You might think of the smoking jacket as an old-fashioned and outdated garment. You may even wonder what the point is of a smoking jacket in the 21st century.
Although the smoking jacket is rich in history and tradition, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a place in the modern gentleman’s wardrobe.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- What a smoking jacket is
- The history, features and styles of the jacket
- What a smoking jacket is used for in the 21st century
- What’s the difference between a tuxedo and a smoking jacket
What is a smoking jacket?
A smoking jacket is a men’s lounge jacket initially intended for tobacco smoking. The traditional jacket has a shawl collar and turn-up cuffs and is closed with a toggle, button fastenings, or tie belt. They’re typically made from velvet or silk.
What’s the history of the smoking jacket?
Originating in the 1850s, the smoking jacket was first defined by the Gentleman’s Magazine of London as “a kind of short robe de chambre, of velvet, cashmere, plush, merino or printed flannel, lined with bright colours, ornamented with brandenbourgs [frogs], olives or large buttons.”
As Turkish tobacco grew in popularity, it became popular for men to retreat after a meal to enjoy a pipe or cigar alongside some brandy. The classic jacket evolved to keep ash off their suit jackets so the men wouldn’t smell like smoke when rejoining the women. Men would remove their formal tailcoats before heading to the smoking room, wear a smoking jacket to enjoy their tobacco, and change again before returning to the table. At this time, it was also common for men to don a smoking cap to protect their hair from smoke.
Smoking jackets grew in popularity due to Edward VII (Prince of Wales at the time). In 1865, he commissioned a famous Savile Row tailors to fashion him a blue silk dinner jacket to wear to meals. This marked the beginning of these jackets becoming acceptable as a semi-formal article of clothing.
Over the late 1800s and early 1900, plainer and simpler smoking jackets were seen more and more frequently. In the 1940s, they received another popularity boost thanks to Cary Grant, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. Later Hugh Hefner adopted his trademark silk smoking jacket look.
Although not as common as suit or dinner jackets, the modern smoking jacket has become a stylish and luxurious alternative to more common jacket styles.
What are the features of a smoking jacket?
- Frogging: This is the ornamental braiding or stitching surrounding some jackets’ buttons or fastening mechanisms. Frogging is one of these jackets’ most unique features.
- Sash: On more robe-like or traditional jackets, you might find a belt (or sash) designed to be fastened around the waist while the jacket is worn.
- Lapels: Most jackets have a quilted shawl collar to reflect their cosy origins, but peaked lapels are also sometimes seen.
- Fit: Although they were traditionally much roomier than a dinner jacket, modern jackets have slimmed down to fit modern tastes.
Styles of smoking jacket
There are two main styles of smoking jackets: the more traditional robe-like version and the modern smoking jacket.
Traditional smoking jacket
The robe de chambre-style smoking jacket is reminiscent of the classic smoking jacket. It’s typically a three-quarter-length robe with a belt or sash closure, much like a dressing gown or bathroom robe. This style of smoking jacket should be worn for its original purpose or for relaxing around the home.
Modern smoking jacket
The modern style of smoking jackets evolved to be more wearable outside the home and reflect more contemporary tastes. Usually with a slimmer and shorter fit and featuring buttons rather than a sash, the modern smoking jacket is reminiscent of the tuxedo jacket.
What is a smoking jacket used for in the 21st century?
You might wonder, ‘what is the purpose of a smoking jacket nowadays?”
Although the concept of a separate jacket to wear while smoking has all but disappeared, modern smoking jackets are often worn as casual dinner jackets for semi-formal dinner parties or less formal ‘black tie’ or optional ‘black-tie’ events. They should be accompanied by dinner trousers, a dress shirt, a black bow tie and patent shoes.
If you own a more traditional, robe-style smoking jacket, this should only be worn in your own home.
What’s the difference between a tuxedo and a smoking jacket?
Although they both come under the ‘black tie’ dress code, smoking jackets are not the same as tuxedos (also called dinner jackets in the UK). A smoking jacket is a single item of clothing (the jacket), while a tuxedo usually refers to a matching jacket and trousers.
Traditionally worn inside the home while smoking tobacco in the 19th century (although now acceptable at less formal black tie events), smoking jackets are more informal than dinner jackets. The jacket is typically crafted from luxurious materials such as velvet or silk, featuring a relaxed fit, a shawl collar, and decorative braiding.
In contrast, the dinner jacket is a formal evening attire worn for black-tie and formal occasions. It’s usually black, navy blue, or white, with characteristic satin lapels and satin-covered buttons, and made from a fine wool and wool blend.
How Phillip Alexander can help
If you’re searching for a bespoke, tailored smoking jacket crafted by expert tailors, we can assist you.
Philip Alexander Bespoke Tailors are experts at dressing gentlemen. First established in 1876, we’ve been tailoring beautiful suits, jackets and shirts for over a century. With locations in Saville Row in London and Cheshire, we offer the very best in bespoke tailoring. Whether you want a smoking jacket, a tuxedo or a three-piece suit, our team of master tailors can design and create a stunning and unique garment that fits you perfectly.
Our bespoke tailoring service is an unparalleled experience that every man should experience once in his life. Our master tailor handcrafts all our bespoke suits to ensure exceptional quality and a unique suit that perfectly reflects your taste and style.
We also specialise in bespoke tailored wedding suits if you would like to stand out on your special day.
If you don’t have the time or budget for a fully bespoke suit, our made to measure suits are the perfect solution. Made using a mixture of handcraft and machine work, you’re guaranteed a high-quality, well-fitting suit in under two months.
Our made to measure wedding suits are ideal if you need a suit quickly for an upcoming wedding, whether you’re a groom or a guest.
We also offer luxury tailored suit hire if you’re not ready to invest in a tailored suit of your own. All our hire suits involve several fittings to ensure they fit impeccably at your event.
If you want to know more about our range of services or get some advice about whether a smoking jacket is right for an upcoming event, contact us today to request an appointment.