The smoking jacket is an old relic. A garment long past its prime. Something we rarely see out in the wild. While that last part is true, the first two statements are not. Smoking jackets are simply dormant, lying in wait until their time emerges yet again.
Smoking jackets are still a classy way to stand out and be in style. Especially now, since they are so rare. But they are coming back a little as a replacement option for a dinner coat or tuxedo top. We’re here to guide you in smoking jacket savvy.
History of the Smoking Jacket
The smoking jacket or robe became a popular evening garment way back in the 17th century in Europe. This is when tobacco really became a part of a man’s daily life. And a smoking jacket was developed to help protect his nice clothing when smoking. It started out as a robe-like garment worn strictly in the evening in your own home. It was not something to wear in public. Smoking jackets were something designed almost exclusively for function, not form.
But as time went on and they became more popular, new styles began to emerge and people outside a man’s own family started seeing their smoking jackets. They started becoming a style piece and something to talk or brag about. They started to be made of velvet as well as this became the absolute best way to protect your clothing from the odors of smoking cigars.
Then in the 1940s, the Rat Pack really took smoking jackets to the public. Frank Sinatra and company made smoking jackets as formalwear a mainstream style statement. Almost all men had one for home wear at this point and now they started to be designed to replace jackets at dinner parties or black-tie events. Hugh Hefner then coopted the look in the 1960s and forever associated the smoking jacket with indulgence and irresponsibility.
This is a shame, as a smoking jacket done correctly is still a sign of elegance and style. Today, the image of smoking jackets is also unavoidably related to the revelations that smoking isn’t good for you. So, naturally, smoking jackets took a hit. But in today’s modern, diverse, and more casual fashion world, smoking jackets aren’t exclusively related to smoking culture anymore. They can just be a different style of jacket a man chooses to wear to be different than the sheep.
Current State and Styles
Today, smoking jackets exist in pretty much two distinct camps. Ones you wear inside the privacy of your home or when hosting a less casual dinner party. And ones you wear out on the town or to a cocktail party or a as a jacket at a black-tie event.
The first, traditional style looks more like a robe. But smoking jackets are always mid-thigh length, no longer, no shorter.
- They are almost always made of velvet, but sometimes silk.
- They have a quilted satin shawl collar and turn-up cuffs.
- They have three pockets with one usually being reserved for cigars.
- They have a sash or a tie belt. These are intended to always be fastened or the sash always to be tied around the waist.
- Finally, this style of smoking jacket is always cut roomier and looser than typical dinner jackets as they are meant to present a vision of comfort in your own home.
The newer and more formal style of smoking jacket is intended to be worn out in public, for a night on the town or to stand out at a dinner party. These jackets may be cut slightly shorter than the more traditional smoking jacket, though they remain longer than typical jackets today.
- They are still almost always made of velvet and sometimes silk.
- The collar is generally not quilted or a different color than the jacket, and cuffs are normal cuffs.
- They do not necessarily need three pockets, though often have them.
- The sash or tie belt go away here, with frogging or buttons or toggles replacing them.
- These jackets are still usually cut a bit roomier than normal jackets, but if you are using one for formal events, a more fit cut is generally appropriate.
Colors for both types of smoking jackets exist typically in the same range. Navy blue, burgundy, olive or dark green, and black are the traditional colors and still the safest bet. You will still stand out and make a statement if you are wearing a burgundy, velvet jacket rather than a normal one. There is no need to get bolder with the colors though they can be available.
When and How to Wear Smoking Jackets
As stated before, there are basically two types of smoking jackets now and thus two different reasons or arenas to wear them in. The traditional style of smoking jacket is absolutely intended to remain in your home. If it is more casual then maybe use it as robe or for its original purpose, to protect your clothes from smoking odors. If it is more formal, you can use it to host a dinner party and boldly state that this is your home, you wear what you desire!
If your smoking jacket is more modern, with tighter cuts and less adornments, please give one a chance out in public in lieu of your typical jacket at a black-tie event or for a night out at some classy bars. You will instantly be noticed and appreciated as a modern, confident, timeless man. Smoking jackets are so different than other jackets it is impossible not to make a statement.
With all this being said, smoking jackets have always been associated with class and elegance, apart from the Playboy image which is running on fumes anyway. It is vital to wear a nice smoking jacket when you do, not some cheap imitation used for costumes and gimmicks.
You will want your jacket to fit properly as always, and stick to traditional colors as those are bold enough. Also remember that you will be getting attention for the jacket, so try to represent the image with class and respect. Be aware of the smoking jacket’s history and timelessness, and rock it with pride.
While smoking jackets are not mainstream today, they are still considered unique and fashionable and classy if worn correctly and with the proper attitude. So whether you are relaxing in one at your home with a cigar and a whiskey, or if you are demonstrating class and history out in public all at once, always remember to respect and appreciate the smoking jacket, and it will not let you down.