The smoking jacket: Origins and How To Wear It


After delving into the differences between Polo Coat & Ulster Coat today we would like to address another key element of the gentleman’s wardrobe: the smoking jacket. It has long been a traditional coat reserved for evening wear in the comforts of your home, but over the years, it has had a metamorphosis and became an ally for a formal dinner in an exclusive venue. 

Its inspiration comes from far away…

The earliest inspiration for the classic smoking jacket popped up around the early 17th-century. As fine silks began coming into Europe from India, China, and the Americas, it became increasingly popular for wealthy people to be depicted in paintings wearing a silk robe de chambre or banyan. In fact, to avoid letting the smell of tobacco remain on the clothes that were worn at home, men began to wear them over their clothing when partaking in a smoke at home.

In the 1850 the Gentleman’s Magazine of London gave a first description, saying it was “a kind of short robe de chambre, of velvet, cashmere, plush, merino or printed flannel, lined with bright colours, ornamented with brandenbourgs and large buttons.” 

robe-de-chambre

The Crimean War popularised Turkish tobacco in England. Men began to retreat after a meal to enjoy a pipe or cigar with some brandy. The men’s smoking jacket had evolved from the longer robes of the 1600s into a mid-thigh length jacket. Men would remove their formal tailcoat before going into the smoking room, put on their smoking jacket, and change once more before heading back to the table.

But who made the smoking jacket famous?

Edward VII, Prince of Wales in 1865, commissioned Henry Poole & Co. to craft him a jacket that he would often wear at meals. In contrast to the traditional offerings, Poole’s suit was the very first tailless evening jacket: he tailored a blue silk smoking jacket with matching pants for the Prince.

In the 1885, the coffee-tycoon James Brown Potter, saw the Prince of Wales wearing his smoking jacket on a visit to the UK. Potter, who lived in the wealthy Hudson Valley enclave Tuxedo Park, New York, brought the outfit back home and he wore it to the Tuxedo Club Autumn Ball in 1886. This is how the smoking jacket became the tuxedo. Around the same time, a group of guys cut the tails off their coat jackets and started wearing the shortened style to formal events. When a group of men were admitted to the Dress Circle in the Metropolitan Opera in tuxedos, the signs became clear: the once casual tuxedo was now fit for formal events.

smoking-tuxedo

The smoking jacket: from home to cinema

The smoking jacket was now synonymous with comfort and elegance and was one of the first items ever to be viewed as both. As the years passed and the 1950s paved the way to more casual attire in what was previously a formal atmosphere, the smoking jacket became a staple out of the house as well as within. Gentlemen of style such as Dean Martin, Cary Grant, and Fred Astaire all wore smoking jackets publicly as well as in private. Hugh Hefner smoking jacket instantly became known when the first issue of Playboy hit shelves in December of 1953. Soon libidinous men flocked to his mansion for parties where he entertained in his collection of silk pajamas and smoking jackets. Playboy Bunnies flanked him and men across America wanted to emulate him.

hugh-hefner-smoking-jacket

But today, what is a smoking jacket?

Over the course of the last century, new styles have begun to emerge paving the way for the smoking jacket to leave the house and became a dinner jacket.

The smoking jacket will usually follow the same fundamentals using velvet as the fabric. Unlike the home version, there is no belt but covered buttons. Often the exterior pockets will be removed and the jacket will be cut similar to that of a suit jacket or blazer. It will be more rigid, and the soft shawl collar may be replaced with a notch, shawl or peak lapel that’s more similar to that of a suit.

fabio-attanasio-velvet-smoking-jacketFabio Attanasio wears a Green Smoking Jacket by Eduardo De Simone

 
There are some traditional and common colors for classic smoking jackets:

  • Navy Blue
  • Burgundy
  • Dark Green
  • Black

How to wear a smoking jacket?

How you choose to wear it is completely up to you. Connoisseurs know full well that: 

  • smoking jackets should not have side vents 
  • trousers should not be cuffed
  • Bow-ties should be paired with lapel facings of the jacket, also fabric-wise
And please, do not ever dare to have them made with patch pockets.