The occasions that require you to dress up in a suit are increasingly few and far between. And with the impact of sportswear on men’s clothing, or at least the move to dressing more comfortably, it’s hardly surprising that tailoring is getting a major re-think.
But one product of this shift is already here and has been proving its worth for a while. The unstructured blazer takes the stiffness and the stuffiness historically inherent to tailoring, and similar to sneaker/shoe hybrids, creates a new class of garment in the process.
Unlike the more rigid suit jacket, an unstructured blazer carries the recognised hallmarks of formal dressing but which – depending on what it’s teamed with – feels much more at ease. And as a result, looks so much more modern with it.
In short, the unstructured blazer is arguably the 21st-century’s greatest wardrobe essential, and if you don’t already own one, you need to get involved.
What Is An Unstructured Blazer?
At first hearing, the term ‘unstructured’ blazer sounds like a bad thing: surely structure is something you want in tailoring? A traditional Savile Row tailor might say it’s essential for a jacket to hold its form and to strike the right silhouette.
But in these times of easier, softer dressing, retaining an air of formality without the straitjacket fit is in order, hence the unstructured blazer, which has no shoulder padding or chest canvassing. It might not even have a lining, or perhaps just a half lining to allow for a couple of inside pockets.
In fact, the unstructured blazer is often close to being a medium to heavyweight shirt – but cut like a jacket, with lapels, vents and pockets. Or perhaps a cardigan, which is why sometimes this type of garment is referred to as a ‘cardigan’ jacket.
Doing away with much of what allows the jacket to hold its shape, however, does mean that it has to be well-cut. Nor, in a completely unlined blazer, can finishing be skimped on: look, for example, for all inner seams to be properly taped (meaning the stitching is covered so no water can leak through the seams).
The result is a garment that’s ideal for the summer in particular, as it weights less than your typical suit jacket, and, being mostly lining-free, more breathable. That also makes it more comfortable and easier to travel with, because the unstructured blazer folds down relatively simply. Wear one in wool, and the natural stretch means that creases will drop out too.
But its greatest advantage is the stylistic versatility of that soft appearance. The unstructured blazer is the jacket equivalent of a decent pair of chinos. It retains enough formality that it can be dressed up with a shirt and tie, but is also relaxed enough that it looks as good over a T-shirt and with jeans.
3 Ways To Wear An Unstructured Blazer
Unless it’s on the way back from church, you wouldn’t usually think of wearing a traditional tailored jacket out for a Sunday pint. But this is when the unstructured blazer comes into its own, precisely because it’s suitably relaxed.
If the blazer is in a distinctive shade, pattern or texture, team it with a classic crew neck T-shirt, dark jeans or trousers and minimalist white sneakers, or over T-shirt and fitted Merino wool cardigan come the chillier months.
If it’s plain, try throwing it over a Breton striped T-shirt or lightweight sweatshirt. Don’t worry if your blazer is on the crumpled side – it’s what the Pitti peacocks call ‘sprezzatura’.
The unstructured blazer is the quintessential garment for when you’re not quite sure just how smart, or not, you’re meant to be dressed.
To straddle the divide, wear yours with tailored chinos, a button-down shirt or crisp polo shirt and a pair of loafers – or premium sneakers, if doing so won’t mark you out as a sartorial pariah – and you’re good to go for most occasions, from meetings to weddings.
Bonus tip: Skip the tie – the unstructured blazer is sufficiently informal enough not to demand it.
The versatility of the unstructured blazer is evidenced by the fact that it can be dressed up enough to be properly smart.
This isn’t a case of wearing it in a way to pass your attire off as a suit – so opt for separates in the form of tailored, flat-front trousers in a contrasting shade to the blazer. For smart occasions, this is best in wool or a cotton-blend, for better drape.
An unstructured blazer arguably still warrants an ‘unstructured’ shirt – so wear a button-down Oxford rather than a dress shirt, with a similarly soft knitted tie. Finish with classic Oxford or Derby shoes and, for an additional touch of formality, a tie-clip or silk square worn in the breast pocket.
The Best Brands For Unstructured Blazers
A family firm established in 1932 by Gennaro Rubinacci and now run by his grandson Luca, Rubinacci’s style leans heavily towards Neapolitan dapper: think ribbed cashmere cardigans and slim, pleated, buckle-fastening trousers. It’s also one of the few places you’d pick up an unstructured double-breasted blazer.
Get together an outside team of designers, buyers, pattern makers and other fashion types to put forward their ideas for individual garments, and you have Arket. Founded only in 2017, it’s the latest brand from the huge H&M stable with, as it puts it, a mission to democratise quality. Check out its two-button blazers in jersey flannel.
Inspired by Americana style, especially 1950s-era sports and casualwear, Beams Plus is the more upscale member of the Japanese family of Beams brands established in 1976. That love of all things preppy sees it offer the unstructured blazer in seersucker, ideal for high-summer.
Co-founded and designed by David Keyte, the Nottingham-headquartered Universal Works focuses on simple contemporary menswear in the mould of Albam or Folk, much of it made in the UK. Semi-tailored jackets come in twills and poplins and in multiple colours.
Sunspel is well placed to make a lightweight blazer. While founded in the 1850s, since the 1950s it’s been a specialist in the making of soft, breathable fabrics, most of which went into products worn next to the skin, the likes of underwear, T-shirts and polo shirts. Its Merino wool blazer is an excellent all-year-rounder.
In the west, Uniqlo might be considered a new player on the high street, but the company was founded in Yamaguchi in Japan in 1949. Focused on functional design with a minimalist style, it calls its stretchy, washable, quick-drying jacket a ‘comfort blazer’, which says it all.
It won’t ever be the cheapest option, but any tailoring from Zegna will likely become a wardrobe regular. With a long history in Italian tailoring – it pioneered the country’s first ready-to-wear suit – it’s a sign of the times that over recent seasons it’s moved towards softer, less structured styles.
It sounds quintessentially American, and it is: J Crew was launched in the early 1980s to ride the wave of the New England style popularised by Ralph Lauren, but at more accessible prices. Think chinos, button-down shirts and relaxed tailoring. Their unstructured blazer comes in a cotton-linen mix that’s breathable but sturdy enough for use throughout the year.
New York-based Engineered Garments may be one of the many Japanese brands inspired by workwear to create contemporary, utility-minded clothing, but this doesn’t mean looking combat-ready. Designer Daiko Suzuki’s staple peak lapel Bedford blazer is soft but smart.
Fast becoming the new Paul Smith of British menswear – in his ability to give menswear classics a modern twist – Spencer started his fashion education on Portobello Market, before creating formalwear brand Favourbrook. Expect a focus on rich fabrics, strong colour and a smart-casual style.