Summers are straightforward. You take a shirt and wear it with your chinos, denims or pants. Winters are complicated. Especially when dressing for work. For, while pullovers are fine, it’s very hard to be taken seriously in a puffer jacket or an ill-fitting winter coat. And yet, these are cubicle fixtures.
The answer to looking sharp and staying warm, then, lies in the straight lines of a well-fitted blazer—largely overlooked but a real hard worker.
A few clarifications first. A blazer is not the same as a suit jacket. The latter comes with a matching set of pants. While it can be worn as a separate, you run the risk of wearing out your suit jacket while your pants remain untouched. A blazer, also called a sports coat, flies solo and is perfect for weather when the days are toasty but are book-ended by chilly mornings and evenings. It’s a piece that can go from formal to casual, looks good on almost everyone and comes in a scroll of colours, materials, textures and even styles.
“At the workplace, people instantly recognize a man in a fine blazer as a man who means business,” says Tejinder Singh, chief operating officer, Arvind Internet Ltd, the parent company of the Creyate brand which specializes in made-to-measure men’s clothing. And yet, Indian men largely ignore the blazer for work-wear despite the fact that it hides the belly and flatters the frame while keeping one warm.
The fit is everything
Sumit Chawla, a marketing professional who has worked at multiple luxury brands, loves his blazers. “I learnt very early on that the trick is the right fit; it has to be customized according to body type—it can’t be too tight or too loose,” he says. Which means you should ideally buy it from a made-to-measure brand or menswear boutique, or find a tailor who will do the job well. This is because most international ready-to-wear brands in India follow European sizes which don’t work for Indian men, who tend to be more stocky than Europeans. Not everyone has the luxury or the time, though, to get a bespoke version. What you can do is get a store-bought blazer altered either at the store or at a local tailor.
Stick to the classics
If you’re buying a blazer for the first time, stick to the classics. “A navy blazer is to men what a Little Black Dress is to women—you can’t go wrong with it,” says Neha Rakheja, a New Delhi-based corporate stylist and founder of UrStyleCoach, a company that provides styling solutions for men and conducts workshops on power dressing. So checks, stripes and millennial pink can wait; stick to solids like navy, blacks and greys, with a classic two-button closure design, the first time round. Double-breasted blazers may be in but are difficult to pull off. “And always only close the top button of your blazer while standing, never the bottom one. And when you sit, please unbutton it so your gut doesn’t hang out weirdly,” advises Rakheja.
Style it like a pro
Your blazer may be a classic but what you wear it with is a blank canvas. Other than a few corporate set-ups that still stipulate a full suit, most corporate offices these days have relaxed the rules on the suit-and-tie standard. “You don’t have to pair a blazer with the usual stiff pants now; opting for bottoms in less formal fabrics like denim and khaki will add a fresh, laid-back twist to your boardroom basics,” says New Delhi-based menswear designer Nitin Chawla, who has been experimenting with this topper for his brand Theorem.
In fact, a blazer can be worn in multiple ways. Here are three. For a seriously formal setting, wear it with matching pants, a collared shirt, a tie and Oxfords. For a more casual workplace, wear your blazer over denims and chinos. Pair these with regular or Chinese collared shirts (add a tie to the regular collared shirt if the occasion demands) and Polo T-shirts, finished with loafers or fashion sneakers (no, not the ones you wear to the gym). “Wear a pullover or sweater over your shirt and finish it with a blazer. It will add warmth, texture and an air of sophistication at work,” says Chawla.
A word of caution. While shirts, collared T-shirts and pullovers are great, stay away from V-neck T-shirts under your jacket. Only Italians can look good in that combination.
It’s an investment, treat it like one
Because of its bespoke nature and the quality of material used, a blazer isn’t exactly fast fashion or cheap. Which is why taking care of it is as important as wearing it. Never fold your blazer or place it on an iron hanger. Always hang it on a wooden one with rounded edges so the shoulders don’t droop and lose shape. Wear it only every three-four days and air-dry it in between. Use a good lint roller and brush to remove dirt and dust. “And don’t dry clean it too often. Dry cleaning will only damage the fabric faster,” says Singh. And finally, when keeping it away after the winter, store it in a good fabric cover on a wooden hanger and keep it in a cool, dry place so it can wait out the heat and return in perfect shape.
Choosing the right fit
■ If the blazer forms a sharp “X” in the front when you close the button, it’s too tight.
■ If the cuffs of the blazer cover the entire wrist and go past it, the sleeves are too long. The ideal sleeve length is one where the cuffs end just where you can see a sliver of your shirt.
■ The length of the blazer should be in line with the knuckle of your thumb when you’re standing upright with your hands to the side. Otherwise it’s too long or too short.
■ The top button (of a two button jacket) should lie just above the belly button for the perfect body proportion.
■ If the shoulders droop and extend past your natural shoulders, it’s too loose.