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CLOSET RX : Navy Wool Blazer Is Standby for a Reason


There's a point in every man's life when he realizes he has to grow up. This often happens when he shows up at an event in the same jacket he wore at his high school graduation.

Although he may not need a rack full of sport coats and suits, having one or two that he can throw on with almost anything is a good idea. The problem is, if you're just going have one sport coat, which should it be?

The natural pick is that great old standby, the navy wool blazer. "It's probably one of the most versatile pieces of clothing you can own," says Bent Simonsen of Burberry's Ltd. in South Coast Plaza. "You can wear it to a job interview during the day with tan or gray slacks and a button-down shirt, then dress it down to go to a party that evening."

Although the classic blazer has brass buttons, one can get it with bone. "It's just a matter of preference," says Tom Fuller of Fuller's for Men and Women in Dana Point. "The bone buttons tend to go with a younger look, but if you feel like you need to look more traditional, try the brass."

If the salesperson asks whether you'd like a single or double, he or she is not talking ice cream cones. It's about whether you want a single- or double-breasted jacket, and each has its advantages.

"If I was just going to own one sport coat, it would be single-breasted," Simonsen says. "It's a more conservative look that's always appropriate for job interviews. Get the more stylish double-breasted after you cash your first paycheck."

If you're think "stuffy" when you hear the word "classic" and you're afraid of looking like a member of the yacht club, there are options. The unconstructed jacket, with its wider shoulders, open pockets and relaxed fit, has become more acceptable. "The nicer jackets in silk or a silk blend are fine in most situations," Fuller says.

For a versatile jacket that's still on the "cutting edge," look for the crepe coat, a wool-blend blazer that doesn't have the straight, smooth fabric of a traditional gabardine. "It's not as rigid as the more traditional fabrics, and you can get (it) in a navy or black, which gives you great versatility," says Mark Schell of Mark Schell Designs for Men in Corona del Mar.

The crepe has a kind of draped appearance that looks dressier and neater than a summer linen jacket and yet sets you apart from those wearing the classic blazer.

And once you've made your choice, you're bound to get that sickening feeling, "Did I button it right?" On single-breasted jackets, it's the top button, unless you're sitting down, in which case it's left open. Double-breasted jackets always remain closed and buttoned.

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