Style wars: Did we really need knitted blazers?

Categories: Style

In the Gentleman’s Journal offices, a rift has opened — over knitted blazers. Half of us believe they’re useless; the other half are busy buttoning them up. We tasked two writers to argue their cases. First up, the prosecution…

A knitted blazer. Knitted blazer. Knitted. Blazer. Uneasy phrase, that. Uncanny, almost. You think it works but it doesn’t. Can’t quite stand up to scrutiny, when it comes down to it. It’s like saying soothing execution. Or subtle Texan. Or chic potato. Historically, blazers were items of sporting nonchalance and rough and ready schoolyards; of military academy pragmatism and yachtish romps. More casual than a suit jacket, more sturdy and proper than a cardigan, the blazer is for slinging over shoulders and concealing illicit hip-flasks. The very name comes from the blazing red jackets worn by the fearsome Lady Margaret Boat Club, the rowing team of St. John’s College, Cambridge. They’d sling them on, champagne-soaked and sweating, in the aftermath of a wind-ravaged victory against Trinity, the losers. They’re things of pride and glory and death and fluids. Blazers mean business. Knitting, by contrast, is therapeutic and coddling. It is for newborn babies or nearly-dead ladies. You buy magazines about it in BHS lobbies before getting your mid-morning half-English with a UHT milk tea. (And BHS doesn’t even exist anymore!) When people talk about knitting these days, they mean it as a millennial mindfulness gimmick, like colouring-in books or breathing more or talking to your parents. It’s tepid, safe, slow, fine. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with knitting, of course — some of my favourite grandmothers were needle fiends, and proud of it, too. Nor is it to say there is anything, indeed, wrong with knitted items — I like a twin set as much as the next divorcee, and you should see my collection of cashmere bookmarks. It’s just that the two words simply don’t belong side by side. Wearing a knitted blazer (see!) is like trying to hold two warring magnetic poles together — they’ll never quite meet and you’ll just end up looking like a bad physics teacher. The concept is in its essence a paradox — a notion at war with itself. You wouldn’t wear Catch 22 to a second date, would you? And would you ever dress up as the Korean Peninsula? Not unless you’d thoroughly lost the plot first. Also, I think they just look naff.

Don’t get me wrong, I love knitwear. I’ve got jumpers for days, cardigans for weeks and almost all of my ties are squared-off, knitted and stolen from my grandfather. I can hardly contain myself when it comes to getting my mitts on knits. But it’s not an obsession — because I’m also acutely aware of knitwear’s woven, woolly limits. So don’t go thinking that my defence of these blazers is some sort of blanket defence of knitwear as a whole. It’s not. (Although, if it were, you can rest assured that the blanket would be knitted). You see, the knitted blazer does work — but it’s also as far as knitwear can go. It teeters on the edge of acceptable. Because there’s a firm hierarchy in the knitwear world. Sweaters are fine, polos passable, hats crucial and gloves useful. But I’m not insane — even a knit-head like me knows that the line is drawn soon after that. And, although I’d give my right arm for a good sweater vest (probably be easier to get on then, actually), you still won’t ever catch me pulling on knitted trousers or trying in floppy, flocculent vain to lace up a pair of yarny brogues. That would be silly. Not like the knitted blazer. The knitted blazer isn’t silly. It sits, in all its notch-lapelled, formality-transgressing glory, on the acceptable side of the woven spectrum — and I won’t hear a word said to the contrary.

Just think about it. We’ve never had an item of clothing that successfully bridges the garmenting gap that gapes from the tailored blazer to the comfy cardigan. What about the unstructured jacket, I hear you cry? Be quiet, I reply. The unstructured jacket is for layabouts and offish Europeans. The knitted blazer, on the other hand, is the ideal buttoned-up bridge. It’s a purl-stitched beacon of versatility; smart enough to wear to the office but relaxed enough to throw on at the drop of a hat (bobble, obviously). It can be colourful, fitted, many-pocketed and woven from wool good enough for even the finest Savile Row suit. If anything, we’re not good enough for the knitted blazer — not the other way around. So stop knitpicking. Or, if you still don’t agree, why not try it for yourself?

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