looking current.
By buying or building a jacket with all the details above you’ll be able to throw it on with a pair of jeans, dress trousers, or your favorite chinos. It becomes the ultimate High/Low jacket with enough go-to-hell attitude to push you out of your comfort zone and make you stand out. So do your homework, shop around, and get on the ball before every other man in your social circle, in the club, or at the park is wearing one of these.
PS. For updates and insights follow me on Twitter.