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Coats & Jackets

What does double-breasted mean?

What does double-breasted mean?

Photographed: Reiss double-breasted blazer (£295); Oliver Spencer rollneck (£165)

 

In a nutshell

A single-breasted overcoat or jacket has a single row of buttons. A double-breasted version, however, has buttons up both sides (although it only ever fastens left over right) and the fabric overlaps when it’s closed.

History

Sailors first donned overlapping jackets in the 17th century, for extra protection against the wind. Those became the modern peacoat – a style that’s still always double-breasted – and which in turn influenced tailors on dry land. The first double-breasted jackets were casual and designed for sportsmen, to keep them warm outdoors. But when the trendsetting Duke of Windsor started wearing double-breasted jackets in the 1930s it became a business-wear staple.

It’s since ebbed in and out of style – it was particular popular with financiers in the 80s and 90s, before becoming less common as officewear has relaxed over the last couple of decades. But it’s still a good option if you fancy something more formal or just a bit different to what everyone else is wearing.

How to wear it well

As well as being smarter, double-breasted jackets can also play certain optical illusions. “They’re great for anyone looking to create a broader chest,” says Thread stylist Millie Rich. “They have peak lapels, which can make your chest look wider and give you a slimmer silhouette by narrowing your waist.” Although that means they’re not a great choice if you’re already very broad up top.

Like their single-breasted cousins, you can find double-breasted versions of anything from suits to blazers to overcoats. Because they have a more elevated aesthetic, they’re good for smart-casual looks if you want to tip more towards the formal end. Plus, it means you’ll stand out (in a good way) when everyone else is in a blazer, tie and chinos. But balance is key. “If opting for a suit or blazer ensure the jacket just passes the crotch line at its longest,” says Millie. “They can tend to come up slightly longer to balance out the button alignment.”