17th August 2022

Reconstructed Regalia

Bespoke Double-Breasted Blazer

A bespoke commission at Timothy Everest delivers an entirely unique garment and experience, formed perfectly to the client’s personality, anatomy and vision. Each design is created through a highly collaborative process. It is a creative exchange underpinned by the customer’s specific requirements and guided by the expertise and craftsmanship of our team.

A recent project where this personal process and relationship between cutter and client worked beautifully was a jacket commissioned by Justin Portess. Justin is a longstanding client and occasional model for Timothy Everest and has a military background. His combined experience and interest in both the military and clothing, especially tailoring, inspired him to investigate the idea of a reconstructed Boating Jacket. Here he explains the origins and development of the piece.

The double-breasted blazer – or, more accurately, the Boating Jacket – has Naval origins and developed as an item of sportswear in the nineteenth century. A stylish combination of navy-blue twill and brass buttons, the blazer’s simple construction and clean lines spawned many variants through the years. With the promise of instant panache, the blazer’s majestic, martial heritage gave it an elitist air; hence it became a Sloane Ranger essential in the 1980s, or the badge of ‘bon chic, bon genre’ for old-money Parisians. These associations could be played with – think the cool, classless Riviera style of Paul Weller and Mick Talbot’s early Style Council years – but it wasn’t easy to lose the entitled look.

Accordingly, the Boating Jacket was an extension of a British army officer’s uniform while I was serving in the military during the 1990s, first as an issue item at Sandhurst and then as a popular alternative to a tweed jacket upon being commissioned into a regiment. The intention was the same in both institutions. Out of uniform – and notwithstanding the security threat at the time – it meant you still looked like a commissioned officer of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. What you wore once you had left the army’s gates was up to you – but you wouldn’t leave those gates without wearing an appropriate jacket, shirt and tie.

During my time as an officer in The Queen’s Royal Lancers, then a cavalry regiment based in Germany, blazers would be most frequently seen at Friday morning officers’ coffee in Regimental Headquarters. Often paired with red cords or moleskins (we were the ‘Scarlet Lancers’ after all), suede loafers, or highly bulled tank park jodhpur boots. Any jacket would be duly worn out of the gates, in return for a smart salute from the guard, only to be tossed onto the back seat of the Golf for a furious ‘Blighty Burner’ via France and a channel crossing that got you back in time for last orders in Battersea.

I have come a long way since those unwittingly Sloane’y times – far-removed culturally, politically, and socially – and like many men, am now a lot less structured in my style. But some roots remain. Not least, my deep loyalty to the British Army and my Regiment in particular; the enduring imprint of those years remains on my style today.

Against this backdrop, Alex [Cutter at Timothy Everest] and I started discussing my bespoke double-breasted blazer commission. Firstly, by examining a particular image of the late Prince Phillip, which captures his innate style – unfussy but unmistakable, often adaptable to his athletic leanings, but never out of place.

On and off the polo field, Prince Phillip wore one regal wardrobe staple better than anyone.

Though I had been thinking of flirting with double-breasted blazers again for some time, the challenge was to adapt to my current style while retaining a whiff of the Regimental association I treasure so much; preserved in our famous ‘Death or Glory’ skull and crossbones motto. I wanted a jacket with which I could dress up, or down, but on my own terms. One that would deliberately look out of place in the Cavalry & Guards Club – but retain some old-world flair nonetheless.

It didn’t take Alex long to develop a concept, and we started with the cloth – immediately dropping a Boating Blazer’s usual heavy twill for a slubby Italian linen from Solbiati, but still in a dark midnight shade. The cloth made the next decision easy: to adopt an unfussy, unlined structure that kept a full chest and slim waist. We also agreed to mirror a traditional Boating blazer’s elegant length. Radical changes were the lapels, widening these for a touch of Seventies elan, and exchanging the military three-show-eight button stance for a much more contemporary two-show-four positioning.

The jacket has been constructed using just one layer of lightweight body canvas (usually three layers), and the decision not to use any shoulder pads or sleeve head roll makes this piece feel like a majestic robe or smoking jacket. In line with the overall simplicity of the design, Alex also recommended a one-button cuff – a trademark of blazers the tailor Cyril Castle made for Roger Moore in his roles as The Saint and later as James Bond; immediately helping to soften the overall look.

The final result is a pleasingly unstuffy, contemporary blazer. At the same time, my Regiment is still served by the brass buttons – the very same as a Lancer officer’s uniform buttons, produced by EC Snaith & Son in Birmingham, in the business of making military buttons, rank insignia and medals for almost 400 years. The brass will dull over time (and these days, I resist the urge to Brasso things) which will add to the relaxed look of the jacket.

I’m delighted with the outcome, a versatile and modern double-breasted blazer that will go as well with jeans as with grey trousers. T-shirt, or open-necked shirt. At a push, my Regimental tie, but not a glass of Pimms in sight.

To talk to us about a tailoring project you’d like to undertake, please don’t hesitate to contact our team via email or telephone.