Tradition tells us that tailoring is dashing, debonair and the best way to convey a sense of class and sophistication. But that ignores the nuances of modern menswear, and the shifting definitions of ‘smart’ and ‘casual’.
Occasions that actually call for a full suit are increasingly few and far between. Weddings? Maybe. A corporate job interview? Perhaps. But rock up to a Tinder date in head-to-toe tailoring and you’re going to stick out like a Mormon missionary in that cocktail bar.
So, what’s the solution? How is a man supposed to convey that he’s made an effort without looking comically overdressed against an increasingly informal sartorial backdrop? Simple: get yourself an unstructured blazer.
This relaxed, slouchy take on a traditional sport coat bears all the trappings of a tailored jacket but in a much more laid-back package. It’s the answer to all (well some) of your smart-casual questions, and something no man should be without.
What Is An Unstructured Blazer?
Let’s get terminological technicalities out of the way first. Traditionally, a blazer is a tailored jacket with naval-style metal buttons, but today the term is used more broadly to describe any type of informal tailored jacket – most commonly, sports coats.
The ‘unstructured’ part refers to the soft, relaxed silhouette. There are no sharp lines or padded shoulders to be found here, which results in a more casual feel overall. This makes unstructured blazers perfect for teaming up with regular old untailored garments, like chinos, and even jeans.
When Should I Wear An Unstructured Blazer?
Any time you have to ask yourself, “is a suit overkill for this?” is exactly when you should reach for the unstructured blazer. It’s the perfect get-around garment for those awkward in-between occasions, where a two-piece feels try-hard, but a shirt and pants feels too sloppy. It’s a finishing touch that goes a long way, and can make almost any outfit feel ‘dressed up’, without straying into stuffy or overdressed territory.
An unstructured blazer and casual pants can even replace a tailored suit in certain settings where tailoring would have once been mandatory. Weddings, for example, are becoming increasingly relaxed affairs, sartorially speaking, which makes this type of jacket a totally valid option most of the time. Just be sure to check the dress code carefully first.
At the other end of the spectrum, an unstructured blazer can be worn surprisingly casually too. Use one to elevate simple weekend looks, or take the high-low aesthetic to the extreme and dress one down with heavy knitwear, sweatpants and sneakers.
The Best Materials For Unstructured Blazers
Unstructured blazers tend to work best in thick, heavy or textured fabrics, which accentuate the jacket’s informal feel. Below are a few of our favourite materials for unstructured blazers, with options to cater for every setting and all seasons.
Linen is one of the world’s oldest woven fabrics, and has long been favoured in hot countries thanks to its cooling properties. It’s lightweight, breathable, quick drying and excellent at wicking moisture.
This makes it a great option for an unstructured blazer in the summer months. A breezy, laid-back option for warm-weather weddings and beyond.
The heavy texture of corduroy lends itself very nicely to the casual lines of an unstructured blazer, particularly in the fall and winter. It goes well with other strong textured fabrics too, which makes it perfect for layering up in the colder months.
That said, whatever you do, don’t pair a corduroy jacket with corduroy pants. Instead, stick to things like wool, tweed, denim and flannel legwear for contrast.
Worsted wool is the smooth fabric from which most tailored suits are made. The tight weave gives it a smart appearance, but it can work well for unstructured styles too, particularly if you’re after something that’s relaxed without being overly casual.
Textured woollens are thicker, heavier and coarser than worsted, which gives them a more casual look. They’re generally too warm for the summer, but work well in the transitional months, and when layered in the winter.
We love the utilitarian flavour a bit of twill can bring to the unstructured-blazer arena. It’s a rugged cotton fabric that ages beautifully and works nicely on casual blazer styles with workwear-inspired details like patch pockets.
The Best Unstructured Blazer Brands
Barena is a name synonymous with unstructured tailoring and elevated casualwear, and is particularly popular among Italy’s snappiest dressers. The range features both single-breasted and double-breasted styles in a range of fabrics, with uniform attention to detail and premium Italian construction.
When we think of unstructured blazers, Universal Works is one of the first names that comes to mind. The British brand’s utilitarian, workwear-infused take on tailored and casual pieces has earned it shelf space with many of the world’s most respected menswear outlets, and makes it a great choice for those who ordinarily shy away from tailoring.
The brand’s ‘London’ jacket, is its best-selling smart style, featuring a three-button front, double rear vents, a welt chest pocket and two patch pockets to the hips.
Drake’s is a legendary name on the London menswear circuit. Known for ties, fine fabrics and playfully preppy casualwear and tailoring, it’s a great choice for an unstructured blazer.
Check out the Games blazer for a first-rate option that comfortably straddles the line between sharp and slouchy.
Italian soft-tailoring specialist Boglioli is well known for its premium, unstructured jackets. The iconic K Jacket is the label’s most popular style and comes in a wide range of colours and fabric choices.
Another Italian brand famous for its elevated casualwear and toned-down tailoring is Brunello Cucinelli. Feel free to glide right past this one if you’re on any sort of a budget, because Cucinelli clobber does not come cheap.
If, on the other hand, your wallet is practically bursting at the stitches with black AMEX cards and £50 notes, Brunello Cucinelli makes some of the finest unstructured blazers money can buy in luxurious cashmere blends that will instantly upgrade any outfit.
H&M’s trendy, minimalist offshoot is an excellent place to pick up an unstructured blazer at affordable price points. The Swedish brand’s Wool-Twill Blazer is a slouchy but smart option cut from mid-weight fabric that’s perfect for dressing up and down in the fall and winter.
Looking for something a little different? Engineered Garments offers some very appealing offbeat, military-inspired jacket options for those who like a few extra pockets with their unstructured tailoring. Take a look at the Bedford jacket to get a feel for what the brand is all about.
Beams Plus’ signature brand of playful preppiness lends itself particularly nicely to smart-casual garments like unstructured blazers and beyond. Expect boxy cuts, premium Japanese construction and some pretty weird sizing to boot, so don’t forget to read the measurements thoroughly before you buy.