Introduction to the Smoking Jacket
From Practical Protector to Black Tie Alternative
In this guide, we will explore the origins of the smoking jacket and chart its progress through history before concluding with how you can wear and style a smoking jacket as part of your wardrobe and have the best experiences wearing this luxurious, timeless classic.
Tracing its origins back to garments worn by gentlemen to ward their fine evening clothes against ash and tobacco smoke, the smoking jacket is synonymous with elegance, the comforts of home, and the refined seclusion of a stately drawing room or library.
But as you’ll learn in this guide, the men’s smoking jacket is not a bygone relic of a rarefied age, nor is it the exclusive domain of smokers. In fact, we believe that the smoking jacket could be an excellent fit for any gentleman’s at-home attire, and in some circumstances, it can even serve as a Black Tie alternative.
Read on to learn more about the smoking jacket and its history to determine if it might have a place in your wardrobe.
The History of the Smoking Jacket
How 17th Century International Trade Made a New Status Symbol: A Robe
As international trade and colonial expansion exploded in the 1600s, exotic goods and riches poured from the Americas, Africa, and Asia into Europe, fueling a boom for luxury goods and attire.
Included amongst these riches were coffee, textiles, spices, and tobacco, and the elites of Europe were not content with merely owning these treasures: they wished to exhibit them as well. One such article can be considered, in some respects, the spiritual precursor to the smoking jacket.
The Robe-de-Chambre Breaks Down the Barrier Between Public and Private Ostentation
Sumptuous garb has always been a popular way to display wealth, and in the 17th century, this ostentation extended directly into the domestic sphere.
Lacking central heating and modern insulation, the palatial homes of Europe were often chilly. Accordingly, while changing their clothes throughout the day or getting into their pajamas at night, gentlemen of the time would often wrap themselves in a robe for much-needed warmth.
Often referred to as a dressing gown or robe-de-chambre, from the French word for “bedroom garment,” this article provided ample opportunity for showcasing one’s wealth; many were crafted from expensive fabrics like plush wool, cotton satin, velvet, or silk.
Interested in more at-home attire?
Conspicuous Consumption: A Passion for Portraits in Expensive Domestic Garments
A Portrait in a Dressing Gown
Noted English diarist Samuel Pepys commissioned a portrait of himself in a robe-de-chambre, referring to it as an “Indian gown” in his diary, although it was so expensive that he could not afford one for himself, and instead rented it. Portrait of Samuel Pepys (1666) by John Halys. [Image Credit: Wikipedia.] The original can be see in The National Portrait Gallery, London.
Despite the fact that the robe-de-chambre was ostensibly a garment for private wear, many gentlemen, like Samuel Pepys, had their portraits made wearing one. This fact, along with the gorgeous detailing that decorated many robes-de-chambre, would seem to hint at preferences for a public function for this private garment.
Changing ways of enjoying tobacco, another luxury good from the New World, would soon find another opportunity for the display of the robe-de-chambre in luxurious comfort.
A Vogue for Tobacco Necessitates a New Garment: The Smoking Jacket
How a Shift from Snuff to Smoking Affected the Development of the Smoking Jacket
For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the preferred method for enjoying tobacco, especially in Great Britain and Europe, was by taking snuff, in which ground tobacco was inhaled directly into the nasal cavity.
By the early 19th century, however, smoking tobacco, in a pipe or as a cigar or cigarette, had increased in popularity, and it was a common sight at parties or quiet evenings at home to see men retire to a drawing room or den to chat and indulge in a smoke. Many homes even featured designated smoking rooms. However, this new trend had serious implications for the wardrobes of those who participated and led to the creation of, essentially, a smoking jacket robe.
The Danger Smoking Posses to Clothes: Why a Smoking Jacket is Necessary and How It Works
Smoking presented a number of threats to one’s clothing. Most immediately, falling hot ash could stain or permanently damage expensive fabrics. The smoke could also inundate the clothing, especially coats, shirts, and neckwear, leaving behind a strong, musty odor.
Accordingly, and in recognition of the more private nature of retiring to a room to smoke, many men would wear their robes-de-chambre while engaged in smoking. The robes acted as a protective barrier between the ash and smoke and their expensive evening clothes and afforded an additional opportunity to display one more garment from one’s collection.
new headgear for Tobacco Enthusiasts
At the same time that the smoking jacket was evolving, domestic headgear was also adapting to the realities of tobacco smoke. Inspired by the nightcap, which had been intended originally to retain heat and protect one’s bedsheets from stains, smoking caps, sometimes called lounging caps, were meant to prevent one’s hair from absorbing the odors of tobacco smoke. They were often made from thick or plush fabrics, like velvet, and were highly decorated, often with tassels. Orientalist influence was especially evident in smoking caps from the 19th century, which were often modeled on the fez. Image via Wikimedia.
The Smoking Jacket Evolves from the Robe-de-chambre
It should be stressed that a robe-de-chambre was not and is not a smoking jacket, although it could serve a similar function. The smoking jacket evolved from the robe-de-chambre, and developed as a purpose-intended garment that soon deviated from its predecessor.
For instance, because the smoking jacket was not intended primarily for warmth, its skirt shrank from full length to mid-thigh, assuming it’s more traditional silhouette. Likewise, because lighter fabrics could be easily singed, heavier silks and velvet soon became the favored fabric for smoking jackets.
This process occurred slowly over the intervening decades, but by the start of the Victorian Era the smoking jacket was recognized as a distinct garment.
Want to learn more about dressing gowns, as well as pajamas and slippers? We have a video for you!
The Smoking Jacket in the Victorian and Edwardian Eras
The Smoking Jacket in the 19th Century: A Classic Takes Shape
Beginning with the coronation of its namesake, the British monarch Queen Victoria in 1838, the Victorian Era was a significant period in the development of the smoking jacket.
Easier access to modish Turkish cigars following the conclusion of the Crimean War in 1856 cemented the popularity of smoking, and the smoking jacket was a ubiquitous sight in menswear.
The Smoking Jacket of the Mid-19th Century
[A smoking jacket is ] 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
The Gentleman’s Magazine of London, 1850
Illustrating the popularity of the smoking jacket, the Gentleman’s Magazine of London, England provided the following substantive definition: “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.”
- “Brandenbourgs” refers to a type of braid detailing associated with the city of the same name.
- “Olives” are oblong wooden buttons covered in fabric that somewhat resemble olives.
Like a robe-de-chambre, many smoking jackets of the Victorian Era would have been closed with a sash, although large toggle buttons, like the aforementioned olives, were also common. The garment had largely assumed the traditional silhouette we recognize today.
The function of the smoking jacket would remain largely static in Victorian society until undergoing another evolution, courtesy of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and future King Edward VII.
Changing Roles: Edward VII takes the Smoking Jacket from the Drawing Room to the Dining Room
As a young man, Albert Edward often engaged in social smoking and could commonly be seen at Sandringham House, his abode in Norfolk, England, in a smoking jacket.
Desiring to enjoy the plush comforts of the smoking jacket in more formal spaces, in 1865 Albert Edward commissioned from Henry Poole of Saville Row a new style of evening jacket that could be worn at private dinners.
Cut in the style of a smoking jacket, this garment was single-breasted with a shawl collar and lapels faced in silk, that was, according to the original ledgers of Poole and Company, of “blue silk,” likely midnight blue.
Albert Edward reserved this new jacket for private dinners, still preferring a tailcoat for more formal occasions. But one of his guests would help introduce this new jacket to the wider world.
James Brown Potter and the Tuxedo Club: Introducing the Smoking Jacket to North America
There are two competing stories that explain how the smoking jacket as a formal evening garment was introduced to the United States. Both involve James Brown Potter, a wealthy American banker and financier.
|The Popular Story||The More Likely Story|
|According to popular tradition, Potter and his wife, Cora, enjoyed a private supper with Albert Edward during a trip to England because the Crown Prince was smitten with Cora. Potter, for his part, was taken with Albert Edward’s unique jacket. Obligingly, Albert Edward put Potter in contact with Poole and Company.
Potter then wore this garment to the glamorous Autumn Ball of the Tuxedo Park Country Club in New York, and it caused such a sensation that a vogue for this new style of jacket soon seized America.
|The popular story, about one whirlwind night in which the smoking jacket as dinner jacket was thrust upon New York society is probably untrue: it is unlikely that Potter would ever break decorum so drastically by spontaneously wearing out an unknown garment.
It is more likely that Potter privately introduced his smoking jacket variation to his friends at the Tuxedo Club and they adopted it for intimate suppers. Eventually, members of the club, garbed in these jackets, dined out at the famous New York steak house Delmonico’s, and this dinner constituted the jacket’s true North American public debut.
The Smoking Jacket Becomes a Black Tie Alternative
As one might discern from the name of the involved New York country club, these escapades at Tuxedo Park are often considered the “birth” of the tuxedo, or dinner jacket, and are an important aspect of the development of modern Black Tie. For a fuller account of this subject, be sure to read the History section of our delightfully exhaustive Black Tie Guide.
The Smoking Jacket and the Dinner Jacket: Understanding the Differences
The smoking jacket soon underwent further evolutions following its introduction to the Black Tie scene. Button closures would sometimes replace sashes or frogs, for added formality, and the jacket was often cut closer to the body. Eventually, these more heavily modified versions of the smoking jacket became a new and distinct garment, the dinner jacket.
It is for this reason that in some countries, especially the European Continent, a dinner jacket, or tuxedo, can somewhat confusingly be referred to as a “Smoking,” in recognition of the jacket’s origins.
Accordingly, know that any reference to “un Smoking” or “ein Smoking” pertains to a dinner jacket ensemble, and not a smoking jacket; one example is the women’s tuxedo ensemble designed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1966 that he dubbed “Le Smoking.”
The Smoking Jacket in the 20th Century
The Smoking Jacket Thrives in the Golden Age of Menswear
The smoking jacket continued to be worn, both as a domestic garment and a Black Tie alternative, into the 20th century. By the 1920s and 1930s, it underwent further stylistic variations, including the popularization of peaked lapel varieties, drawing from the contemporary development of the dinner jacket.
In the public psyche, smoking jackets remained associated with social elites, and in addition to the magnates and millionaires of the time, celebrities, especially singers and film stars, were foremost in that cadre.
Film stars like Clark Gable or William Powell would often appear, on camera and off, in smoking jackets or similar robes-de-chambre, reviving in the minds of their audience the ideal of the stately gentleman in his luxurious robe. Later wearers like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin added a further playful element to the garment.
During the 20th century, several famous men became particularly associated with smoking jackets, making the garment an iconic aspect of their personas.
Modern Men Associated with Smoking Jackets: Noel Coward, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, The Rat Pack, and Hugh Hefner
Sir Noel Coward was an English playwright, composer, and musician known for his aristocratic charm and acerbic wit.
He often wore a smoking jacket at home, but also while performing. In doing so, Coward conveyed to his audience a sense of intimate camaraderie, as though they were guests in his residence as he performed.
It is likely that many other entertainers who wore smoking jackets while performing did so to cultivate a similar sense of intimacy.
Fred Astaire was an American actor, singer, and dancer who dressed as aristocratically as the likes of Noel Coward, but often adopted a more humble demeanor. Nevertheless, he was able to wear a smoking jacket with style, on the screen and in real life.
In fact, Astaire was so devoted to the smoking jacket that upon his death in 1987, it was said that he was buried in his favorite one.
Fred Astaire’s Smoking Jacket
This navy smoking jacket was worn by Fred Astaire in the film Three Little Words (1950) and was auctioned off for almost $7000 in 2013. Image Credit: Bonhams
British-American actor Cary Grant is often referred here at the Gentleman’s Gazette as an exemplar of Classic Style, so it is no surprise that he also wore smoking jackets regularly, both as an at-home garment and a Black Tie alternative.
The Rat Pack
In the 1950s, the smoking jacket moved beyond the refined air of domesticity and became increasingly associated with raucous fun and wild evenings, and eager progenitors of this movement were the members of The Rat Pack.
An informal association of entertainers, The Rat Pack, led primarily by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr., regularly sported smoking jackets while performing or partying in Las Vegas casinos or Los Angeles penthouses.
Martin was particularly associated with bolder styles of smoking jackets, including one example that was a glistening metallic silver.
To the modern masses, however, smoking jackets are perhaps most associated with Hugh Hefner, an American magazine publisher.
Hefner attempted to portray himself as a luxurious playboy, and thus co-opted both the elegant and the intimate associations of the smoking jacket, turning it into something of an avatar of his brand and the lifestyle he was selling his readers.
Accordingly, burgundy smoking jackets, in particular, became closely associated with Hefner and were commonly employed to represent him in parodies or at costume parties.
The Late 20th Century Decline of the Smoking Jacket
As the 20th century wore on, the smoking jacket declined in popularity due to a variety of converging factors.
Learn more about the changing role of Classic Style in menswear
The Revival of the Smoking Jacket
Despite these reverses, the smoking jacket never fully disappeared from the realm of menswear, maintained by stalwart devotees of the Classic Style and tobacco enthusiasts.
In their January/February of 1999 issue, the lifestyle periodical Cigar Aficionado published a piece entitled “Return of the Smoking Jacket,” trumpeting the garment’s resurgence in the smoking community as a decadent treat and the ultimate loungewear essential while enjoying a smoke. The article covered the storied history of the smoking jacket and touched upon its utility as a practical item for dedicated smokers, touting its value in the present day.
Meanwhile, Black Tie dressers of the 2000s turned an eye to vintage styles and the smoking jacket saw something of a revival as a dashing, unique item to add personality to formal ensembles.
Smoking jackets in print media
In the January / February issue of 1999, noted periodical Cigar Aficionado declared that the smoking jacket was returning in a big way among smoking enthusiasts. [Image Credit: Cigar Aficionado Magazine]
The Smoking Jacket in Contemporary Men’s Fashion
The Smoking Jacket is Not Just a Halloween Costume
Despite its relative decline in popularity, the smoking jacket has persisted through the 20th century, and there is certainly a place for it in 21st-century menswear. You should not assume that this garment must be consigned to thrown-together fancy party costumes; it remains a viable fashion choice, as illustrated by the men of style who have kept the smoking jacket alive today, for casual occasions, a truly exceptional loungewear experience, a statement outfit, or the very best experience for casual Black Tie.
Who Wears Smoking Jackets Today
Those who enjoy a smoke in style are largely responsible for the persistent relevance of the smoking jacket, especially as the garment is as good at protecting your clothes from ash and smoke today as it was in the 19th century. Smoking jackets are a relatively common sight at cigar bars or anywhere tobacco enthusiasts gather.
Black Tie Enthusiasts and Menswear Influencers
For those who love Black Tie, the smoking jacket offers a unique opportunity to add unexpected color and texture to a formal ensemble. A Black Tie alternative smoking ensemble, worn properly on the right occasions, can be a sure sign of a dedicated formal menswear insider and is a favored look for many menswear influencers.
Evocative of bygone glitz and glamor, the smoking jacket can often be seen on film and music stars, especially at red carpet events like premieres or awards shows. Oftentimes, these examples will be more fashion-forward, but they do illustrate the public’s continued fascination with smoking jackets on famous men like Stephen Fry, Tom Ford, Terence Howard, and David Beckham.
The Contemporary Smoking Jacket
Having brought the smoking jacket up to the present, we will now summarize the styles and features of the contemporary smoking jacket.
Smoking Jacket FAQ
Are smoking jackets still popular?
Smoking jackets may not be as common as they were in the 19th or early 20th centuries, but they are enjoying a comeback and are becoming more popular in contemporary menswear. But regardless of their popularity, anyone who wishes to do so can wear a smoking jacket, provided that he understands what type to wear and where it is appropriate to wear it. An exquisite smoking jacket with a luxurious weight could be the perfect investment piece for exceptional comfort and timeless style as a captivating addition to your wardrobe.
Should I wear a smoking jacket while smoking?
The smoking jacket was devised to aid smokers by protecting their clothes, and it serves that function as well today as it did back then. For someone who relishes a little pomp and circumstance while enjoying a tobacco product, a smoking jacket will only add to the pleasure of the occasion.
Can I wear a smoking jacket if I don’t smoke?
A smoking jacket can be an excellent addition to the wardrobe of any gentleman, even those who do not smoke. It could instead be worn as an elegant housecoat or, under the right conditions, as a Black Tie alternative.
Is a smoking jacket the same thing as a tuxedo?
No, it is not. A tuxedo, or dinner jacket ensemble, is the modern iteration of traditional Black Tie formal wear. Certain smoking jackets can serve as a Black Tie alternative, but they are a step down from genuine Black Tie in formality and should only be worn on certain Black Tie occasions. See the following question for more information.
Can I wear a smoking jacket for the Black Tie dress code?
Potentially yes, but pay attention to the precise dress code. If the dress code calls for Black Tie, your host would likely prefer for you to wear a more traditional Black Tie ensemble. Dress codes like Black Tie Optional, Festive Formal, or Creative Black Tie are more clear invitations to wear a smoking jacket.
Is “Ein Smoking” or “Un Smoking” the same thing as a smoking jacket?
No, it is not. Many regions, primarily in Continental Europe, refer to dinner jacket ensembles, or tuxedoes, as “Smoking” because the modern dinner jacket evolved from the smoking jacket. Now, however, they are distinct garments.
Smoking Jacket Styles
There are essentially two varieties of contemporary smoking jackets that vary in their styling and the occasions for which they are appropriate. Most often, these jackets are classified by their closure method.
The older sash-style smoking jacket closely resembles its progenitor, the robe-de-chambre. It is closed with a belted sash usually made from the same material as the jacket, although a different material can be employed. Tassels and other decorative elements may also be present on the belt.
A sash smoking jacket often has little or no structure and a looser drape. In general, it is considered a more informal garment. It is sometimes informally grouped with lounge robes or lounge suits and may be identified as such.
Buttoned smoking jackets more closely resemble dinner jackets and tend to be more structured and tailored in fit. The buttons, sometimes oversized, are usually covered in fabric that is either black, dark-toned, or matches or compliments the jacket. Because of their association with dinner jackets, buttoned smoking jackets are generally considered more formal.
Single-breasted smoking jackets can have 1, 2, or 3-button configurations, although 1 is most common. Double-breasted varieties feature a 4 x 2 or 6 x 2 configuration, although in some vintage models, 2 x 1 is typical.
Toggled smoking jackets are a variation on the button-closure style. Harkening back to Victorian smoking jackets, they have a distinctly vintage charm and can be something of a statement piece.
Frogging refers to braiding that can decorate the buttons or toggles of a smoking jacket. It provides unique visual interest to the garment and often helps to set smoking jackets apart from dinner jackets.
Smoking jackets can vary in length from breaking at the knee to breaking similarly to a suit jacket or blazer. However, the most classical length will land around the mid-thigh with a shorter length.
In general, a sash smoking jacket will have a longer skirt, while a buttoned smoking jacket will more closely resemble the length of a dinner jacket. Generally, any length beyond the mid-thigh will be considered more informal and most suitable for home wear.
Smoking Jacket Colors and Patterns
Traditional Colors: Jewel Tones in Blue, Red, and Green and Black
Rick, dark colors, often in jewel tones, are traditionally associated with classic 20th-century smoking jackets and will ensure a timeless look, especially when setting off a crisp white shirt.
Modern Colors: From Purple to Gray and (Nearly) Everything in Between
Colors like mustard, brown, gray, purple, and bright shades of blue and red have become more popular for smoking jackets since the 2000s and as such present a slightly more au-currant appearance. That being said, it should be noted that many of these colors were also seen in 19th-century smoking jackets, illustrating the cyclical nature of fashion.
Collars made from the same material as the jacket will usually be either the same color or a color from the same family, although complementary or contrasting colors are not unknown.
Collars made from different materials from the jacket are discussed in greater detail below.
Learn to employ color properly
In addition to solid colors typical of velvet examples, there are several patterns usually associated with silk smoking jackets. A classic pattern can be very fetching, but be aware that anything too complex could be distracting, especially in a public setting.
Smoking Jacket Fabrics
Smoking jackets can be made from nearly any fabric, but an important consideration will be the desired use of the jacket. If you intend to use your smoking jacket for smoking, a functional pile fabric like a cotton-rich velvet pile or heavy silk is strongly encouraged. Otherwise, a wider variety of fabrics can be employed for jackets that are styled like a smoking jacket but will not be worn primarily when smoking.
Fabrics to Avoid
Many lightweight fabrics, like linen or certain weaves of cotton, can make excellent summer robes or bathing wraps but lack the heft and appearance to serve as good smoking jackets. Conversely, synthetic fabrics are stuffy, overly shiny, and can even be highly flammable, and should thus be avoided in general.
Sham Smoking Jackets? Stylistically Similar Garments
Note that several jacket types that appear to visually or functionally resemble the smoking jacket were, in the past, considered different articles.
A leisure robe, for instance, looks very similar to a sash smoking jacket but often has a looser drape and longer skirt. A TV jacket, on the other hand, has a very similar cut to a smoking jacket but is often made from materials that are ill-suited for enjoying tobacco. And of course, a velvet dinner jacket can be almost indistinguishable from modern iterations of the buttoned smoking jacket.
It can be very difficult to distinguish between these jacket types, and many of the distinctions were codified during the mid-20th century and are no longer observed. As such, be prepared to encounter several jackets that are, today, referred to as “smoking jackets” that might not fit a more traditional definition, but, for all intents and purposes, are now effectively “smoking jackets.”
Smoking Jacket Features
The soft quilted shawl collar or satin shawl collar is the most traditional collar for a smoking jacket, and the most traditional soft shawl collar will be made with quilted satin.
This style is most often associated with sash-closure smoking jackets but will also appear on buttoned varieties. Conversely, a more conventional shawl collar can often be found on button closure smoking jackets.
Many Black Tie alternative smoking jackets will feature a peaked lapel, although notched lapel and rigid shawl collars are often worn as well and may feature satin piping.
In these instances, the lapels will often be self-faced, although contrasting or black lapels are also common.
The most traditional lining for a smoking jacket is silk satin, but bemberg, a type of rayon, is common in many smoking jackets today, along with other synthetic materials. A cotton liner, sometimes of Egyptian cotton fabric, will often appear on a luxury cotton jacket.
Turn-up cuffs, in which the end of the sleeve has been turned up and out at the hand hole with facings, often in satin, are perhaps the most iconic cuffs for smoking jackets.
You will also find, however, plain cuffs or cuffs made from the same material as the lapels. Plain cuffs are often decorated with piping or braiding, as discussed below.
Traditionally, a smoking jacket would have two large exterior bellows patch pockets for holding tobacco paraphernalia and an exterior chest pocket, along with one or two interior pockets.
If desired, it is perfectly acceptable to wear a pocket square in the exterior chest pocket, provided that the pocket square is suited to the anticipated level of formality and matches the rest of the outfit.
The exterior side pockets are sometimes converted to flap or slit pockets in more formal jackets or removed altogether.
Pocket Squares to Complement Any Smoking Jacket from Fort Belvedere
Bold colors for domestic refinement
Antique Gold Silk-Wool
Understated elegance for an evening out
Navy Polka Dot Wool-Challis
Timeless accessory for formal finesse
Hand-Rolled White Linen
In addition to piping around the cuffs and lapels, some smoking jackets have additional decorative piping along seams or the body in general. Be aware that excessive piping may appear overwrought.
Many smoking jackets also feature trim, usually in the same material as the lining, but sometimes in other materials, like braiding. This trim is evocative of the exposed cuffs and lapel, and when done tastefully, is in keeping with a traditional smoking jacket style.
Crests and Monograms
Because of its domestic nature, smoking jackets were historically often decorated with the initials or family crest of the owner.
Tasteful decoration, usually on the exterior chest pocket, is in keeping with classic conventions, but as always, be aware of the effect of exaggerated designs, and in general, we recommend avoiding any designs that incorporate brand logos.
Monograms can be displayed, but for the most traditional styling, they should be restricted to the interior lining; in the past, monograms were intended only for the benefit of one’s launderer and were not prominently displayed.
How to Wear a Smoking Jacket
When deciding whether you ought to invest in a smoking jacket, your first consideration will be how and where you wish to employ it. Although originally intended for exclusive use at home, the smoking jacket can, under the right circumstances, make public appearances.
Appropriate Dress Codes for a Smoking Jacket
Because of its origins, the smoking jacket is not ideally suited for all public occasions. You should take the nature of the event and stated dress codes into consideration when deciding whether to wear a smoking jacket and which style to wear.
“It’s beautiful to have a smoking jacket, a good cigar, and a wife who plays the piano.”
Henry Miller, in The Tropic of Cancer
Although a smoking jacket can be a Black Tie alternative, traditionally, it should not be worn for occasions specified as Black Tie, for which your host will likely prefer you in a proper dinner jacket ensemble. Instead, save a smoking jacket for dress codes that invite personalization, like Black Tie Optional, Creative Black Tie, or Festive Black Tie, or dress codes lower on the Formality Scale in which you feel you can comfortably, and politely, dress up.
The following outline offers basic guidance on wearing a smoking jacket under various circumstances. When planning your ensemble, note that a buttoned smoking jacket will generally be more formal than a sash smoking jacket.
The Smoking Jacket as Domestic Attire
|If You Are …||You Should Consider…|
|Lounging||If you desire to add a little glamor to your evenings in, a smoking jacket could be the perfect touch. A more relaxed sash smoking jacket is ideal for such occasions. The smoking jacket can be worn to similar effect when traveling or when working alone at the office.|
|Entertaining at Home||Following the lead of the Prince of Wales, a smoking jacket is perfectly acceptable attire for a supper at home, such as an intimate dinner party. You can wear a sash smoking jacket when entertaining at your own home, but a buttoned style is better suited for private evenings at a friend’s home.|
The Smoking Jacket as a Smoking Accessory
|When Smoking…||You Should Consider…|
|Privately||When indulging in a smoke alone or with close intimates in a private setting, either style of smoking jacket can be worn and will add a refined air to the event.|
|Publicly||In designated smoking venues, like cigar lounges or stores, a smoking jacket of either style is acceptable. In other locations where smoking is more common, like a bar or nightclub, a buttoned smoking jacket will generally be a safer choice.|
The Smoking Jacket as a Black-Tie Alternative
|If You Are Dressing …||You Should Consider…|
|For Socializing||When gathering with friends, such as for a night of dining and dancing, a smoking jacket can be a great accent when you want to dress up but are not expected in full formal wear.|
|For Cultural Events||For events like a play, the ballet, or opera performances, a smoking jacket can add sophistication to the evening, provided that it is in keeping with any posted dress codes for the venue.|
|For Celebratory Occasions||As mentioned above, whether you wear a smoking jacket or not at most invitational celebrations or events should be dictated by the stated dress code. When in doubt, for any event with a formal air, a dinner jacket will be the safer option.|
A Special Consideration for Weddings
To provide a convivial atmosphere, many weddings, even Black Tie weddings, invite creative dress from guests. When considering whether to don a smoking jacket under such circumstances, keep in mind that you may, very likely, be the only gentleman at the event wearing a smoking jacket.
Accordingly, there is an outsized chance that you might be mistaken for the groom, as you, and he, might be the only male attendants uniquely garbed. Therefore, unless your social circle tends to favor wearing smoking jackets, they might be best avoided at weddings to avoid any awkward confusion.
Dress like the perfect wedding guest
Styling a Smoking Jacket
|When Wearing a Smoking Jacket …||You Should Consider…|
|In Private||When worn privately in the home for relaxing or smoking, a smoking jacket can be easily paired with whatever outfit you had on earlier that day. Just exchange your jacket and enjoy yourself.|
|When Entertaining at Home||While playing host in your own home, conform the rest of your outfit to the level of formality you’ve expressed to your guests. Feel free to wear either a sash or buttoned smoking jacket.|
|In Public||When visiting someone else’s home or wearing your smoking jacket in public, you will be best served wearing a buttoned style and conforming the rest of your outfit to Black Tie standards.|
Establish the appropriate level of formality with the correct neckwear
Ideal for domestic use or more casual occasions
Large Paisley Ascot
Ideal for entertaining or evenings out
Polk Dot Bow Tie
Ideal for semi-formal and formal affairs
Black Bow Tie
How to Buy a Smoking Jacket
High-quality smoking jackets can be difficult to locate on the market today. However, with the information contained in this guide and a bit of research, you will be able to find the perfect addition to your wardrobe.
Selecting Styles and Features
When investing in a smoking jacket, select a model that fits your needs and the occasions on which you intend to wear it, taking into consideration the suggestions made in the above How to Wear a Smoking Jacket section. The most important consideration is that you find a smoking jacket that you can actually wear, and wear well.
Hallmarks of a Classic Smoking Jacket
For those of you interested in a smoking jacket typical of the Classic Style, we have provided the following general suggestions.
Velvet is the iconic fabric for smoking jackets and was favored over heavy silk for most of the 20th century. Dark solid colors, usually reds, blues, greens, and black, were common because of their versatility.
Shawl Collar or Peaked Lapels
Single-breasted smoking jackets were the most common in the 20th century. They usually had silk or quilted satin shawl collars and turn-up cuffs.
Double-breasted smoking jackets were very popular as a Black Tie alternative, and during the Golden Age of Menswear usually had self-faced peaked lapels, although shawl collars were also worn.
Frog Toggles or Covered Buttons
Because it is less versatile, if you only own one smoking jacket, we suggest opting for a buttoned style over the sash style.
To distinguish your smoking jacket from a velvet dinner jacket, consider toggle frog closures for a unique and visually striking effect. For something more sedate, cloth-covered buttons are also an excellent choice.
Sizing and Fit
In general, because of its bulky fabric, a smoking jacket should be cut more generously than a dinner jacket. However, while a sash-style smoking jacket can be more voluminous, a buttoned smoking jacket should still be fitted, so consider having alterations done by your tailor.
Hallmarks of Quality
As always, begin with high-quality materials. Avoid synthetics and seek out natural fabrics, like cotton velvet and genuine silk. Be especially careful with satin, as this term is used to describe both natural silk satin but also poly-blend synthetic satin.
Many of the hallmarks of a quality suit will apply to a smoking jacket as well and should be your first point of evaluation. Pay particular attention to the tightness of the stitches, as low-end manufacturers often have trouble working with heavier fabrics.
Price does not dictate quality, but quality often has a price. For a high-quality smoking jacket that will provide years of service, be prepared to pay between $250 and $1500 for a new jacket.
Smoking jackets are a favored item for both legacy and new manufacturers, and you will have many options when making your selection, although many may not comport with classic styling conventions. An important initial consideration will be whether to purchase off-the-rack or made-to-measure, for which you will want to take advantage of our numerous resources on that subject.
In general, many fashion houses offer some variety of smoking jacket, but be aware that in many cases there will be a steep mark-up. Conversely, a bespoke smoking jacket may require a sizable outlay of initial capital, but it will often result in a garment of superlative quality.
To help you get started, here are a few brands worth considering:
|Brand Name||Brand Description|
|LuxuRobes (Duke and Digham)||With their sash closures, smoking jackets from LuxuRobes, a subsidiary of Duke and Digham, were clearly designed with domestic settings in mind. Priced at around $250, and regularly on sale for less, these silk and velvet smoking jackets are excellent “starter models” for those interested in experimenting with a private-use smoking jacket.|
|Oliver Brown||Oliver Brown offers an impressive array of smoking jackets with a variety of cuts, jewel-toned colors, frogs, and lapels. Designed primarily as a Black Tie alternative, these smoking jackets, priced at around 500 pounds, present considerable opportunities for personalization within the Classic Style.|
|Derek Rose||With offerings available at under $1000, Derek Rose provides expertly crafted smoking jackets that more closely resemble leisure robes, and as such are best reserved for domestic occasions.|
|Brooks Brothers||Brooks Brothers once stocked classic smoking jackets regularly, but as the brand has evolved, they are primarily sold seasonally, in the winter months, or at outlet stores. Brooks Brothers offers a good quality product at their price point.|
|Daniel Hanson||Specializing in luxury robes, Daniel Hanson also carries a line of smoking jackets, primarily with sash closures and in velvet and silk, with bespoke options available. These smoking jackets cost over £1000 but come in a variety of colors with quality materials.|
|Turnbull & Asser||Featuring frogs and toggle buttons, the smoking jackets from Turnbull & Asser, available in a variety of velvet jewel tones, have a vintage feel that manages to stay in touch with modern style.|
|Tom Ford||Tom Ford was partially responsible for the revival of the smoking jacket, designing several for music and film stars to wear on the red carpet. As such, these smoking jackets, which average over $3000 in cost, are designed primarily for public use and are cut very similarly to a dinner jacket, often with trendy detailing.|
|Divij Bespoke Tailors||Offering bespoke suits in a wide selection of cuts, fabrics, and details, Diviji Bespoke Tailors of Hong Kong can help you craft a unique smoking jacket that exactly satisfies your needs.|
A Smoking Jacket for Every Budget
A new smoking jacket can represent a sizable investment, as indicated in the following table. For sizable savings, consider secondhand buying options, discussed below.
Secondhand Smoking Jackets
Because of their former extreme popularity, smoking jackets can often be found at very reasonable prices secondhand. A vintage purchase can allow you to acquire a jacket of superior quality at a reduced cost, provided you know what to look for and have a little luck on your side.
The existing Gentleman’s Gazette catalog offers numerous resources for second-hand shopping, but below are some points to consider when seeking out a smoking jacket in particular.
How to Assess Smoking Jacket
Vintage smoking jackets may very well have been used for smoking, so pay special attention to any burn marks, holes, or discoloration. Odors may also be an issue and should be taken into consideration, especially as dormant odors can be revived as a jacket is worn again.
Be mindful also that smoking jackets with a longer skirt may have been worn as a robe, and as such, it is best to have any item thoroughly cleaned before wearing.
Second-Handing Shopping Sources
Smoking jackets can be difficult to locate in brick-and-mortar establishments but can often be sourced through higher-end vintage or second-hand shops. That being said, you could always get lucky perusing thrift stores or antique stores that specialize in older goods.
Because of the risk of foul odors, and the likelihood that damaged areas may not be clearly evident in images, you should be careful when purchasing a used smoking jacket online. Only buy from reputable dealers, and consider contacting the seller directly to discuss any issues like minor damage, fraying, or smells.
An Example of a Smoking Jacket Outfit
The magnificent smoking jacket is a unique article in menswear that encapsulates considerable personality and a long and storied history of opulence. Whether you don a men’s smoking jacket for at home aperitifs while enjoying a fine cigar on relaxed weekends or while spending a night out on the town, you can be sure that you’ll attract attention and add one more story to the legacy of a garment that has seen everything from the stately halls of Sandringham House to the glittering gaming floors of the Sands Casino. Both the epitome of luxury loungewear with unparalleled comfort and unrivaled softness as an exquisite robe and a formal evening garment with incredible flair, a gentleman’s smoking jacket invites compliments whether worn in the early mornings or late evenings.
Do you own a smoking jacket? If so, how do you like to style it? Let us know in the comments!