The search for the perfect navy blazer: a review and reflection
A bit of a diversion from the normal shoe business here - you may start seeing more clothing articles as my shoe buying habits have tapered off of late. That's what happens when you just don't leave the house very often.
I'm a bit of a clotheshorse, as I bet many of you are. I've been buying and selling from charity shops (or thrift shops for our transatlantic friends) for over 15 years, and over that time I would guesstimate that 300 blazers have passed through my closet. Of these, I have kept about 30, which form my current blazer wardrobe.
Through all of this, the most elusive piece remains the "perfect" navy blazer. A staple of a tailored wardrobe, and arguably one of the foundational pieces of even the most minimalist capsule collection.
To my eye (and this is entirely my opinion, yours may differ) the perfect navy blazer will follow these commandments, in order from most fundamental to sort of optional:
It shall be dark blue - navy, you might even say
The material shall be light enough to wear in summer, of an open weave if possible
The finish shall be matte, not shiny
The front closure shall be two buttoned
The lapels shall be notched, though peak lapels may be considered if they lend the right level of drama and I'm in that kind of mood
The shoulders shall be natural, and the overall garment shall be relatively unstructured
The fit shall be gently slim but still comfortable
The buttons shall be dark brown or mother of pearl - they should make it clearly a separate blazer and not an orphaned suit jacket
Additional detailing like pick stitching is acceptable, but should not be overpowering or gimmicky
Zegna Su Misura
Zegna's "Su Misura" line is essentially its made-to-measure option. Quality and materials are broadly very good at this level, a cut above their sometimes middling RTW. It sits below their Couture XXX level in terms of quality.
This blazer is a navy hopsack wool, very soft to the hand and somewhat spongy, though maybe too thick for summer months. The buttons are black (or such a dark brown that they are nearly black). The shoulders are rather natural with a slight waterfall. It is, all things considered, a very well put-together garment.
This would be my immediate favourite of all my navy blazers - and the post would end right now - were it not for the fact that it's just a smidgen too long overall. I may look into getting the overall length shortened a bit, but my need for tailoring has diminished such that that might be a bad investment.
Unlike most on this list, this features working cuffs and a nicely hand-stitched buttonhole.
RRP for Su Misura is admittedly punchy - this would probably be somewhere in the region of £2,000 for a new equivalent. Is it worth two grand? If you are choosing between that and paying rent, I would say no. If you have the cash, it's a strong...maybe. There is a good choice of materials, and the made to measure fit will be good.
From the half-canvassed 1818 collection, what this jacket lacks in modern fit or styling, it makes up for with an interesting fabric. The Madison fit is a boxy and rather square one, a somewhat traditional American cut. It's marked a regular length, but is rather long in the body. Maybe people are just longer in America.
The fabric is a slightly rough herringbone, with a blend of silk, linen and wool. It's faintly iridescent, and wears well in warmer weather thanks to the silk and linen - it is however a bit prone to wrinkling.
RRP for this is somewhere in the $600 region, though with sales and reductions through BB's own site it would be a mistake to pay more than $300. Even that would be a stretch given the huge volume of Brooks Brothers available on eBay for a steal.
Probably my favourite navy blazer, hitting many of the "commandments" outlined at the start.
The fabric is a royal blue virgin wool, which has developed a slight shininess along the edges. So it does slightly break my commandment of a navy blazer needing to be strictly navy blue, but it still looks good. I guess I'm just a hypocrite.
The cut is slim but not uncomfortable. The buttons are a beautiful mother of pearl (although regrettably prone to chipping as all MOP is). The shoulders are naturally shaped with a slight waterfall effect.
It bears a "travel and water-resistant" label, which I think means the wool is treated to be harder to crease and won't absorb water so readily. It's not something I've ever put to the test, but if I was ever going to take a blazer on holiday it would be this one.
RRP is probably around £1000.
Another one from Canali, and pushing the definitions of what a navy blazer is... but it's my blog, so I can do that.
The check on this one is rather unusual, with a checkerboard light blue grid over a darker blue. The finish of the virgin wool fabric is a matte flannel. As with the previous blazer, the main feature that might seem objectionable is a rather high buttoning point, quite characteristic of Canali.
The buttons are less appealing than the previous blazer - a slightly plasticky dark blue.
I like this one overall, but I am sadly far too large for it and am unlikely to ever shrink sufficiently to fit it well. An interesting take on what might otherwise be quite a restrictive aesthetic though.
A worthwhile addition from Massimo Piombo, a not particularly well-known maker who, in spite of what you may expect from the name, is shockingly from Italy. This is characteristically louche and distinctly Italian in styling. With a 3 / 2 roll button front and almost complete lack of structure, it's a very laid back piece.
The fabric is a slubby criss-cross, which is distinctly but not distractingly textured. A bit of texture is a really good way of making it clear that the blazer isn't just an orphaned suit jacket.
Piombo is available on Mr Porter and Farfetch - you'll pay about £400 new.
A nice piece from a Savile Row house with a bit of a sad history by this point. The mohair fabric makes it really hard to get a good picture - it's a very dark navy blue.
It's aggressively slim at the waist - I've got some weight to lose to get into it again - and that contrasts a very structured and strong shoulder shape.
With no lining it is pretty unforgiving in the overall shape, but as a dressy afternoon piece it is pretty nice.
As for value - the reason I said Kilgour had a bit of a messy history is that the brand name has been quite devalued by this point. They have long had various Chinese-made lines and churned out some pretty low quality stuff, and do a lot of business in trading on confusing "Designed in London" (but made in China) type messaging that I find a bit distasteful.
I would say this blazer comes from a period when their output was overall of a better quality though - you can't really get a new equivalent from them these days sadly, and it seems unlikely the company is much longer for this world. eBay is still a good source for older Kilgour pieces though.
Polo Ralph Lauren
I'll admit this one photographs poorly, but I do have a fondness for it. It's a cotton blend and is overall structured more like a chore coat than a blazer - it's the most casual one on the list.
The cotton means it does crinkle like a bastard, and has picked up a certain amount of sheen. It's a fun piece though - check out the rather light-hearted under-collar.
This sort of style is a good choice if you find the traditional take on the navy blazer a bit of a menswear cliche by this point.
Polo is still going strong as a brand of course, so you can probably pick up a new one for about £400? That sort of ballpark.
Polo Ralph Lauren
The double-breasted navy blazer is a tricky thing - sure, it always looks cool on Instagram, but in real life you can look a bit "Alan Partridge" if not carefully styled. Dressed up too much and it can look really fusty and old-fashioned.
This one has some fun details - the shoulders are very soft, and the gold toned Polo buttons make it obvious that this is a standalone blazer. It also works well in 6x1 or 6x2 buttoning configurations, whichever you find more flattering. Not one that really sees any use for me though.
Lastly, a nice piece from renowned Italian maker Brioni. This is a spongy and quite stretchy virgin wool with a slight light-blue nail head pattern.
The fit is slim, and it's cut quite short (the jacket is still marked as regular length). The length means it doesn't get masses of wear, though the difference is more stylistic than just looking "wrong". Alongside the Zegna at the start of the list, it's the only other to feature a hand-stitched buttonhole and working cuffs.
If you're familiar with Brioni you know they are pretty pricey at RRP, sometimes to the point of comedy. The price does tend to poison the conversation around their clothes, which I have found regularly to be excellent quality.
I won't go into the value proposition of the mega-brands like Brioni here, but suffice to say spending the amount they ask for for a RTW blazer has little appeal for me. But whatever floats your boat / yacht if you can buy Brioni regularly.