BE A SPORT IN OLYMPIC YEAR
Wearing a sports jacket hardly makes one a sport but as the nation prepares to be overwhelmed by the sporting prowess of Olympians, lesser mortals may wish to have some link, however tenuous, with their sporting heroes.
The sports jacket is a dependable choice. It may have become a wardrobe staple but it started off life in the sports lane and is a direct descendent of the hacking jacket, worn for hacking about on a horse.
Over the years, its initial hardy, tweedy, tough-as-old-boots persona has been modified and dandified so that it can now be every bit as smart and chichi as the suit. Teamed with formal trousers, sometimes coordinated, it can be business wear, or with jeans or shorts or chinos or cords it may be cool casualwear.
The classic tweed version remains the favourite, Harris and estate tweeds the most popular cloths. These can still go a-hacking while being equally acceptable in the city.
But in many other guises, the old sports jacket comes up anew in the most luxurious of cashmeres, vicuna, silk and cashmere mixes, fine wool and light cotton and linen jacketings that take it into the most sophisticated of city-scapes.
It also deserves credit for bringing colour to the male wardrobe. After the Victorian and Edwardian eras, when male dress went sombre, it was the sports jacket and its tweed that brought colour back into a man's checks.
A myriad of colourful strands went into the Harris tweeds. Then, the estate patterns, with their aim to provide colourful camouflage for the hunting and shooting sportsmen, brought bold patterns as well as colours.
While the brightest of these remained in the countryside for a long time, they have recentlybeen making increasing incursions into the city. And as shown here, they have been smartened up with matching waistcoats, to emphasise their boldness.
Though unlikely to show up at the more formal board meetings, they are firmly establishing much more colour into the dress of even quite conservative gentlemen. But a short time ago, the colours shown here would have been unthinkable for the average British male.
And the bold designs show off the craftsmanship of the bespoke tailors. The matching of checks on these examples is a testament to their skill.
The sports jacket may be equally at home in the pub, or at Lords, the opera or the office, wherever a man wants to look reasonably together, and not too formal.
And undoubtedly it will be there at the Olympics, pitting against the formless hoodie, the nerdy anorak, the unlovely quilts and other ill-favoured jackets as well as the sweaty sweatshirts and fat-revealing T-shirts that all too many will sport.
In such a contest, the medal for style must go to the tailored sports jacket in whatever textile guise it appears.
It remains a champion of the male wardrobe and in the versions shown here, we celebrate the sheer ubiquity and enduring appeal of the not-so-humble sports jacket.
At top, from Huntsman a bold checked jacket in one of their exclusive tweeds, with a coordinating waistcoat.
Above left, large and distinctive check pattern for a jacket by Andy Kapetanos, with matching vest.
Above, classic one-button sports jacket from Henry Poole.
And left, a summery style from Davies & Son.