Male pattern boldness, pt. 4

“Thing is, a parka [let’s say] is always going to be a parka. There’s only so much you can do with it,” a passerby flicking through the garments at the workshop remarked the other day. Which, through its seductive simplicity — though perhaps not good for the spirits to dwell on — perhaps has a kernel of truth which merits exploring things further.

The fun of developing a new thing is setting in mind the end-point — usually a certifiable big beast of the male wardrobe, an item whose place in the constellation of classics is never to be disputed for at least the next hundred years — and then tweaking or improving or otherwise revivifying it by doing with it or to it something unexpected. In fact, not quite that. The real fun is throwing in a big helping from your unexpected pot from the get-go, and setting that as the starting point to then navigate onwards to the end.

Such is the case with the new flight jacket, and its saddle shoulder, which mimics in its lines the thing that is expected but absent — that most vestigial vestige: the epaulette. The saddle shoulder is a thing found sometimes in knitwear but seldom if ever in outer — fiendish to develop if recent harrumphing and tutting and air-blue-turning is anything to do by; times manifold more tricky to construct than either of its closest relatives, the set-in sleeve and raglan sleeve. Indeed, in its way, the saddle shoulder brings together the best of both of those. It has the lines of the former — exactly what you expect or nay demand in your flight jacket — but an over-shoulder drape and sense of lift found only in the latter.

From the roots, then, the flight jacket grows in a way quite different to reach the supposedly tried-and-tested end-point. It also has in-seam pockets which are grown out of the side-body, obviating the need for anything patched on or diagonal. It has a tight hem-band, with a pleated body doing the work of and perishing any thought of (cough) elastic. And it has in-breast pockets positioned unusually high up — handy on a flight jacket whether in the cockpit of your private jet or enduring cattle-class of a commercial one.

“Thing is, a parka is always a parka. There’s only so much you can do with it.” To which the answer might be an an argument paraphrased from the above, or a polite “True, true,” and then a private reflection that the most fun of all is hiding your unexpected in plain sight.