Pick any popular Hindi film from the 1990s and chances are you will find leading male actors, from Shah Rukh Khan and Anil Kapoor to Sanjay Dutt, in stuffy, boxy double-breasted jackets.
During the 2000s, these fell out of favour. The male millennial viewed dou- ble-breasted jackets, with the couple of buttons sitting symmetrical to one another, along with an overlapping front closure, as something worn by grandpas or leaders, thanks to its oversized look and exaggerated features that broaden the shoulders and cover the waist.
Fast-forward to 2023 and the double- breasted blazer is slowly becoming part of the casual wardrobe. From Ranveer Singh and Austin Butler to Harry Styles and Machine Gun Kelly, the double-breasted jacket, or the DB as it’s now popularly called, is being worn casually over jeans or chinos, even in solid colours on the red carpet. One of the reasons for its return is the resurgence of tailored pieces, with brands like Etro, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Gucci giving classic silhouettes a modern makeover. Unlike the DB of the past, today’s version is sleeker and cut shorter, as could be seen at the latest edition of Pitti Uomo, the bi-annual menswear gathering in Italy.
The changing shapes
“The origins of the double-breasted jacket go back to a distinctly casual style called a reefer jacket,” says celebrity stylist Sheefa Gilani. “Like many men’s jackets, the reefer jacket was born in the sporting world. Considered inappropriate by many businesses, it was worn casually as outerwear for sporting events and country affairs. The 1930s and 1940s saw it evolve into a business-formal look, favoured by bankers, businessmen, even the mafia.”
The DB was also fit for royalty.
“Originally designed as a sporting suit for the British aristocracy, the double-breasted jacket was considered informal attire until it was popularised by the Prince of Wales in the 1920s and 1930s,” says Harmann Kaur, stylist to stars like Vijay Deverakonda and Allu Arjun.
Old-school DB suits (remember the ones the gangsters would wear in Holly-wood?) were characterised by their boxy, looser shape. Kaur says a well-fitting DB jacket must be slightly longer than your usual suit, elongating your silhouette, as it tends to look boxy otherwise. The back panel should fall slightly below your bottom, while the front should just about pass the crotch of your trousers. Broad or slim, the collar should rest against the collar of your shirt and ensure there are no gaps or bunching when you turn your body, she suggests.
“Look for a slightly shorter jacket than the average single-breasted blazer and wide peak lapels that broaden your upper body for maximum alpha male posturing,” says Gilani. “The DB can be styled for any occasion, just as long as you are willing to get noticed.”
Gilani likes styling male and female stars in a DB as it broadens the shoulders, cinches the waist and hides the belly. “You can dress it up, play it straight-laced and corporate, or unbutton the stuffy connotations with a boxy fit that slopes off the shoulders. Whatever your preferred style, it will see you right through job interviews, first dates, corporate away days, party season and more,” she says. “Single-breasted blazers simply aren’t as versatile.”
If you are petite and do not want your torso to look elongated, or if you are conscious of wide shoulders, you can avoid the DB and wear what makes you feel confident. Today’s versions, however, “are slimmer all over, which makes them much more flattering and wearable. If the stomach area of the jacket is cut slim instead of looking like a square, it will help you shave off a couple of inches,” says Gilani. “That said, make sure the jacket doesn’t pull when buttoned and that the lapels lay flat. When it comes to fit, too tight is just as unflattering as too big.”
Many ways to wear
Bright, bold colours (even peachy nude tones, often worn by Justin Bieber and Post Malone) are all the rage right now. If you feel like experimenting, a colourful DB or even a blue DB with gold buttons can add a dash of character to simple tai- loring. “With the right shoes and tie, a colourful DB can also be styled as formal attire. A T-shirt and sneakers with your DB is a safe bet,” suggests Kaur.
You can even choose a unique fabric for the jacket, giving your simple DB blazer a stand-out look.
“Bold or classic, you need a contrast between the top and bottom but one that works harmoniously. Think cream and olive or brown and charcoal,” says Gilani. Before you go for a DB, do consider the fabric: linen for summer, wool for winter. “Finally, the little peacocky touches that you pretend were just an accident or after- thought: some pleated trousers, contrast buttons, tonal pocket square and tassel loafers,” recommends Gilani.
According to Kaur, you can wear a fitted DB jacket with a crisp shirt and tie for a formal look. For a relaxed yet formal look, pair the blazer with a turtleneck or leave your shirt buttons undone. Or just roll up your sleeves for the effortless casual look.
As boxy, masculine cuts find their way back into fashion, this 1990s-style power dressing makes the DB a stylish bet for any wardrobe.