The silk jacket

The silk jacket

Q. At my local thrift store there is a jacket that looked particularly good and fit me perfectly, but then I saw that it was made of silk (in a very light beige color). You have written about silk suits and I’ve always thought that sounds like a crazy amount of work. How much care is needed to keep up a silk jacket?


A. You do not need to fear any extra care or upkeep. Just as you do not wash any of your other blazers, neither would you do so with one made of silk.

We are all aware of the usual textures of the four basic natural fibers: cotton, wool, linen, and silk. Each of the first three is rather clear cut in men’s thinking, but silk is not always what men are used to. Silk clothes are luxurious, varying from light- to medium-weight fabrics with a shiny, lustrous finish.

Silk is found in quality/expensive clothing that has a certain elegance. And, as your concern accents, smooth silks often do need extra attention; the fabric tends to be delicate and generally needs careful hand washing (for sweaters) or dry cleaning (for most other silk items including jackets). However, there is no reason to dry clean more often than any other jacket, perhaps at the end of the season (if that often), and certainly no need to iron.

Men are most familiar with silk in its smooth, shiny surface form such as we find in neckties, robes, boxer shorts, and disco-type shirts. Knowledgeable dressers are aware of heftier silk as it is found in lightweight sweaters. But only the most sartorially aware men are familiar with the much different texture found in tailored silk blazers and jackets: in heavier “suiting” weights, in combination fabrics such as silk-and-wool or silk-and-linen blends, and especially in slubbed silk.

To explain what is meant by slubbed silk:

  • The silk threads used in these garments have been spun with slubs (longish lumps) along the length of their two or more threads, where they were joined with added new fiber to continue the thread.
  • The fabric is then woven so it has random crossings, producing an interesting pebbled texture.
  • To be less technical, what you see is an interesting and unique fabric surface with tiny bumps and no shine whatsoever.

The look is very upscale. A jacket made of such fabric is a terrific addition to a well-dressed man’s wardrobe.

Slubbed silk jackets go with everything from khaki pants to dark wool dress trousers. The slubs and variations in the natural silk create a handsome, distinctive texture. They come in an array of smart solid colors and also in subtle classic patterns, giving the jackets endless versatility.

Depending on the weight of the fabric, it can be seasonal (summer) or year-round wear. My own favorite far and away is the one you seem to have found; the most distinctive and useful silk blazer/sport jacket is a solid ivory-colored slubbed silk. It is more of a dressy blazer than a sport jacket because not only does the fabric add a note of elegance, but the light creamy color suggests a social/party, near formal, air, rather than a businesslike office setting.

Men’s silk jackets are luxury items. They can be very expensive. Some, by such designers as Tom Ford, Zegna, or Brunello Cucinelli can cost as much as $5,600! So, if you are clever enough to find one in a fine thrift store or a vintage clothing shop that fits you well and looks great on you, I cannot imagine why you would not buy it. Even if some minor tailoring (such as sleeve length) is required, it can still be a wonderful purchase.

Not only is the weight and color a nice variation from all the dark jackets you already have in your closet, but the texture is compatible with every type of dressed-up or dressed-down accessory you wish to add.

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