The history of the business blazer
So what’s the story behind the now-ubiquitous blazer? Originally, the modern business blazer was designed to be worn by the Navy crew aboard the HMS Blazer. The outerwear was so iconic that, quickly, it became known as the “blazer” after its ship.
That, though, was just the beginning. Because blazers are fashionable and functional, the style was quickly adopted as the go-to uniform not only in the Navy but also for rowing teams at Oxford and Cambridge in England. During morning races and practice sessions, rowers wore blazers made of flannel material to shield themselves from the chilly temperatures.
Eventually, the rowing teams realized that their coats were far too fashionable to only sport while on the water. And so, they began parading around campus proudly wearing their blazers as a status symbol, just as the jocks were sporting their letterman jackets in the U.S.
The trend spread further across the sea and made its way into the U.S., becoming extremely popular as workwear for men, and eventually women, too. When the ‘20s hit, women began breaking out of the sartorial norms thanks to designers like Coco Chanel and her menswear-inspired collections that integrated chic tweed suits and feminine sportswear.
Even so, though, it was still very rebellious for women to wear suits or other menswear-inspired looks throughout the 30s. It wasn’t until WW2 came about that women began swapping dresses for suits and more functional clothing (at least sometimes…). As the boys went off to war, women were left to fill positions in factories, and menswear allowed for more mobility and comfort—because let’s face it, no one’s building fighter planes in skirts.
Bailey in the 24/7 Blazer
Fast forward to the 60s and 70s and it’s clear that “anything goes” individualism helped blazers break out of the “strictly-menswear” zone and into the closets of countless working women looking to stand out and stand UP in the male-dominated work world.
From there, blazers transformed into the 80s pop culture icon, the “power suit” complete with shoulder pads and a double-breasted style. Flattering? Not so much. But empowering? Absolutely. These features drew attention away from a woman’s curves and instead drew it towards her ability to power up the corporate ladder just like their male counterparts.
In today’s society, there are almost no constraints when it comes to women rocking menswear at work or at play, with blazers holding an especially permanent place in many women’s wardrobes.
And luckily for us, the glorious “over-sized” trend has even surfaced in the last few years, moving further away from constrictive clothing and calling for coats that are two sizes too big (and a million times more comfortable). You likely work in an office that’s chock-full of women sporting a blazer like it’s nothing, and you’re never surprised to see celebrities and girls on the street rocking a blazer with biker shorts, chunky sneakers, boyfriend jeans, or maybe even a pantsuit with a plunging neckline and nothing underneath.
Our advice? Go for it. Get that essential black blazer and make it your own. From there, layer in one or two more—maybe a bold color like red, or something a little edgier like an oversized blazer or blazer finished with leather. In today’s blazer-centric style universe, anything goes—and blazers go everywhere.