What is a Smoking Jacket | A Style Guide For Men

man wearing smoking jacket at vintage formal bar

Written by Tanya Zhang

Introduction to the Smoking Jacket

A classic smoking jacket exudes a sense of elegance, refinement, and luxury. It carries a certain nostalgic appeal, harkening back to a time when smoking was seen as a sophisticated activity and formal attire was more prevalent

Individuals who appreciate classic fashion, and vintage aesthetics, or enjoy recreating historical styles may find the smoking jacket intriguing.

For those who enjoy smoking pipes, cigars, or even indulging in a fine tobacco blend, a smoking jacket can add to the overall experience. It serves both a practical purpose of protecting clothing from smoke and a symbolic one, creating a designated garment for relaxation and enjoyment.

People may have heard of smoking jackets through various cultural references. Classic literature, such as Sherlock Holmes stories or works by authors like Oscar Wilde, often mention smoking jackets in their descriptions of sophisticated characters.

Films, especially those set in historical periods or featuring elegant protagonists, have also showcased men's smoking jackets as a sign of style and sophistication. Additionally, the association of classic smoking jackets with luxurious lounges or high-end social gatherings has contributed to their recognition in popular culture.

In this article, we'll go deeper into the history of the smoking suit, what are the best fabrics and materials for one, and our recommendations for the best ones on the market.

xample of smoking jacket from the MET museum

(A smoking jacket from the 1860s exhibitioned at the MET Museum.)

 

The History of the Smoking Jacket

The smoking jacket, also known as a lounge jacket or a dinner jacket, originated in the 19th century as a fashionable garment worn by men during informal occasions and while engaging in leisurely activities such as smoking tobacco.

It served as a practical and stylish alternative to formal attire. The smoking jacket was typically made of luxurious fabrics like velvet, silk, or brocade, and featured a loose fit with a shawl collar, often complemented by intricate embroidery or decorative trim.

The smoking jacket gained popularity in the Victorian era when smoking became a popular pastime among the upper classes. Its purpose was to protect clothing from the lingering odor of smoke, as tobacco was commonly smoked in the form of pipes, cigars, or cigarettes.

The jacket was designed to be worn indoors, providing warmth and comfort while allowing the gentleman to indulge in smoking without tarnishing his regular clothing. Over time, the smoking jacket evolved from a functional garment to a symbol of sophistication and refinement.

In the early 20th century, the smoking jacket's popularity began to decline as social norms and fashion evolved. However, it experienced a revival in the mid-20th century, thanks in part to its portrayal in popular culture, particularly in movies featuring debonair characters like James Bond.

Today, while the smoking jacket is not as commonly worn as it once was, it continues to be appreciated as a classic and timeless garment, often worn on special occasions or as a nostalgic nod to the elegance of a bygone era.

(Man in smoking jacket holding dachshund dog. CC BY-SA 3.0

 

What is the Purpose of a Smoking Jacket?

The purpose of a smoking suit jacket has evolved over time, but its primary function has always been to serve as a garment specifically designed for those engaging in tobacco-related activities.

In history, particularly during the 19th century, when smoking became popular among the upper classes, the smoking jacket was worn to protect one's clothing from the odors and residue associated with tobacco smoke. It acted as a barrier, preventing the absorption of smoke into regular attire, which was often more expensive and difficult to clean.

The smoking jacket also had the practical aspect of providing warmth and comfort while smoking indoors. Smoking was often enjoyed in private lounges, clubs, or at home, where a relaxed and leisurely atmosphere was cultivated.

The suit jacket's loose fit and luxurious fabrics added to the comfort and created an air of elegance and sophistication.

In today's day and age, the practical necessity of a smoking jacket has diminished significantly. Smoking is less prevalent and subject to stricter regulations, particularly indoors. However, the smoking jacket retains its symbolic and aesthetic appeal.

It is now more of a fashion statement or a nod to the historical and cultural associations it carries. Wearing a smoking jacket today can evoke a sense of timeless style, sophistication, and a connection to the bygone era when smoking was seen as a leisurely pursuit enjoyed by refined individuals. It is often worn on special occasions or as a deliberate choice to create a vintage or elegant look.

 example of red smoking jacket for men

Why Is It Called a Smoking Jacket?

The term "smoking jacket" originates from the association of the garment with the act of smoking tobacco. The name reflects its primary purpose, which is to be worn while engaging in smoking activities. The jacket was specifically designed to protect one's clothing from the odors and residues associated with tobacco smoke.

During the 19th century, when smoking became popular among the upper classes, gentlemen would often retire to a designated smoking room or lounge after a meal or social gathering. These spaces were designed for relaxation and enjoyment, and the smoking jacket was worn as a way to maintain a sense of formality and style while indulging in tobacco.

The term "jacket" refers to a type of lightweight outer garment that is worn over other clothing. It typically has a front opening and is shorter than a coat. The term "smoking" signifies its association with smoking tobacco, distinguishing it as a specific type of jacket worn during smoking activities.

The combination of these two terms, "smoking" and "jacket," came to represent a distinct garment worn by men for the purpose of enjoying tobacco in a refined and fashionable manner. Over time, the term "smoking jacket" became widely used to describe this unique piece of attire.

 

(A silk smoking suit with shawl collar and gold facings from 1912. CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

How Should A Smoking Jacket Fit?

In modern times, wearing a smoking suit jacket is a choice driven by style, nostalgia, and personal preferences. It embodies a timeless elegance and sophistication that can enhance one's attire for special occasions or formal events.

The jacket's vintage charm allows individuals to make a fashion statement and stand out with a distinguished look. It also carries historical and cultural associations, evoking a sense of tradition and celebrating a classic and refined lifestyle.

People wear a smoking jacket to embrace a classic fashion aesthetic, pay tribute to tradition, or simply enjoy the elegance and luxury it offers in both formal and relaxed settings.

A men's smoking jacket should have a relaxed and comfortable fit while still maintaining a sense of style. Here are some general guidelines for how a men's smoking jacket should fit:

  1. Shoulders: The shoulder seams of the jacket should align with the natural shoulder line. The jacket should not be too tight or constricting in this area.

  2. Length: The length of the jacket should typically fall around mid-thigh or slightly below the hip. This length helps create a balanced silhouette and provides coverage without hindering movement.

  3. Sleeves: The sleeves should be long enough to cover the wrists but not overly long. Ideally, the sleeves should end at the base of the thumb joint when the arms are relaxed.

  4. Chest and waist: The jacket should have a slightly loose fit in the chest and waist areas to allow for comfort and ease of movement. It should not be overly tight or restrictive.

  5. Lapels: The lapels should lie flat and maintain their shape when the jacket is buttoned. They should not buckle or fold excessively.

  6. Closure: A smoking jacket typically features a single button or a wrap-around style closure. When fastened, the jacket should have a comfortable and natural drape without any excessive pulling or tightness.

Remember that these guidelines can vary based on personal preference and the specific style of the smoking jacket. Ultimately, the goal is to achieve a fit that is comfortable, relaxed and allows for easy movement while still maintaining a sense of elegance and sophistication.

 

(A smoking jacket in burgundy with the typical shawl collar, frog fastening and turn-up cuffs. From the 1944 film Gaslight. CC BY 2.0)

 

How to Wear a Smoking Jacket

When it comes to wearing a smoking jacket, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

Pairing with Trousers

A black smoking jacket is typically worn with matching trousers, creating a coordinated ensemble. The trousers should be in a complementary color or fabric, such as black or a deep tone, to create a cohesive look.

Shirt and Tie

Underneath the smoking jacket, a formal dress shirt is usually worn. Here's a guide on how a dress shirt should fit. Choose a classic white dress shirt for a traditional look. You can opt for a tie to add a touch of formality, but it's also acceptable to leave the collar open for a more relaxed appearance. This is our favorite white dress shirt in a slim fit from Nimble Made:

 

Footwear

Select appropriate footwear to complete the ensemble. Formal dress shoes, such as oxfords or loafers, in a coordinating color with your outfit, are ideal. Avoid overly casual or sporty footwear. Check out this dress shoe guide from Nimble Made.

Accessories

Add tasteful accessories to enhance your look. Learn the different ways to tuck a pocket square or a silk scarf in the breast pocket of the smoking jacket. Cufflinks, a stylish watch, or a lapel pin can further elevate the overall appearance.

Occasions

black tie dress code outfit

Consider the occasion when wearing a smoking jacket. It is best suited for formal events or black-tie gatherings, elegant dinners, or themed parties. Avoid wearing it in casual or everyday settings where it may appear out of place.

Experiment with different combinations to find the look that suits you best!

 

Smoking Jacket Fabrics & Materials

Smoking jackets are traditionally crafted from luxurious fabrics that provide both comfort and a touch of elegance. Some of the most common fabrics and materials used for smoking jackets include:

  1. Velvet: Velvet is a popular choice for smoking jackets due to its plush texture and rich appearance. It has a soft and luxurious feel that adds a sense of opulence to the garment.

  2. Silk: Silk is highly regarded for its smooth, lustrous, and lightweight nature. It drapes beautifully and exudes a refined look. Silk smoking jackets are often favored for their elegant sheen and comfort.

  3. Brocade: Brocade fabrics feature elaborate woven patterns with raised designs, often incorporating metallic threads. They add a touch of intricacy and grandeur to smoking jackets, making them suitable for more formal occasions.

  4. Jacquard: Jacquard fabrics are known for their intricate patterns woven into the fabric. They can range from subtle designs to bold motifs, adding visual interest and sophistication to smoking jackets.

  5. Wool: While less common than the aforementioned fabrics, wool can be used for smoking jackets, especially in colder climates. It offers warmth and durability and can be crafted in various weaves and finishes.

The best fabric for a smoking jacket depends on personal preference, the occasion, and the climate. Velvet and silk are widely regarded as top choices for their luxurious feel and classic appeal and are often favored for formal or special events.

 

Smoking Jacket vs Dinner Jacket

While the terms "smoking jacket" and "dinner jacket" are sometimes used interchangeably and lumped together, they refer to different garments with distinct origins and purposes.

Smoking Jacket Differences

The smoking jacket, as discussed earlier, is a more informal garment traditionally worn during leisure activities such as smoking tobacco. It originated in the 19th century and was designed to protect clothing from the odor and residue associated with tobacco smoke. The smoking jacket is typically made of luxurious fabrics like velvet or silk, and features a loose fit, shawl collar, and decorative elements.

Dinner Jacket Differencesexamples of dinner jackets made of cotton materials

The dinner jacket, also known as a tuxedo jacket or black tie jacket, is a formal eveningwear garment worn for special events and formal occasions. It is part of a tuxedo or black tie ensemble and is typically worn with matching trousers. The dinner jacket is characterized by its black or midnight or navy blue in color, satin lapels, and satin-covered buttons. It is usually made of a fine wool or wool-blend fabric.

While both the smoking jacket and dinner jacket are associated with formal attire, the dinner jacket is specifically designed for more formal and prestigious events, such as black tie affairs or formal dinners. It is a staple of both formal wear and evening wear, whereas the smoking jacket has a more relaxed and informal connotation.

 

Different Types Of Smoking Jackets

The existence of different types of smoking jackets can be attributed to the evolution of fashion, regional and cultural influences, and the consideration of purpose and occasion.

As fashion trends change, designers and tailors have experimented with various styles and details, resulting in different iterations of the smoking jacket. Different cultures and regions have also contributed their own unique interpretations, adding to the diversity of options available.

The purpose and occasion of wearing a smoking jacket may influence its design, with variations created to suit different formal or casual settings. Ultimately, the availability of different types of smoking jackets allows individuals to choose a style that aligns with their personal taste and the specific context in which it will be worn. Here are some of the different types of smoking jackets:

Classic Shawl Collar Smoking Jacket

This is the most iconic and traditional style of soft shawl collar smoking jacket. It features a shawl collar that extends from the neckline to the front of the jacket, creating a smooth and elegant line. The classic shawl collar smoking jacket often has a single button closure and is made of luxurious fabrics like velvet or silk.

Double Breasted Smoking Jackets

This style of evening jacket features a front closure with two parallel rows of buttons, creating a distinctive and formal look. The double-breasted smoking jacket is less common than the classic shawl collar style but adds a touch of sophistication and vintage charm to the ensemble.

Wrap-Around Smoking Jacket

Also known as a robe-style smoking jacket, this type wraps around the body and ties at the waist. It often has a kimono-inspired design with wide sleeves and a relaxed fit. Wrap-around smoking jackets offer a comfortable and more casual option while still exuding a sense of luxury.

Smoking Jacket with Contrast Trims

Some smoking jackets feature contrasting trim details on the lapels, cuffs, and pockets. This adds visual interest and can incorporate patterns, piping, or embroidered accents, creating a more distinctive and eye-catching look.

Modern Interpretations

In recent years, designers have introduced modern interpretations of smoking jackets, incorporating contemporary cuts, materials, and patterns. These styles may feature slimmer silhouettes, unconventional fabrics, or bold prints, offering a fresh take on the traditional smoking jacket.

Each type carries its own charm and allure, allowing individuals to find a smoking jacket that suits their unique style and desired level of formality.

 

The 3 Best Smoking Jackets

We have curated a selection of top-notch smoking jackets designed to provide you with comfort, sophistication, and a touch of vintage charm.

Whether you're looking for a classic velvet shawl collar smoking jacket, a modern interpretation with unique patterns, or a wrap-around robe-style option, our hand-picked recommendations are sure to satisfy your discerning taste.

Explore our list below and find the perfect smoking jacket to make a statement at your next formal event or to elevate your leisurely moments with a touch of elegance.

Men's Silky Satin Burgundy Smoking Jacket

This luxurious lightweight smoking jacket is made of fine satin material. The shawl collar, three exterior pocket flaps, turn-up cuffs, and belt are made from grey satin. There are two interior pockets, one divided in half for storage of two cigars, and the other is a regular-sized chest pocket. The wrap-style smoking jacket closes with a grey tie belt.

Jacket Details:

  • Satin

  • Drawstring Waist closure

  • Hand Wash Only

  • Lightweight Smoking Jacket

  • Smooth Silky Feel

 

Regency New York LuxuRobes Men's Navy Smoking Jacket

Crafted from cotton fabric with a cotton lining, this jacket offers a lightweight and breathable experience, ideal for both formal occasions and relaxed gatherings. The drawstring waist closure adds a touch of versatility, allowing you to achieve the perfect fit. It also includes a convenient gift box and travel bag, making it an excellent choice for gifting or on-the-go occasions. While this jacket is machine washable, dry cleaning is recommended to maintain its pristine quality. Embrace the sophistication and convenience of our cotton smoking jacket and elevate your wardrobe with this must-have addition.

Jacket Details:

  • Cotton with Cotton lining

  • Drawstring Waist closure

  • Gift Box & Travel Bag Included!

  • Dry Clean Recommended

 

Abruzzomaster Men Purple Smoking Jacket Designer

Made from sumptuous velvet, this jacket exudes elegance and sophistication. The shawl collar lapel adds a touch of classic charm, while the buckle closure ensures a secure and stylish fit. Inside, a polyester lining provides maximum comfort. Whether you're attending a black-tie affair or simply unwinding at home, this double-breasted velvet smoking jacket, is a refined choice that will elevate your ensemble with its luxurious materials and impeccable design.

Jacket Details:

  • Polyester lining

  • Buckle closure

  • Material: Velvet

  • Double-breasted

  • Shawl Collar Lapel

 

From the classic elegance of the velvet double-breasted smoking jacket with a shawl collar lapel to the comfort and versatility of the cotton smoking jacket with a drawstring waist closure, each option offers its own unique charm.

With the inclusion of thoughtful details such as polyester or cotton lining, buckle or drawstring closures, and the convenience of gift boxes and travel bags, these smoking jackets are not only fashion-forward but also designed with your comfort and convenience in mind.

Whether you're attending a formal event, enjoying a leisurely evening, or searching for a special gift, any of these smoking jackets will undoubtedly make a stylish statement. Embrace the sophistication and timeless appeal of a smoking jacket and indulge in the elegance it brings to your wardrobe.

 

Frequently asked questions about smoking jackets

What is the point of a smoking jacket?

A smoking jacket provides a stylish and comfortable garment for individuals to wear while engaging in leisurely activities such as smoking, lounging, or socializing, while also protecting their clothing from tobacco odors and residues.

Is it OK to wear a smoking jacket?

Yes, it is okay to wear a smoking jacket, especially in appropriate settings such as formal events, themed parties, or for personal enjoyment and relaxation at home.

What is the difference between a smoking suit and a tuxedo?

The difference between a smoking suit and a tuxedo is that a smoking suit refers specifically to the jacket and trousers worn for informal or casual smoking-related activities, while a tuxedo, also known as a dinner suit, is a complete formal eveningwear ensemble consisting of a specific style of jacket, matching trousers, dress shirt, and accessories.

Are smoking jackets still a thing?

Yes, smoking jackets are still worn today by individuals who appreciate their timeless style, elegance, and association with leisurely activities. While not as prevalent as in the past, they continue to be a fashionable choice for formal events, themed parties, or personal enjoyment at home.

What is a smoking jacket called?

A smoking jacket is also known as a lounge jacket or a dinner jacket in some regions, referring to a specific type of garment worn for leisurely activities or formal evening events.

What makes a jacket a smoking jacket?

A jacket is considered a smoking jacket when it is specifically designed and tailored for leisurely activities such as smoking tobacco, typically featuring a relaxed fit, luxurious fabric, and distinctive details such as a shawl collar or decorative piping.