Thursday, 25th July 2019
The single-breasted coat. The SB. Is there anything more respectable, more right and proper and upstanding, in all that is men’s clothing? Why, it was often once said that a man could wear one, and one alone, and still get by in life without anyone really raising much of an eyebrow.
Which begs the question why it has taken ten years — ten quite busy years, yes, but not without doodles in the margins of the menswear — to get around to making one? Not being up for the challenge, maybe. There is a strong though seldom-spoken belief here at the workshop that the closer you inch towards the concentrated core of all that is and can be menswear, as all the agreed rules and carefully plotted lines and accepted style standards converge, the less you are allowed to work with; the fewer the independent variables in the experiment; deviate too far this way or that from standard practice and you render Fashion Police-baiting laughing-stock whatever it is you’re trying to develop.
Part of it, too, is that the SB — perhaps it just isn’t very interesting. Inherently, that is. That there is something dull in its nature; prosaic and pedestrian, deep down, as compared to, say, the sweeping glamour of the trench coat or buccaneering spirit of the peacoat. There is no history, maybe, in a single-breasted overcoat to really romance any great idea around.
Nonsense, of course. There is nothing innately humdrum at all about the SB, and if it carries today a whiff of the bog-standard, it has only itself to blame, having cast itself downtrodden and designated driver while the other coats were off enjoying themselves.
But some postbox pockets, big ones, for a generously stuffed large-letter and more besides — they’ll restore some puff to the chest of this classic coat. A half-belt at the back, as well, to reward good posture, and the workaday notch lapel replaced by a peak for a more engaging first impression. Having something entirely of its own, meanwhile, will give the SB — so long set in its set-in ways — a reason to leave the house in the morning. That’s where a half-raglan sleeve comes in. This is a type of sleeve strictly speaking fully of the house of raglan, but whose diagonals, steeper than on the full raglan of a trench or walking coat, are less active-seeming, so don’t take the SB too far from its comfort zone.
These disparate but concordant components will be built into a knee-length bedrock of perpendicular front-back balance — always vital, balance, but here especially so given the simplicity of the form, and so perhaps even perpendicular-er than usual — and a fit with one foot planted in full-on Big Outerwear and the other within classic English tailoring.
Most exciting about working this suite of expensive-taste specifications into the SB is that what you end up with isn’t an SB so much anymore. Assisted evolution is what this amounts to: levelling-up the SB to its fully powered-up Chesterfield state of being. Not the full-blown Chesterfield found putting the world to rights most nights at the Con Club, no. A more easygoing affair than that, this, and a more everyday one. But a true and proper Chesterfield, all the same. And what a great name. There’s stiff-lipped spring-stepped confidence in that. It even starts with a capital letter. Fit for the history books, in fact, and yet unlike other famous outerwear not saddled unduly by old and ordained stereotypes.
There are still a few weeks to go before this Chesterfield launches phoenix-like from the knackered carcass of the SB. October it will arrive, most likely, when not coincidentally all manner of woollens, cashmeres, and heavy worsteds abound — and the new big coat on the block, indeed as everyone knows the whole workshop, will really be in its element.