Bring Back the Smoking Jacket
The Smoking Jacket, according to the always trustful Wikipedia was introduced in the 17th century and around 1850 Gentlemen’s Magazine of London defined the smoking jacket as a
“kind of short robe de chambre, of velvet, cashmere, plush, merino or printed flannel, lined with bright colours, ornamented with brandenbourgs, olives or large buttons.
Fast forward to the 20th Century and you find stars such as Fred Astair, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. But most notable who still is identified today is Hugh Hefner.
Penelope Byrde, in The Male Image: Men’s Fashion in England 1300-1970, traces this attire to the beginning of the sixteenth century, when trade with the East began to bring luxuries to northern Europe. Tobacco (both Virginian and Turkish), coffee, tea, chocolate, silks and spices were all flowing north. By the mid-seventeenth century, these robes, made of fine silk, were held in such high esteem that it was fashionable to have one’s picture painted wearing one. Samuel Pepys, famous for his wonderfully informative diary, was only a civil servant and could not afford one, so he rented one to sit for his portrait:
Thence home and eat one mouthful, and so to Hale’s and there sat till almost quite dark upon working my gowne, which I hired to be drawn [in] it–an Indian gown, and I do see all the reason to expect a most excellent picture of it. –Diary, 30 March 1666
This tradition of wearing a comfortable robe at home–usually with a soft dressing cap and Persian slippers–was observed until the 1850s, when the smoking jacket took its place. Smoking, Byrde tells us, became very popular during the Crimean War (1853-1856), when Turkish tobacco became readily available in Europe.
If you’re familiar with Turkish Tobacco you know its well suited for cigarettes or mixing and that smoked alone, while it may be aromatic its important to cover ones clothing so it does not smell or get covered in ash.
Since the movie stars of the early 40’s and 50’s we’ve seen a die off of smoking jackets as mens fashion itself has gone by the wayside – aided by the baby-boomer (hippie) generation that rebelled against the societal norms of clothing choices. I say its time to go against the grain – and return to our roots. The smoking jacket is great for entertaining, is sophisticated, fashionable, and has practical uses for keeping ash and the smell of smoke off your daily clothes or suit.
You may discover that the price of a good smoking jacket is more than you’d normally pay but if you invest in one – remember that these will last a lifetime so its a small investment for something that you’ll wear for 40, 50, 60 or more years. While you can pickup a cheaper smoking jacket that does the part from here. I suggest you avoid the “costume” style smoking jacket and go for the quality.