How to choose a perfect gentleman’s smoking jacket

Campbell Carey, co-head cutter at Huntsman Savile Row, offers us his tips on what you need in a smoking jacket – not least the hidden pocket for your cigars.

What is a smoking jacket?

The origins of the smoking jacket are found in the Far East as far back as the 17th century, when silk dressing gowns were popularised – Samuel Pepys even mentions them in his diaries, though laments that he has to rent one since he can’t afford to buy one.

By the middle of the 19th century they’d evolved into the smoking jacket as we’d recognise today – a silk garment which is part jacket, part dressing gown. Part of their popularity was to do with the practicalities of tobacco smoking: it was deemed a good idea to don a smoking jacket to protect the garments underneath from the smell of smoke and any falling ash.

Yet the appeal of the smoking jacket soon saw it go beyond its original use. It became a popular item to wear around the house and, eventually, a suitable alternative to the dinner jacket when hosting a dinner party – indeed, the design of the dinner jacket itself is thought to have been inspired by the smoking jacket.

In recent years, dress codes have become somewhat relaxed, so they’ve been worn a lot more out of the home.

What is a traditional smoking jacket made from?

A smoking jacket is essentially designed to be worn around the home, something that’s reflected in the soft materials used. It is made of silk, velvet or jacquard cloth, or sometimes a combination of all three. A classic smoking jacket has a toggle or button fastening, a shawl lapel, and a turned back cuff.

A Huntsman smoking jacket

What sort of design details do you need to consider?

When having a smoking jacket made, there are many other choices and details to consider. The basics are that it’s cut to a decent length, it’s roomier to allow for comfort, and it’s cut with no vents.

But there are other things to consider too: cloth choice, lapel style, and – also that essential hidden pocket for your cigars.

What should you wear with a smoking jacket?

One should really wear a pair of dinner trousers with a silk or satin braid on the side seam. I’d also always suggest wearing a bowtie or a cravat worn underneath an undone white shirt. To complete the look, a pair of monogrammed slippers really do give the finishing touch.

Rex Harrison in a smoking jacket at a dinner with actress Lilli Palmer (Alamy)

‘The ultimate Huntsman client in a smoking jacket would be Rex Harrison,’ says Campbell Carey. This image shows Rex Harrison in a smoking jacket at a dinner with his then-wife, the actress Lilli Palmer. (Alamy)

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