A very brief history of jackets and coats

While the jacket seems to have originated during the Middle Ages, the coat is deeply rooted in military and naval backgrounds
Last Updated 03 March 2020, 14:33 IST

While jackets and coats have predominantly originated from men’s wear. Here are a few facts on where it originally came from.

The jacket seems to have originated during the Middle Ages or early Renaissance as the jerkin, which is a more fitted version of the short tunic worn by working-class men.

The history of the coat is deeply rooted in military and naval backgrounds. The coat has been around since the 1800s when the first variation was worn by the Dutch at sea, and it was made from coarse wool fabric.

The British navy started the popularisation of the jacket. It was a version of the coat that was similarly designed for naval duties, as a uniform for petty officers.

We soon had the US Navy adopting the coat and using the coat for “reefers”, who were the sailors responsible for the task of climbing up the rigging of sailing ships. The silhouette was relatively form-fitting to keep out harsh winds and the flared out at the hips made it easier for the navy officers to climb the ropes at sea.

Most of the coats were double-breasted which could be buttoned all the way up to protect one from the harsh elements. And pockets provided easy access to personal items. Nearly all coats at sea featured plastic or brass buttons which bore an anchor imprinted in them.

The fabrics used were mostly a blend of wool and acrylic which was tightly woven and heat-treated. This resulted in warm, water and wind-resistant fabric which was perfect for the conditions at the Navy.

The common grounds for all three countries for adopting the coat, was the need for a durable piece of outwear that could withstand the harsh rain, wind and cold temperatures typically experienced out at sea.

In India, The Nehru jacket is a variation of the Jodhpuri where the material is often khadi. The jacket began to be marketed as the Nehru jacket in Europe and America in the mid-1960s. Its popularity was spurred by the aspirational class’ and the growing awareness of elite foreign cultures.

So while the jacket evolved with time from its utilisation with physical labour, the military, hunting activities and evening dinners, the jacket had also evolved amongst women who started working in the 1920’s in the US workforce. And it gave way into coats and capes for women.

The Designer Chanel was also a great proponent with promoting women wearing men’s garbs and thus casting away the conservative clothes that women would wear at that time.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while choosing a jacket:

- Create the illusion of a slimmer and taller line by wearing jackets with vertical lines and seaming.

- Avoid patch pockets, to maintain the sleek line.

- Maximise wearability and create a leaner, taller look by selecting jackets in solid colors without embellishment.

- Select jackets made of smooth, rather than thick, bulky fabric in order to create a longer, leaner line.

- Pick a classic jacket with a V-neckline. Classically styled jackets that form a V-neckline when buttoned make us look taller.

- Choose single-breasted jackets, rather than double-breasted jackets. We do not need extra bulk in our clothing.

- Style it with more casual bottoms, like vintage-style jeans.

- Invest in a denim Jacket, it always goes a long way.

(The author is a fashion designer at Runa Ray)

(Published 03 March 2020, 14:13 IST)

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