Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Men Dedicated: Breaking Down the Art of Dressing Up: The Brooks Brothers blazer

A summer staple of mine since I was a wee little Southern tot, except for my Don Johnson moment in the mid-’80s, the Brooks Brothers blazer is a classic essential.
It doesn’t wrinkle, it dresses up the laziest shorts and polo attire after a day on the boat, and those damn handsome gold buttons can be spotted a long lawn away when you have passed out in the bushes from too many martinis.
Kelly Stuart, who runs the Brooks Brothers brand-education program, gave  a little background on the iconic item.
When did the blazer first appear?
The origins of the blazer (or more specifically, the term itself) are a bit murky just at their start. The popular story stars the HMS Blazer, a ship in the Royal Navy back before the standardization of uniforms, and her crew. Around 1837, the commander of the ship learned of an imminent visit by Queen Victoria. In want of proper dress, he commissioned double-breasted solid-blue serge (or perhaps blue-striped; accounts vary) jackets for his enlisted crew.
The second story, perhaps better borne out etymologically, concerns the Lady Margaret Boating Club at Cambridge University. Its color is scarlet, and at its founding in 1825, the club wore a single-breasted jacket in the “blazing” red. Other boating clubs soon adopted similarly bright jackets, and the name was applied to those as well. In the 1880s, the item and the term gained popular currency, becoming standard wear in the English independent schools, though in the fashion of the time colors became a bit more muted, eventually settling on navy blue.

Is there significance to the gold buttons?
The traditional gold buttons display a crest (originally naval, later that of a school, club, or other organization). Though the original Lady Margaret blazers did not have such buttons, by the 1930s most blazers did sport gold buttons as naval and civilian traditions of the blazer became in effect one and the same.
How did it become the ne plus ultra blazer for the prep set?
The blazer’s lasting popularity with the prep crowd is little wonder. Since its invention, the jacket has been associated with both boating and elite universities, longtime mainstays of the prep lifestyle. Perhaps most helpful in this regard was the adoption of blazers as uniforms in many English independent schools (also called private schools in the U.S., and public schools in the U.K.).
Have you seen an uptick in sales with the prepfest we are currently experiencing?
Though blazers have long been associated with Brooks Brothers’ men’s collection, lately many women are literally “borrowing from the boys,” and celebrities such as Katie Holmes, Reese Witherspoon, and Michelle Williams have recently been spotted wearing shrunken navy blazers from the Brooks Brothers boys’ department.
Have there been any alterations on the blazer for a  more modern fit?
Brooks Brothers offers navy blazers in three fits: The Madison is a traditional cut, whereas the Regent (available to order in the Suiting Essentials collection) and the Fitzgerald, which is available off the rack, offer a slimmer fit.
How should a gentleman clean his blazer?
As a general rule, a blazer should be cleaned no more than once a season unless there is a spot on the jacket. In the meantime, a gentleman can keep his blazer in top form by gently brushing it with a fabric brush and hanging it for at least 24 hours before wearing it again. For longer storage, dry-cleaning is a must to avoid moths (they do, after all, not eat wool, but instead what is trapped therein). The plastic wrapping should be removed and replaced with a garment bag.


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