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Original Issue


The most popular items in a man's wardrobe are his sport jackets. Ten million of them will be sold this year—and it all started as a college-boy fad

The story of the student at Yale who launched the sport jacket appears so often in the annals of men's fashions that though his name is unrecorded and it may be in part apocryphal, it must contain the essence of truth. This young Eli, class of '28, ripped the trousers to his brown tweed suit—as standard an item in his day as the Oxford gray flannel is for the class of '55. Nothing daunted, and being of a strong fraternity and reputation, he teamed his brown tweed jacket with a pair of flannel "bags." The combination was such a success that by 1932 tweed jackets and flannel slacks were college uniforms from East to West, superseding the four-piece suit (knickers, long pants, vest and jacket) of Scott Fitzgerald's heyday. The odd jacket was not a new idea. The striped blazer, the belted shooting jacket, the long-skirted, deep-vented hacking jacket had all been around since the '90s. But they were worn only for the occasions for which they had been designed: a tennis match at Newport, a grouse shoot in Scotland, a race meet on Long Island. Now, as with many items of male apparel, what started as a college fad (pork-pie hats, saddle shoes) has become an American institution.

The ten million jackets that will be sold in 1954 will be more than twice the number sold in 1947. Reasons for this mushrooming popularity: the handsome styling of today's jacket and the American male's increased leisure time. There are jackets in almost every price range and fabric, from an $18.75 cotton to a $400 custom-made vicuna. But by far the most popular jacket fabric is Shetland tweed. The colors and patterns found in Shetlands are hard for any man to resist. That's why the jacket has become the favorite garment for almost every sporting, leisure or suburban occasion in America.

Vic Seixas, national tennis champion, wears a luxurious sports jacket at Los Angeles Tennis Club: Cashmere, custom tailored by J. Press, N.Y., $175.

Hacking jackets, like this early '30s model, are for riding. But, like the Norfolk and blazer, they have contributed to style of today's jacket.

Tweed jackets from four-piece sport suits (left) were first mixed with flannel pants (right) at Yale in 1928, as demonstrated by this picture taken at the time.

Patched elbows show up on favorite old jackets, lend them the comfortable character of well-smoked Meerschaum.

Fifty jackets hang behind glass in dressing room of jacket-collector Jean Negulesco, 20th Century-Fox director.

Norflok jacket worn by Duke of Edinburgh in 1952 caused renewed interest in old style. Jacket styles change slowly.

At left, America's most popular sport jacket this fall. To find out what kind of jacket men are buying, SI polled the following leading men's stores last week: Ditto's, Houston; Bullock & Jones, San Francisco; Jerry Rothschild, Los Angeles; Andrade's, Honolulu; Littler's, Seattle; Lewis & Thos. Saltz, Washington, Mac-Neil & Moore, Milwaukee, Colorado Springs and Madison; Capper & Capper, Detroit and Chicago; Hubert W. White, Minneapolis; Jack Henry, Kansas City. Surprisingly unanimous choice: a jacket of black-brown Shetland tweed with three-button closure, flap pockets, center vent, natural shoulders. Average cost, $65.