The knitted blazer is the latest addition to a long and noble line. These lightweight, lighthearted versions of the old standard jacket add a degree of convenience and comfort that make this classic more of a bon vivant and an even better traveler.
Victorian in origin, the blazer began as a striped garment that symbolized membership in an exclusive school or club. Sportsmen of all schools adopted it as a natural extension of its early function and today, with sport an international denominator in men's clothing, the blazer has flared to new heights of popularity. They are ubiquitous at sporting events, and nearly all teams at the Olympics and Pan-American Games use the garment as a parade uniform. And no television sportscaster would feel completely dressed these days without his blazer, replete with hidden microphone and brocade network symbol on the breast pocket.
So what's new with the old standby? Well, the fabric, for one thing. The day of the stiff-as-starch blazer (in any color as long as it was navy blue) has given way to the advent of lightweight knitted materials—some in 100% wool and others in combinations of wool and synthetics—that come on more as sweaters than jackets. The knitted material has the sort of stretch Commodore Lipton never dreamed about. They pack like sweaters, too, and come out of the most overcrowded suitcase remarkably free of wrinkles.
Tailoring, too, has changed. The stretchier fabric permits armholes to be cut higher and sleeves to be even narrower. The jackets themselves are more fitted and longer, with high center vents or double vents in back.
No group of athletes has given the new blazers a better reception than tennis players. One reason, of course, is the strong social side to the game; another is the fact that no sport is more peripatetic, which makes the good traveling qualities of these blazers even more appealing. In a period of weeks players on the international tour may compete in events from Bristol, England to Gstaad, Switzerland to Forest Hills.
Wimbledon champion John Newcombe, shown at top left with his 3-year-old son Clint at London's Hurlingham Club, says he spends about four months of the year on his Texas tennis ranch, another two months in Australia and the rest of his time on the tour. Here Newcombe is wearing a 100% wool double-knit blazer by Beverly Hills men's wear specialist Dick Dorso. It is cut on the lines of a hacking jacket, with double vents and navy tabs under the gold buttons on the sleeves.
Arthur Ashe, the leader of pro tennis' mod squad, sports some of the finest and most expensive labels in clothing, including several by Pierre Cardin. At top right he is shown at the Queen's Club in an Oscar de la Renta for After Six blazer with three patch pockets and a center vent. The material is knit of wool and polyester.
Australian Tony Roche (bottom left) waits for a practice court at the Queen's Club in his navy blazer from Hart, Schaffner & Marx—a double-knit Celanese Fortrel polyester that has strong wrinkle resistance. At bottom right, Tom Okker of Holland and Ingrid Bentzer of Sweden take in a match at Wimbledon, Okker in a hacking-jacket-cut blazer made of lightweight double-knit wool that looks like tweed. It is by Carlo Palazzi for Jaeger.
On this page, Aussie Ray Keldie watches a morning practice game at the Queen's Club. His tan blazer is made of very lightweight wool and polyester and comes from Corbin, Ltd.
WHERE IN BLAZER?
John Newcombe's blazer is $160 at Dorso, Beverly Hills; Arthur Ashe's is $200 at Roos/Atkins, San Francisco and White-house & Hardy, New York. Tony Roche's jacket is $110 at Baskin of Chicago, Hastings, San Francisco and Wallach's New York; Tom Okker's is $160 at Gidding-Jenny, Cincinnati and Whitehouse & Hardy. Ray Keldie (above) sports a $100 model from Jordan Marsh, Miami and Norton-Ditto, Houston. Dorso's jacket is available now, the others in November.