The Perfect Jacket for Air Travel from Gieves & Hawkes
I’m slightly obsessive about travel. I want to pack just the right number of things, in just the right way. This is not, as one may assume, to minimise the pain of travel; rather, it’s to remove any unnecessary complexity from a blissful experience. No check-in luggage (unless absolutely necessary) and all the required accoutrements — passport, ticket, earplugs, iPod, wallet — within easy reach.
It was this love of airborne voyaging that inspired me to search for the perfect travel blazer — an idea originally conceived in that navy-swathed Blazer Room at Gieves’ No.1 Savile Row premises. What constitutes the perfect jacket for air travel? How to blend practical necessity with aesthetic yen? I began working on The Perfect Jacket for Air Travel last year with Gieves & Hawkes head cutter Kathryn Sargent (who has, since then, started up her own tailoring venture in nearby Sackville Street).
What makes a sharp, versatile end product? Kathryn and I decided- It was to be a navy jacket in hopsack, fresco or similar high-twist cloth in order to withstand the punishment of travel. Its pockets were to be fastened — nothing should drop out of them if a careless steward held it upside down — and have allocated purposes and appropriate sizes: ticket, passport and so on, as mentioned above.
These were quite straightforward requirements of a bespoke jacket made by a skilful cutter. My final stipulation, though, was more challenging: the jacket needed to have interchangeable buttons on both front and cuffs to make it as versatile as possible upon arrival. These buttons became a project unto themselves. I wanted fixed but easily interchangeable sets of gold plate and brown horn — the former more formal, more classic; the latter more casual, better suited to tieless travel. In order to fasten to the blazer front, the buttons would require a shank to pass through a small hole and a ring (not unlike a key ring) to secure them on the other side — easy with a brass or gold plate, a domed button or anything with a solid face; but not so easy with an eyeleted horn button.
The Gieves tailors in No.1’s basement were more than up to the job, thankfully, and a near-solid shank was woven on the back of the horn buttons with a loop at the end. The cuff buttons were more straightforward. Like some dress studs on a formal shirt, they would be attached to a placket that would keep them together and eliminate the need for a fiddly hole-and-pin.
The pockets went through a few iterations, largely because we were concerned about bulk and balance. The iPod/iPhone pocket could go on the same side as the deep ticket pocket because the latter is so slim; they would merely have to be staggered towards the armhole to enable ease of access. The passport pocket would also be relatively light, so that it could go on the facing side, below the wallet — unusual as it was to have an inside hip pocket on the right. The interior pockets were flapped, buttoned or zipped, as much for variation as anything else. The external pockets were flapped, pleated patches to allow extra room, should anything need to be stuffed in at the last minute.
The hopsack we chose created a beautifully clean finish, and the accompanying grey fresco trousers would be just as versatile. Initially, the trousers refused to fall cleanly across the fronts, but were twice picked up and raised at the back to stop them falling forward. The jacket struggled to find an easy place to rest across my slightly prominent shoulder blades, and equally, to flow across a hollow back without resting on the seat. But a third fitting dealt with both those issues. Kathryn did a fine job, ably assisted by her under cutter, Richard Lawson.
The jacket is now to be an inspiration for a new model to go in the Gieves Blazer Room. It is pleasing to think that another lover of travel will have a ready-to-wear solution for the documentation and entertainment storage required to drift through Departures unencumbered. And it can enfold him as he is lifted into the air by the differences in relative air pressure — a grin, hopefully, spreading slowly across his face.
Gieves & Hawkes
1 Savile Row, Mayfair | London W1S 3JR | +44 (0)20 7434 2001 | www.gievesandhawkes.com
Written by Simon Crompton. This story originally appeared in Issue 20, Vol. 2, 2012.