I love my blazers and sportcoats. But I will admit that in 2017 it can be hard to wear a blazer or sportcoat without people asking you if you are going to an interview or “why are you so dressed up?”. In our current dressed-down society, anything beyond the boring button-up shirt plus chinos will get a second look from other people. I mean, you can just say to hell with it and wear what you want and I do wear blazers and sportcoats regularly to work, but there are other options as well that are not quite as formal but also not as boring as just a shirt and pants. I personally don’t like to wear certain kinds of outerwear indoors – long jackets/coats and anything puffy are usually out for me. These are usually just too long/unwieldy/hot indoors and belong on the coat rack. They are called outerwear for a reason.
These are my usual go-to if I need something other than a jacket. It’s more interesting in a heavier knit or with a bit of pattern like a cable knit. Merinos are usually too light and can be a bit boring – I like it chunky. I also like shawl collars for their shape – the collar rolls a bit like the lapels of a blazer and just looks better than a regular cardigan. I buy these a little oversized so they are a bit slouchy and relaxed looking. Plus if the weather gets cooler I can wear a thicker shirt, overshirt, or jumper/sweater underneath the cardigan. And pockets, I like pockets ’cause you need somewhere to put your hands/phone/pens/sandwich. A nice alternative to the shawl cardigan is the shirt collar cardigan – I’ve been digging some of the models from Inverallan. Chunky numbers also can come in cotton/linen/blends if wool is too hot (my building’s heating is ridiculously cranked up in winter…no wonder we have global warming). I’ve got a nice indigo cotton/wool blend cardi from RRL and it is great for our temps in Sydney.
But summer is just around the corner, why the hell am I talking about knitwear?? Yeah sorry. When the mercury goes up, chore jackets and work jackets are a nice light option. French chore jackets were all the rage a few years ago thanks to the love of all things workwear and heritage but they are still a good option now. If it’s made out of a lighter weave in 100% cotton or cotton/linen blend or 100% linen they will be nice and breathable in warmer weather (they also come in wool, corduroy, and moleskin for the cool months). The shirt collar styles are easier to wear but chore jackets also come in blazer collar styles. These look slightly more dressed up but are still pretty casual looking because of the patch pockets, lack of lining, natural shoulders, and slouchy fit. And because these are work jackets, they usually have 3 or 4 pockets! You can carry a sandwich, a drink, and some pens! I’ve seen many nice options from Vetra, Arpenteur, and of course there’s no shortage of vintage french chore jackets on eBay. There’s also awesome denim chore jackets from the likes of Engineered Garments, Orslow, Blackhorse Lane Arteliers (they make an awesome natural indigo version), and Blue Blue Japan (they have a beautiful patchwork boro and a less out there sashiko version). For inspiration, check out Ethan’s blog and Gerry’s instagram.
Or shackets or jirts… no I made that last one up. Stupid names but good alternative to the chore jacket. These can have a more workwear/camping vibe ala flannel overshirt, which is a bit like a chore jacket but with less pockets (sometimes). I have a Uniqlo U overshirt which is pictured above (Uniqlo U is designed in collab with Christopher Lemaire who is known for oversized, relaxed fits) and it is very useful for layering or just a bit more warmth on mildly nippy days. Shackets can also have a military vibe – for example OG107 shirt jackets used in the US army, recognised by their olive colour (thats what the OG stands for…yes I know, I thought it was original gangsta too) and double pockets with buttoned flaps. I love all things olive so naturally I have one of these too. Overshirts can be worn over other button-up shirts or over t-shirts/henleys or by themselves. You can tell they are not supposed to be tucked in because they have a flat hem (as opposed to curved hems at the front and back like on shirts you are meant to tuck in), and they usually have other details like larger buttons.
Speaking of military overshirts, other military jackets can work as well though they toe the line because these are technically outerwear. Long parkas like the M-59 are out, and the M-65 could work depending on the setting (I usually still feel weird wearing my M-65 at work). The M-43 or M-41 could work because they have a slightly dressier shirt collar. Drake’s also makes a wonderful “D-43” which is their version of a M-43 in a waxed cotton version or a linen version. Military-inspired jackets like my EG Bedford in olive ripstop also toe the line between blazer, chore jacket, and military jacket.
Yeah ok I started off saying non-blazer jacket but blazers can vary in formality (the EG Bedford mentioned above as case in point). Unstructured, unlined, and minimally structured jackets with no shoulder padding look more casual. More casual-looking textured fabrics (rather than smooth worsted wool) and features like patch pockets, elbow patches, and throat latches also add to the casualness and can make these jackets easier to wear. Brands such as Engineered Garments, Barena, and RRL are really good at this. Barena also makes a knit blazer which is halfway between a blazer and a cardigan. I have always loved corduroy but it looks like corduroy is coming back in a big way this season. There are fantastic corduroy offerings from Drake’s new Easyday line, Barena, RRL, and Engineered Garments. We are well into Spring in Oz but a corduroy jacket is definitely in my sights for Autumn.