For those concerned with the associations created by particular garments, casual jackets can be a nightmare. Corduroy is for professors, tweed for grandparents and leather for wannabe greaseballs. A Harrington jacket screams mod (or rebel lacking a cause), denim is the eighties and suede looks like it should have cowboy tassels. And even the most sartorially ignorant know that suit jackets with jeans don’t work.
To those people I say this: consider another cotton. It is no coincidence that most of these jackets are made of the stuff. It is a versatile material that can be sturdy or flimsy, sleek or casual; and it molds quickly to the wearer, feeling soft and lived in. It can make both velvet and sackcloth. But if you are concerned about the associations with the varieties of cotton mentioned above, I suggest you try something else: moleskin.
You probably know it best in trousers. It is a heavy, strong cotton with carded yarns that are made with a short nap (longer strands, fuzzy feel) which is then cut down. The surface is smooth and solid, probably most similar in feel to suede from the options above.
There are different varieties of moleskin. Some are smoother and silkier than others. I recommend going for (assuming at this point you are sitting in the leather armchair at your tailor’s, casually flicking through the Harrison’s bunch) the rougher variety, as you are less likely to be put off – when the jacket is made – by its similarity to drill than you are to velvet. As to colour, stay within the brown family and err towards the conservative. You’re playing with texture here and other experimentations should be minimal.
So a dark brown, possibly a tan (apologies to all those whose complexions suit colours of higher contrast; bonanza for redheads though). Either a single or double-breasted would work well. Personally I would go for an SB but a DB could scarce be counted as an experiment as it will add a touch of seriousness to the ensemble.
And, if you’re feeling generous, get the trousers and make it a suit. Imagine a russety-brown single-breasted moleskin suit, single button, cutaway front, narrow trousers, worn with a pale-blue shirt and silk handkerchief erupting with autumnal oranges, yellows and greens. Scrummy.
Commissioning the trousers of course means that you can wear them separately, as a more usual and conservative dress option. It’s rare that one has a suit made where the trousers are just as versatile as the jacket; perhaps with a grey flannel. Moleskin wears pretty well too, so there can be few concerns about exhausting the trousers before the jacket has been worn in. Cotton will always lag behind wool in longevity, but moleskin is tough stuff and will go smooth and very slowly bald before it wears through.
Compared to denim or corduroy, moleskin is a smarter option in a casual jacket. So I recommend a smarter pair of jeans if jeans are to be worn – a clean indigo, perhaps. Unlike denim or corduroy, however, moleskin will also work extremely well with other cottons on the lower half, like some sleek chinos or cream flannels.
Time to get back to the Harrison’s.