There’s something alluring about a brown checked jacket. It’s got an inherent old-school charm that is equal parts interesting and subtle, standing out amongst the typical navy and grey sportcoats that make up the majority of the menswear space. As a bonus, it helps you transition between warmer and colder months, which we pray comes soon: I’m pretty much done with sweltering heat.
This topic reminds me of an old 2016 Styleforum Journal piece about the brown sportcoat. I’m paraphrasing a bit, but Jasper tells us that a brown jacket is basically the ultimate piece for an enthusiast– it’s more interesting a navy blazer (which anyone can wear) and is actually much more versatile, lending itself to be combined with navy or grey trousers and is more appropriate to be dressed down with jeans. I’m inclined to agree, as a brown jacket was my grail item for these reasons for quite a while. But let’s take this mentality even further.
Checks are always the “next step” for any menswear enthusiast. Plain weaves can get you through most occasions and while herringbones are a safe bet, nothing compares to a good plaid or houndstooth. You can find sportcoats that feature check patterns in navy and grey, but warmer shades look more charming: brown is a casual color (need I remind you of no brown in town?) and patterns like checks make a garment even less formal.
The pairing of brown and checks is natural also because checks inherently bring to mind tweeds and other vintage garments; for me, a hearty brown plaid or even a houndstooth with an overcheck screams Golden Era fashions from the 1930s-1940s. It was a time when tailoring was one of the only styles available to men, so patterns were one of the few ways guys could separate businesswear from “sportswear”. It wasn’t a “statement piece” back then, but rather an incredibly versatile workhorse. My love of brown checks is all about capturing that same easy-going, old school charm in the modern day.
As a guy who lives in Los Angeles (where the sun shines bright nearly year-round), I can’t really fathom choosing tweed for this purpose: I’ve even put a halt on buying vintage jackets simply because there’s such a small window to wear them.
I would recommend searching for jackets that are summer appropriate, because not only do they provide a grounded approach to warm weather tailoring (I’m not a fan of bold windowpanes, especially in light shades), but they’re a nice transitional garment between summer and fall. I personally don’t like having separate vibes for my clothing; consistency is great, even from season to season.
That said, if you live in a country that allows you to make the most of your tweed garments (looking at you, England), then by all means, buy them to your heart’s content.
The choice of cloth is how you ensure maximum versatility: open weave cloth is fantastic and practical, while also providing texture to evoke the feelings of a tweed (Holland & Sherry’s books Crispaire and Crystal Springs come to mind). I’d also suggest trying wool-silk-linen or blends thereof, as to me, the nap and drape is reminiscent of lightweight flannel. I would have no problem wearing any of these into colder seasons, as they are still appropriate to wear with slightly heavier trousers or our trusty chinos and jeans.
My latest purchases are in line with this essay, as they are summer-fall appropriate and provide a vintage charm. The first is a brown plaid linen from Spier & MacKay, done up in their Neapolitan cut. It’s a medium weight but has softened up and gained character since I’ve been wearing it a lot this entire season. Despite linen being a summer cloth, the color palette really categorizes it as a somber piece. It’s an interestingly serious choice for summer that is still appropriate as we get to shoulder season (until I absolutely have to pull out the Fox Brothers’ flannel variation). I’m sure regular passerbys won’t even notice it’s linen!
The other jacket I have is a wool-silk-linen from Ring Jacket. Instead of a plaid pattern, this one has a dark-and-cream houndstooth with a subtle blue windowpane on top. A lot of people assume I’m wearing tweed in summer, and I can’t blame them, as this jacket looks similar to a heavy vintage houndstooth I thrifted years ago. In fact, I gather the same quality from this RJ piece, as it’s fully appropriate for summer with tons of visual character. The drape and classic detailing keeps it perfect to dress up or down, like any good sportcoat.
I’ve been searching for a way to get the same character I get from my vintage tweeds into my summer clothing and I think I’ve finally found it. I actually feel complete after obtaining these brown checked jackets, so much so that my solid ones seldom get worn nowadays, and not just because of quarantine.
Overall, it feels like I’m perpetually in a fall-winter mood with my clothing, even though I’m not sweating as if I was actually wearing a tweed jacket in 90F weather. Based on what I’ve obtained lately, it seems a few of our favorite brands have the same mindset.
So try a brown checked jacket in a summer appropriate fabric. I guarantee that you’ll still be wearing it for months to come. Just don’t forget to layer as needed, at least until we’re ready to break out the brown checks in proper tweeds and flannels. I’m counting down the days!