Renaissance of the Smoking Jacket
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Taking its style cue from the Oriental dressing gowns of the early seventeenth-century, the Smoking Jacket or robe de chambres’ original prototype was made of silk, a material acknowledged for its ability to absorb the odours associated with cigarette and pipe smoke. After dinner, a gentleman would typically don a smoking jacket and retire to a den or smoking room with the jacket doubling as a protective layer from falling ash.
One of the earliest mentions of the garment can be traced back to the private diary of fabled naval administrator and MP Samuel Pepys. In an extract dated 30 March 1666, Pepys notes “Thence home and eat one mouthful, and so to Hale’s and there sat until almost quite dark upon working my gown, which I hired to be drawn (in) it—an Indian gown, and I do see all the reason to expect a most excellent picture of it.” It was highly fashionable at the time to be photographed or painted wearing one, and although Pepys could not afford his own, it didn’t stop him renting one.
The Smoking jacket has transcended the often-tricky divide from an item of clothing that was routinely worn in the comfort of one’s Estate, sat in an armchair clutching a vintage port by the fire, to becoming an accepted style statement for black tie dress code. While some Smoking Jackets are still manufactured from silk, there’s a notable trend towards them being fashioned from velvet – a stroll down London’s esteemed Savile Row this Christmas will testify to this – virtually every festive-themed window display features the velveteen gem as its centrepiece. Chelsea-based gentleman’s outfitter Oliver Brown’s magnificent example in midnight blue, featured above, is another fine exemplification.
This canvassed constructed jacket features hand-crafted frogging (historically referred to as Brandenbourg detailing) on the buttons and cuffs, with a cord-edged quilted shawl collar, finished with velvet-covered buttons. Paired with either charcoal wool flannels or traditional tuxedo trousers with a ribbon edge, a dashing silhouette can be achieved. To dress down the look ever so slightly, while still looking on point, try transposing the white dress shirt for a pale blue spread collar version with a navy silk knitted tie replacing the traditional hand tied bow. The jacket featured is a 38’ regular, but is also available in a longer fitting if you so desire.
Oliver Brown’s flagship store on Chelsea’s Lower Sloane Street doubled in size earlier this year, introducing a dedicated bespoke and formalwear department. The new space allows third generation master tailor Juan Carlos to take centre stage, cutting and crafting each bespoke garment in full view of the store as well as from the tree-lined street outside. In fact it is the only tailoring house in London to showcase bespoke tailoring in this way.
Of the great and the good to have embraced the time-honoured jacket, arguably only Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire (who was laid to rest wearing a smoking jacket) have truly owned the look.
Double-Breasted Smoking Jacket, with Frogging, from £495, oliverbrown.org.uk