2019 Tailoring

Bold as Brass: The Blazer for Every Occasion

By Leanne Cloudsdale

Jul 13, 2022

Bold as Brass: The Blazer for Every Occasion

From Capstan-smoking mariners to Lady Di herself, the double-breasted, gold-buttoned blazer has always had a devout following, and you can add us to the long list of devotees.

The mere mention of a Smart Casual dress code can drain the colour from most men's cheeks in seconds. It triggers a wave of primordial panic deep in the brain, quickly overriding any sense of rationality and shutting down the most powerful, instinctive 'fight or flight' response. The Americans don't fret – they just reach for the chinos, polish some loafers and hail a cab. Confusion reigns over here in the U.K. though, with plenty thinking that as long as you've ironed your trousers, had a quick whizz on the lint roller and checked there's no gravy down your polo shirt, you're good to go. It's a bad habit us Brits need to break out of, so perhaps it's time we admitted there's a problem and that way, we're already on the road to recovery. 

My late grandad never faltered when it came to dressing for the occasion. Ex-Merchant Seaman Christopher Cloudsdale spent a lifetime navigating the sartorial minefield between formal and relaxed with total success. His go-to choice for family BBQs, birthday parties or a game of dominos down the community centre was his navy blue, brass buttoned blazer (which he loved so much, we bloody buried him in it!). I'm pretty sure he'd have worn it over his pyjamas, gardening scruffs or swimming trunks if my long-suffering grandma had let him. Its enduring popularity is probably due to the position it holds on the formality barometer – sauntering below the stuffy suit jacket but holding a dominant, steady stance above the zip-up blouson. It's a strong, mid-weight wardrobe contender. 

Rumours of how it was invented seem to centre around Queen Victoria's visit to inspect the Royal Navy vessel H.M.S. Blazer in 1837. News of her majesty's arrival sparked a full-scale smartness crisis with the ship's Commander, who knew he'd have to get his crew of salty sea dogs looking snazzy pretty sharpish. As you'd expect, he chucked a load of money at the problem and issued each sailor with a tailor-made, navy blue, double breasted jacket with brass buttons. It's worth noting that prior to this, commanders established their own guidelines about what should be worn above and below deck – there was no such thing as standard issue uniforms. Anyway, the young monarch was suitably impressed, and it wasn't long before the 'blazer' was rolled out to Capstan-smoking mariners across all ranks of the Royal Navy. 

Once news trickled down to the civilians, enthusiasm for this nautical style had the scissors of Savile Row snipping cloth 24/7 – those angled lapels and eye-catching buttons had fellas up and down the country wanting a piece of this sovereign-approved action. By the 1920s, the DB blazer had travelled over to the USA and was adopted by chisel cheeked, anglophile Ivy Leaguers, gagging for something authentic from Blighty. 

With a look so bold, you can understand why it's natural for some to shy away from it, which is such a shame. All it takes to look timeless and contemporary, as opposed to 'dressing up' is to think carefully about how you wear it. Prince Charles is a big advocate, and after doing some serious Googling, I found pics of him wearing the same blazer in 1978 and 2018. If he's not your man, think instead of his iconic ex, Lady Di, who (in my humble opinion) wore it better than anyone - she rocked hers effortlessly, with a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, baseball cap and a soft-top Audi Quattro. 

Drake's have refreshed this masculine, signature classic for AW19 in a navy blue, mid-weight hopsack wool. Things have been softened around the shoulders for a more natural, modern silhouette, which makes for easy wearing. Made in Italy with patch pockets and a half-canvas construction, it's finished off with working cuffs and brass buttons engraved with the Drake's emblem, made by Firmin House who've been supplying the royals with theirs since Charles II (that's 1649 – 1685 for anyone who likes to geek out on this stuff). Team it with well-cut slacks and a box-fresh tee, without the fear of looking like Alan Partridge – just make sure you leave the driving gloves at home. 

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