Encountering someone adorned in a smoking jacket while indulging in a cigar is a rare spectacle these days. Although the allure of this garment may not be experiencing a modern renaissance, its rich history deserves recognition.
What is a Smoking Jacket?
A smoking jacket, akin to a robe or a long blazer, is worn over clothing during the act of smoking. With a history spanning centuries, it is most famously associated with the suave image of Hugh Hefner. Typically crafted from silky or velvety fabrics, adorned with colorful and ornate patterns, smoking jackets have become iconic in the realm of sophisticated leisure.
Purpose of a Smoking Jacket:
Originally designed to absorb smoke and protect undergarments from ash, the smoking jacket emerged at a time when individuals possessed limited wardrobes. Men, avoiding the exposure of prized garments like overcoats, hats, and tunics to smoke, embraced the functional elegance of the smoking jacket.
History of the Smoking Jacket:
1. Arrival of Silk (1600s): The concept of the classic smoking jacket began in the 1600s as silks were imported to Europe from India, China, and the Americas. Wealthy individuals, keen on showcasing opulence in portraits, adopted shimmering robes. These robes evolved into the smoking jacket, with plush fabrics such as velvet, cashmere, satin, or printed flannel, adorned with vibrant colors and patterns.
2. Upswing in Cigar Smoking (1850s): The Crimean War in the 1850s marked a surge in the popularity of Turkish tobacco in England. As gentlemen retreated to smoking rooms after dinner, the smoking jacket served to absorb smoke and shield clothing from ash.
3. From Comfortable to Formal (1860s): By 1865, Edward VII, Prince of Wales, elevated the smoking jacket’s fashion status. Custom silk smoking jackets became formal loungewear, transcending the confines of smoking rooms to make appearances at meals and parties.
4. Hollywood and Beyond (1940s & ‘60s): In the 20th century, smoking jackets gained Hollywood prominence through icons like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Cary Grant. Hugh Hefner, the embodiment of leisure, further popularized the smoking jacket with his distinctive style.
5. High-End Fashion (1990s & 2000s): While not experiencing a full resurgence, smoking jackets have found a niche in high fashion, with brands like Louis Vuitton and Hilleso Designs incorporating vibrant patterns. The extravagant impression of smoking jackets continues to inspire designers in the realm of luxury fashion.
How & Where to Buy a Smoking Jacket:
Though not commonplace, smoking jackets are available online. Knowing your suit jacket size is a good starting point, considering you’ll likely wear other clothing underneath. Be mindful of the store’s return policy and explore various quality and price ranges, from authentic materials like cashmere and silk to more affordable options. Inspector X took it a step further and had a smoking jacket tailored to size on one of his Asian trips. Vietnam and Thailand are the best places to have a smoking jacket made.
In revisiting the history of the smoking jacket, one can appreciate its enduring legacy as a symbol of refined leisure. The next time you light up, consider the timeless elegance that the smoking jacket represents and contemplate the prospect of igniting a movement to bring back its iconic flair to the mainstream.