DRESS UP AND STAY IN: RETURN OF THE SMOKING JACKET
In the nineteenth century, the smoking jacket was worn over a man’s evening clothes so that when he relaxed with a cigar his dinner jacket would be saved from the powerful smell left by the then popular Turkish tobacco.
They’re traditionally made from softer materials such as velvet and silk so they are more comfortable than a dinner jacket - essentially Victorian loungewear. By the Thirties, the golden age of menswear, exceptional examples were worn by men like Fred Astaire, who had a burgundy smoking jacket, and the Duke of Windsor, who had a wonderful one in bottle green corduroy.
This history is familiar to Dean Gomilsek-Cole, Turnbull & Asser’s head of design, who has recently given the subject much thought while designing jackets for the brand’s spring/summer collection. He says of the smoking jacket, ‘It was historically a garment worn in the comfort of your own home.’ It’s an idea that chimes with the contemporary concept of loungewear, but exists at an infinitely higher level of taste. ‘Many people I know have an at-home wardrobe that they change into after a hard day at work,’ explains Gomilsek-Cole. ‘I look at the smoking jacket as a more luxurious option.’ He also notes that, ‘There is a new generation of cigar aficionados. The smoking jacket is very much part of the whole experience.’
The purpose of smoking jackets may be unchanged, but the look has altered radically. Ten years ago the garment might have called to mind Sir John Gielgud playing Edward Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, looking rather old-fashioned at the dinner table. These days the silhouette is slimmer and more flattering, and the details are simpler. As for what to wear with them, Gomilsek-Cole suggests, ‘A midnight blue velvet jacket with black satin lapels worn with a white Marcella-front shirt and a blue-on-blue, silk-jacquard bow tie.’
The other question is about when a man should wear one, beyond the confines of a cigar terrace, or his own living room? ‘The smoking jacket and dinner jacket can now be interchangeable, unless formal etiquette is being followed. Basically it’s a jacket for anyone that doesn’t want to conform to traditional dress codes.’ When it came to designing the new Turnbull & Asser jackets, Gomilsek-Cole says that he, ‘mixed tradition with a twist of Turnbull peacock.’ The designer explains that the results combine classic silhouettes with quilted shawl collars, large patch pockets and belted waists, but in fabrics that ‘embrace English eccentricity’. These include, he reveals, ‘An intricate nautical semaphore-flag pattern, and a complex micro-patchwork pattern.’ The smoking jacket has come a long way from the days of the Victorian housecoat.