Monday, October 11, 2010
The most common ready to wear man's suit style is notch lapelled, with a two button front and side pockets with flaps. That is roughly mid-way along the jacket formality scale.
Generally, the closer a jacket's styling is to that of men's evening clothes, the more formal it is (as we will see later, cloth is significantly less of a factor). That places a single breasted jacket with a single button, peak lapels and jetted pockets without flaps at the top of the formality pyramid.
By this logic, a double breasted suit jacket with the same detailing is not quite as formal as a single breasted, for double breasted dinner jackets were introduced as less formal versions of their single breasted forebears.
Descending the formality scale, notched lapels on a single breasted jacket are less formal then peak. From there, the more complex the detailing the more casual the effect. So flapped pockets are less formal than flapless and patch side pockets even less so; add a patch breast pocket and formality declines further. Put flaps on those patches and we are as casual as casual can be.
Something similar holds true for other stuff. More buttons are less formal than fewer. Swelled lapel seams are less formal than plain, and features that originated in hunting jackets such as belts and shoulder pleats are the least formal of all.
All of this leads up to the conclusion that details are more important to a jacket's formality than cloth because it was not uncommon for pre-War style leaders to combine less formal cloth with more formal details in their city suits (though never the reverse). In the illustration, the late British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden walks through the Place Vendôme wearing a suit of relatively formal design made of a fairly informal checked flannel cloth.
If not proof, then certainly a strong indication that jacket formality is principally in the details.