The History of the Smoking Jacket
The 17th century paved way for many wonderful goods to make their way into Europe from trade routes with the rest of the world. Spices, silks, coffee and tobacco came flooding in, something for which we will always be eternally grateful.
Along with the discovery of such incredible cargo, came the likes of silk gowns worn by aristocratic gentlemen along the Silk Route to absorb the smoke of their tobacco and opium. The smoking jacket evolved from these silk garments, gaining popularity in Britain when the Crimean War popularised Turkish tobacco.
Today the smoking jacket is not as popular as it once was. In 1999, Cigar Aficionado declared it was time the smoking jacket made a return as an ‘alternative type of formal wear’. Still, it remains an important feature of cigar smoking’s elegant history.
What is a Smoking Jacket?
The smoking jacket evolved into what we know it as today around the 19th century. They became a shorter, mid-length garment that is both part jacket and part dressing gown. It was designed not just to absorb smoke but to protect a gentleman’s clothing from falling ash.
Typically made from silk, velvet or jacquard cloth or a combination of all three, a classic smoking jacket has a shawl lapel and a turned back cuff. The soft materials make the smoking jacket a comfortable garment to wear, and thus it became synonymous as being a garment one could wear around the house – a formal alternative to a dressing gown.
Gentlemen could change into their smoking jacket to enjoy their post-dinner smoke, and then redon their evening jacket so as not to smell of cigar smoke when they returned to their ladies’ arms.
The smoking jacket was known for its comfort and elegance and became a popular item to wear around the home, and then, eventually, a suitable alternative to the dinner jacket when hosting a dinner party. The 1950s paved way for this more casual interpretation of formal attire, and everyone from Dean Martin, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra wore their smoking jackets publicly. Fred Astaire was so fond of the smoking jacket he was even buried in his favourite one.
Types of Smoking Jacket
Whilst there are many different styles and types of smoking jacket, the classic smoking jacket is mid-thigh length, made of velvet with turned up cuffs, has a tie belt often with ornamented tassels at the ends, has three pockets on the outside with one usually reserved for cigars and it is almost always ventless in the back with a roomier cut than a dinner jacket. Whilst smoking jackets can be made of other materials such as silk, velvet is the best material for protecting clothing from the smell of smoke.
For a more conservative smoking jacket to be worn about town, the sash should be replaced with a different fastening system such as a toggle or button. The jacket will also be cut more similarly to that of a suit jacket or blazer, with the soft shawl collar replaced with a notch, shawl or peak lapels similar to that of a suit.
Common colours smoking jackets are found in are navy blue, burgundy, dark green and black. However, new colours have also emerged, and smoking jackets can be found in the likes of purple, red, yellow and royal blue. Attractive patterns can also be found on the likes of silk smoking jackets such as paisley, checks, diamonds and geometric patterns.
How to Wear a Smoking Jacket
Different styles of smoking jacket are recommended for different applications. A smoking jacket with a sash or tie belt is more distinctly like a dressing gown, and thus is recommended for home wearing only as loungewear in the evening when alone with family. However, it could also be acceptable for:
- Entertaining guests in the home when a tuxedo would be too formal.
- When perusing a hotel or staying as a guest at someone else’s home.
- When smoking with guests in the garden.
- In a private office as a way to stay professional yet comfortable.
For the smoking jacket more reminiscent of the dinner jacket, wearing outside of the home is encouraged. Whilst it can still be worn at home, it will often be less comfortable than lounge apparel if that is the intended purpose. However, it makes the perfect blend of formality for entertaining guests at home or for a black-tie event where a tuxedo is not traditionally worn.
They can also be work at the likes of the theatre, opera or ballet, when out with friends at a restaurant, on a date, at a wedding or birthday party and to any dinner party where black tie is not a requirement.
Always ensure your smoking jacket is the appropriate style for the occasion and setting. Smoking jackets are seldom seen outside of the house these days, so they have the capacity to really get you noticed.
If you’re looking for high-quality cigars to smoke whilst donning your smoking jacket, you can visit our cigar shop in London to discover the wonderful range of cigars we stock at JJ Fox.