In recent years, casual alternatives to the tailored jacket have become increasingly popular, and we’ve talked about a lot of them on PS.
However, it’s not always clear what’s meant by different terms and types, or what their differences in style and formality are.
So in this article I’ll briefly set out the different options, and talk about their styles and smartness, ahead of a few articles looking at ones in the market and those I own myself.
Unstructured sports jacket
This is a normal tailored jacket, but with all the padding taken out of it and probably all the canvas too. It’s often made out of jersey, washed cotton or something similarly casual. The Drake’s Games Blazer is a good example, as are most Boglioli jackets.
But what defines it as a jacket? Primarily the curved opening below the waist button on the front, the shape of the lapel, and the lack of cuff on the sleeve.
It’s more likely to have vents, and more likely to have at least one welt (non-patch) pocket, but it’s that lapel and opening on the front that really define it.
The Teba, that Spanish version of the unstructured jacket, is known for its lack of gorge – the collar and lapel form a point. But otherwise its lapel is actually fairly similar to a normal jacket.
The thing that takes it away from a tailored jacket is the lack of curved opening at the front – its bottom hem is straight all the way round, which also means it’s cut a little shorter. And it has cuffs like a shirt.
Whatever’s going on with the material and the style of pockets, these two elements will always make it more casual.
A chore coat has that straight edge round the bottom, like the Teba. Even when you see versions with little curves to the front edge (like the Bryceland’s model above), the shaping is small.
It also usually has three square patch pockets, again like the Teba. The big difference is the collar and lapel area, where a small collar and simple turned front edge make it look and behave more like a shirt, buttoning all the way up. Unlike a shirt, it usually has nothing at the end of the sleeve.
There might be more variations of the chore than any other category – historically and today. Some have an opening on the sleeve; some have four pockets. Luxurious versions like the Anthology Lazyman or A&S Jacket No.2 are made in finer materials and have internal zipped pockets.
But generally they share a simplicity of design, hip pockets and a shirt-like front.
We’ve been through all the variables now. What does an overshirt have?
No curve to the opening, unlike a jacket. Cuffs, unlike a jacket. Perhaps a scalloped hem like a regular shirt, but more often a straight hem, like a chore. It also has a buttoned front like a chore coat – in fact, other than the cuffs, what differentiates the design from a chore?
A placket on the front usually, but most of all, it’s the chest pockets. A chore has hip pockets, and maybe something above; an overshirt has chest pockets and usually nothing on the hips. Which makes sense, given the design originates from a shirt; you couldn’t tuck a shirt in if it had hip pockets.
A smaller category this, but probably worth including as it’s so distinctive.
A safari jacket is basically a shirt, but unlike an overshirt has hip pockets – four in total, with bellows construction to contain all your hunting paraphernalia. It also has a belt, a drawstring or some other way to hold the waist, epaulettes and pleats in the back. The details of a field jacket, on the body of a shirt.
I maintain that a safari jacket usually looks fussy, and I’d go for most other things as a jacket substitute. But a chore jacket can have the opposite problem and be rather boring, and there are better versions of a safari jacket, with simpler pockets perhaps (eg below, at Jean-Manuel Moreau).
What else is there?
A shacket is usually an overshirt made in thicker materials, or with details like internal pockets. A guayabera can also be thought of as a variant on the overshirt. And there are many more variants defined by particular regions, like the Mao/Nehru jacket (below) or Tyrolean jacket.
The useful thing for readers is probably to understand how the main types above differ, and which is likely to be perceived as smarter or more casual.
The first four categories above are in descending order of smartness, with the safari a little bit of an outlier. But bear in mind that will vary with the material as well, and it’s something we can go into in more detail as we cover specific versions in the coming weeks.