Kilt jackets come in three basic styles:
The Bonny Prince Charlie (or “Charlie Jacket”) is a formal dinner jacket. Usually cut from superfine cloth and adorned with silver buttons, it is strictly formal wear. Recent years have seen the silver buttons substituted by chrome. Chrome belongs on cars, not clothes.
The gentleman on the left is wearing a white tie and weskit. This mode of dress is about as dressy and formal as one can be without resorting to surgery. This order of dress used to be known as ‘Soup-and-Fish’ because it shows ANYTHING that gets spilled on it.
The man on the right wears a black tie and black weskit. this is considered less-formal than white tie.
You will not be struck by a thunderbolt from Mount Olympus if you choose to wear a white tie with a black weskit or vice versa.
People WILL, however, assume that you are unused to getting dressed-up and that you are the unknowing victim of a vindictive clerk at ‘Dinner Jackets “R” Us’. For the balance of the evening they will be discretely checking to see if you chew with your mouth open and the spoons will be counted after you leave.
The Tweed kilt jacket is exactly what it seems. It is usually cut from one of several ‘kilting tweeds’ woven specifically for the purpose and has horn or leather buttons.
The Argyll Jacket may be worn either by Day with shirt and tie, and belt or 5-button waistcoat or as Evening Dress, with formal shirt, bow tie and 3 button waistcoat. As with the Charlie Jacket, too frequently it suffers from a surfeit of chrome buttons.
Choosing a jacket:
Unless you are only going to wear it once, buying a jacket is preferable to renting as it will quickly pay for itself.
A Charlie Jacket looks great, but is only suitable as formal evening wear. I have one, but I go to at least 4 Black Tie events every year.
As I’ve already mentioned, an Argyll jacket is more versatile, being suitable for day and evening wear.
Getting a proper fit:
The tails of a Charlie jacket or the hem of an Argyll or Tweed kilt jacket should not hang much lower than the widest part of your seat (That is or should be the bottom of the sewn part of the pleats). The hem of an Eton jacket (an Army mess jacket) should be no lower than your hip-bones.
ALWAYS bring your kilt with you when you are shopping for jackets! That extra 7 or 8 yards of wool wrapped around you makes a difference!
Getting the best value in a jacket:
The problem I have with off-the-rack jackets is that it’s hard to find a good fit – go through 10 ‘size 44’s’ and every one will fit differently. The workmanship is usually good enough, and the cloth is usually ‘alright’, but even the one that fits the best will probably need SOME tailoring in the sleeves or shoulders.
There’s not much variation in style, as all the jackets you’ll see advertised come from the same 2 or 3 factories. Walk with me through a St Andrew’s Dinner, and I can identify where everyone bought their jackets – and as they are so nearly-identical in style and cut, no-one looks past the type of jacket to notice that “Hey, you’re gorgeous!” – this does NOT represent ‘money well spent’.
Any single-breasted suit jacket or sport jacket can be cut-away to make it a kilt jacket, provided the front lower pockets are ‘Slash’ pockets, as opposed to ‘patch’ pockets. (I can ‘do’ a jacket with patch-pockets, but if the cloth is at all faded it will show when I take the pocket off)
‘Patch’ pockets are made by sewing a piece of suiting onto the jacket, and canbe cut-away – but as I stated above they can reveal an unwelcome surprise when I take them off. ‘Slash’ pockets are what they sound like – when you put your hand in one, it goes through a slit in the jacket and into a little cloth bag-pocket.
Be the first man in your street to wear an Armani kilt jacket!
A Modest Proposal:
Rather than buy ‘off the rack’, have a tailor make your kilt jacket. You may pay a LITTLE more money (the difference will be in the ‘tens’, not the ‘hundreds’) and you will have control over selection of cloth, fit, and workmanship.
There is also an elusive ‘something’ about being measured and then possessing ‘made-to-measure’ or ‘Bespoke’ clothing that is highly – no, “immensely” satisfying.
Cleaning your jacket:
In all but the very worst cases, ‘spot-clean’ using a face-cloth dipped in tepid water and a little hand-soap.
Many dry-cleaners are doubtless worthy people and a grateful nation points to them with pride, but if you send in a jacket with a lot of buttons on it there’s a very good chance that you will not see those buttons again.
There is a certain Bespoke tailor of my acquaintance whom I can provoke to utter, sputtering berserker fury with one sentence: “Where should I get that dry-cleaned?” – because he maintains to the point of violence that there isn’t a dry-cleaner in North America who knows how to clean and press a suit-jacket.
Once I’ve done the takedown*, removed all sharp objects from his reach and poured enough booze down his neck, he occasionally admits to there being one cleaner somewhere in Arizona who can be trusted with a suit – but I can’t get him to give me a name, address or grid-reference, so we’re back where we started.
*Bless you Sergeant Wolfe, for those hours you thought were wasted in teaching us how to win (or at least ‘survive’) altercations involving cutlery. Lesson One was “If it’s a ‘fair fight’, one of you is doing it wrong”