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Why were double-breasted jackets invented?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by majorhancock, May 8, 2013.

  1. majorhancock

    majorhancock Active Member

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    Can anyone point me to some history on why/where/when double-breasted jackets were introduced? They've always seemed unnecessarily fussy to me.

    I'd like to know the full story, but in the meantime, it seems to me that they must have been invented so that the wearer could button either right over left, or left over right, depending upon .... what?

    Was it some sort of social indicator? Lower classes buttoned right over left; higher classes left over right? Or perhaps buttoning right over left (as in women's suits today) indicated a sexual preference? ... Just askin', folks.

    A related question: How did buttoning left over right become the "standard" for men's jackets and shirts?

    As you can see, I've got a lot to learn. Any help appreciated.
     
  2. add911_11

    add911_11 Senior member

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    From my knowledge, DB comes from the british navy captain's referee jacket.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2013
  3. Ianiceman

    Ianiceman Senior member

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    May be apocryphal but as more people are right handed I read that left over right made for unfettered access for a right hander to reach across and draw his sword carried on the left. If a naval officer is carrying a cutlass into battle that would tie in with the nautical angle too.
     
  4. The Dentist

    The Dentist Well-Known Member

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    I hate single breasted jackets. All my bespoke jackets are double breasted.
     
  5. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    It's easy to say why button L over R - its easier for a right handed person. Amies repeats the sword thing in his book though.

    Why women button the other way is more of a mystery. You'll hear some people say that it's because women are dressed by another woman while a man dresses himself, but this makes little sense to me. How many women buying RTW clothing are really dressed by someone else? Maybe on the back of a dress or something I could see it, but for a shirt or jacket front seems weird. I think it's probably just something that developed to quickly and easily help everyone distinguish between men's and women's clothing.

    On the DB in general, Amies also claims the reefer jacket as ancestor of the modern DB lounge jacket. But it was hardly the first DB coat. The frock coat was also often double breasted, as well as tail coats (the eventual tail coat is double breasted but can't be closed).

    Beau Brummell:

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_jXNyvNsF2To/TQOnWRfILVI/AAAAAAAAEdc/w1R2eOCFNow/s1600/beau_brummell.jpg

    Even riding coats could be double breasted. If anything, single breasted is the more modern development. I can't really think of a pre-1900 jacket that was never made double breasted. Military uniforms were often DB:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Major_General_John_Tupper.JPG

    US Civil War generals:
    http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=civil+war+generals&FORM=HDRSC2#

    George III:

    http://www.britishbattles.com/images/king-george-iii.jpg
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Oh, and as far as I know there's no evidence of DBs made with the intention of being worn either L over R or R over L.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2013
  7. GBR

    GBR Senior member

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    Not a mystery at all.

    Wealthy ladies would not dream of dressing themselves and had 'dressers' to do that menial task for them. Hence the buttoning arrangements which then became the norm, It has nothing whatever to do with RTW, that came far later.
    .
     
  8. GBR

    GBR Senior member

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    Reefer jacket
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2013
  9. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    ^^if that's your explanation, then gentleman were dressed by their valets too. I've heard this explanation plenty before and it's never made much sense to me.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2013
  10. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Reefer jacket
     
  11. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I wonder if it's much more difficult to button that way once you get used to it?
     
  12. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    And the reason why I mention RTW is that the vast majority of clothing today is RTW, and yet still it all buttons that way for ladies. But I'd be willing to accept the argument that, at first it was meant to mimic bespoke, and then there was a lockin effect from it being easier to button the way that you're used to buttoning.
     
  13. jeff13007

    jeff13007 Senior member

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    This and also i recall something about how they were seated side saddle on horses and the button configuration prevented the wind blowing into their jackets
     
  14. add911_11

    add911_11 Senior member

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    sorry for the mistake
     
  15. GBR

    GBR Senior member

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    No need to apologise, I can't spell either it seems
     
  16. pendragon

    pendragon Senior member

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    Double breasted would button better up against the weather.
     
  17. VinnyMac

    VinnyMac Senior member

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    lol...I'd never heard that logic before, but I doubt that people who use that explanation are basing it on the rtw-buying women of today. They're saying that it's a carry-over from the way that things used to be.
     
  18. GBR

    GBR Senior member

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    Where do you think the servant's rank 'Dresser' originated? The servants did not pose as furniture.
     
  19. Mr Cucumber

    Mr Cucumber Active Member

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    I have heard two stories.

    Number one: Double breasted just works better in the army because there is not as much fabric flying around when you are standing in the middle of a field. All of it is secured by buttons.

    Number two is an extension of number one I guess. In the navy you were quite exposed to wind. Also, you often stood in the same place for hours. If you were unlucky, the wind would then blow straight into your coat. Unless you buttoned it the other way, that is.

    I have also read that this was one of the main perks of the trench coat in WWI. You could button it both ways so the wind wouldn't blow into your coat for hours, while you laid down in the same place.
     

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