Every Olympic host nation wants to put its own spin on the games but when it comes to clothing, tradition seems to win out. One such Olympic convention is the blazer worn by officials and athletes for formal occasions. This year, for example, officials will don grey pinstriped blazers edged with the bright blue of the 2012 logo, fastened with engraved buttons designed by the retailer Next. Many of the athletes too will wear blazers as part of their formal wear, as they have done for decades.
Accordingly, this season, menswear labels from Gant, Hackett and Jigsaw to tailors Spencer Hart and Loro Piana have also embraced the blazer – essentially a jacket worn with non-matching trousers.
“With the forthcoming Olympics and many sporting activities during the summer, it will definitely be a major focus,” says Tracy Stone, managing director of Gant UK, where sales of men’s blazers and similar smart yet casual jackets are already up 26 per cent this spring compared with last year.
“It’s so very English, and can be easily adapted to each brand’s signature,” says Stone. “The preppy look continues to be on-trend and the blazer is one of the final touches, worn with a pair of chinos plus a shirt and tie. The blazer is part of Gant’s collegiate heritage; students at Yale in 1949 wore the Classic Club for rowing.”
Hackett has been inspired by the Olympics to create a range called London 1948 which founder Jeremy Hackett describes as “a more nostalgic approach with echoes of Chariots of Fire”, and which includes “striped blazers in the old school style”. Hackett compares the blazer to the little black dress for women, in that “the reason it endures is that it’s practical and can be dressed up or down”.
Despite its versatility, the blazer has had a mixed reception in the past. “I’d always hated blazers because my dad used to wear one on holiday,” says James Haldane, 38, a financial adviser. “But you can find cool, relaxed styles now. They’re not at all stiff and dull,” he says.
Mansel Fletcher, style writer for the Mr Porter menswear website, agrees. “After years in which they were a byword for staid, conservative style, designers have been able to make blazers look modern again by using a lean and contemporary cut and by removing the structure. The current crop of blazers are not weighed down by cultural baggage.” Examples can be found at McQ Alexander McQueen, which has a navy wool and mohair blend blazer with yellow-accented shawl lapels (£460 at Mr Porter) and at Loro Piana, whose unstructured blazer is in a cashmere and silk blend (£2,255 at Mr Porter).
At Spencer Hart blazers are part of its Palm Springs range, which, says founder Nick Hart, “draws inspiration from the Rat Pack. They’re mainly in midnight blue and they have an unstructured open weave that’s designed to be worn with crisp chinos and fitted polo shirts.”
Creating an individual blazer style for a label is both a hurdle and an opportunity, according to Frances Walker, design director at Jigsaw menswear, where blazers have classic details, such as functioning buttons at the cuffs, as well as quirky elements. A navy three-button canvas blazer ( £195), for example, has a white and navy fine stripe under the collar and pale blue chambray shirting details inside.
“The challenges are always in fine-tuning the detail, updating a menswear classic,” Walker says. “At the moment, it’s exciting that young guys on Portobello Road are as likely to be seen wearing a blazer as older guys on Savile Row.” Not to mention all those competitors who are about to show up in London.