A navy jacket is one of the most important pieces in menswear and a versatile crowd-pleaser. It is hard to imagine a wardrobe without it, as it is the stellar staple that pairs with most trousers and even jeans.
However, if you’re like me, you’ve probably gotten a bit tired of leaning on the basics, especially since most of us are dressing while social distancing or working from home. If I’m going to dress up, I’m going to make it fun!
I’m not advocating that you go crazy (in fact, I love Peter’s take on the casual navy suit) but if you’re in for a little fun, I encourage going back to the original version of the navy sportcoat: the navy blazer with brass buttons. I’m pretty sure most of you know the history of this garment; if you don’t, I suggest you check pretty much any menswear blog.
In brief summary, this jacket, like so many other pieces we love to wear today, has a military heritage. It later was co-opted by schools and clubs, with the use of brass (or pewter) buttons, as well as piping and stripes denoting a particular status.
The blazer eventually found its way to regular wear, still retaining the brass buttons for people to remember an old, elite aesthetic. Navy blazers with 3-roll-2 closure and patch pockets are still a favorite for ivy-trad dressers, worn traditionally with khakis, OCBDs, and repp ties; but we also shouldn’t forget the double-breasted version, which usually features 6×3 or 8×4 buttons.
Even though the navy blazer with brass buttons doesn’t have much use outside of ivy-trad, since a plain unassuming navy jacket will always be more versatile, I recently found a new appreciation for it. This plays into a bit of the vintage revival trend we’ve been seeing in menswear lately, no doubt spurred by the resurgence of military chinos and camp collar sport shirts. The traditional navy blazer, while a bit dressier than those pieces, still has a vintage, old school charm that can also add character to mainstream menswear outfits.
For inspiration, you can always look to Japanese-Americana interpretations which really show the versatility of such a garment. It certainly looks good traditionally, but I think it’s best done with a bit of irreverence to its WASP heritage. This is especially apparent when you look at how Rowing Blazers or even Drake’s (with their workwear-esque Games Jacket) style the navy blazer. Or just keep an eye on your Instagram explore page: the appreciation for the navy blazer is growing!
If the trad sack jacket doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry: the blazer’s brass button aesthetic is so iconic that simply adding those buttons to other types of jacket will achieve the same vibe. I’ve seen plenty of contemporary cut jackets, including soft-shouldered Italian style ones, that feature brass buttons. MOP buttons can exude a similar vibe, and they were also common on older sportcoats.
I’d even recommend trying to source vintage brass buttons (or even pewter) to add a special DIY touch to a custom jacket.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to commission my own take on the Navy Blazer, I’ve certainly been making great use of my vintage sack jacket, thrifted from a local Goodwill a few years ago. It’s made of light wool-blend and has all the other great 70s trad details a guy could want: half-lined, wide lapels, 3-roll-2 closure, and patch pockets (with flaps on the hips). When I first obtained it, I thought it was a bit gaudy- a $10 purchase that was fun to “fill” in my wardrobe. That attitude has since changed.
There’s just something fun about the navy blazer, allowing me to be trad or as irreverent as needed. It’s great for OCBDs and hoodies alike, bringing in more personality than a plain hopsack jacket, which I’ve since relegated for more dressed up looks (which admittedly, we don’t have a lot of in quarantine). For the days I head to the park or grab a boba, it’s easy to throw on and feel casual, even though it’s a tailored jacket.
My appreciation for the navy blazer with brass buttons came when I purchased a DB variation from Ring Jacket. With their trademarked Balloon fabric, it makes for a great navy odd jacket, just with the addition of gold buttons. The DB version plays into the elegant, club feel of the garment. I get pretty subversive with my DB blazer, wearing it with shorts and easy drawstring pants; don’t worry, it still looks damn good with a tie.
Despite how casual everything has become lately, with COVID-19 and WFH accelerating a trend that’s been on an uptick for years, I find myself wearing a navy blazer with brass buttons quite often. It just goes to show that classic menswear will always be about what is comfortable, tailored, and allows for a healthy dose of personality. As we move into a world where we’re free to wear what we want and to perhaps move beyond the original context of the garment, I’m glad that the navy blazer with brass buttons is coming along for the journey.
I might just have to wear it to my next board game meetup; that counts as a club, right?