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Q Having some time to go through my closet, I realize I have a number of jackets from 5-10 years ago. You wrote about adjustments for old Armani suits, but what do today's blazers look like, and what should I get rid of?

A What you're really asking is, what makes a blazer look dated? A good wardrobe should last you for a long time. But, you never want what you are wearing to say "He bought that 10 years ago." So, even though a well-cut blazer is a classic staple, it is not exactly never changing.

What dates a man's blazer? It depends on the current style and where the jacket in the closets contrasts with that. These days, sharp dressers are wearing clothes that are slim, trim, and shaped to the body. What looks outdated? What are the worst offenders? Anything that looks big:

• Big shoulder pads.

Big lapels. Full, boxy cuts.

Jackets that are too long.

• Jacket sleeves that completely cover the shirt's cuffs.

Today's most fashion-forward men's designer, Thom Browne, is known for his shrunken look. I don't think his overly trendy "downtown look" (that's the rage right now for young men) makes sense for every man. However, his influence has been so strong that anything that is too long, too full, or not cut with a suppressed waist, tends to look dated.

You are right to pay attention to the blazers in your closet because they will make you look good. Perhaps the most totally useful piece of clothing a man owns is the versatile blazer -- not a dressy suit and not a sporty sports coat. A blazer should be in every man's wardrobe, ideally, he should have more than one. When you are in a situation where a suit is too formal and a sport coat is too sporty, then your best choice is a classic men's blazer. The blazer gives a man options that a suit cannot.

And yes, be sure that jacket looks good today and tomorrow, is well tailored and fits you perfectly. Blazers are distinguished in several different ways: single- or double-breasted, an American or an English basic style. It is a matter of personal preference: American or English? Know what type of style best fits your body structure, your social background, and your personality before you decide. You can have both in your wardrobe.

The classic American blazer style leans more toward the suit jacket cut with a few differences. Today, it has two buttons, notched lapels and a center vent. It may have flap, patch or besom (nonflap) pockets. Typical blazer buttons are brass with a nautical design. Today's suppressed waists make men look slimmer and taller than those with more boxy cuts. Still, that does not mean that the versatile American style blazer is not a good choice. Its single-breasted cut can be dressed down more easily than a double-breasted blazer.

The traditional English cut blazer is different. It is less boxy than the American counterpart. It is cut to emphasize the shoulders and chest. The double-breasted cut is more common in English blazers, but many are single-breasted. Today's version has double vents, dressy peak lapels, dark buttons and sleek besom pockets.

When can you wear the navy blazer? The answer is almost anytime -- a well-cut blazer is great when suits are too formal and sports coats are too casual. If your industry or your office does not require you to wear a suit, but you want to be dressier than a sports coat or shirtsleeves, consider a blazer for a polished, professional look.

The style allows you to be formal when formality is required, casual when casual is desired, all while looking your best. Many men (former Boy Scouts?) keep an extra blazer (perhaps not their favorite one) hanging in a closet at work or on a hanger in their car. When the occasion calls for formality such as meeting potential clients, a man can put on his blazer. A great piece to have, it may be the most important garment to own.

All of your clothing reflects your personality. A good navy blazer allows for a host of variations. To make their blazer more dressy or more versatile, many men replace the brass buttons with quiet navy suit buttons, or with custom buttons that sport, for example, insignia, monograms, etc. And, in summer, one of my favorite looks is to replace a blazer's buttons with ones made of white mother-of-pearl. I can think of nothing that makes a bigger difference/impact for a such a small investment. This sort of customizing is an often-overlooked method of putting your personality into your clothing.

The reason that blazers have remained in style for nearly 100 years: they are versatile, functional, and look great. Try on the ones in your closet. Keep the ones you look good in, and give the others away.

Please send your men's dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL:

Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

High Profile on 03/22/2020

Print Headline: Blazers versatile, functional for less-than-dressy times

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