Worn Out – The Saga of the Smoking Jacket

Ah, the smoking jacket: a fashion that has gone away, fallen into the clothing abyss with leg warmers, hoop skirts, and beloved parachute pants. On occasion, you might glimpse a smoking jacket, seeing one in an old movie or an oil panting hanging over a fireplace mantel. But, chances are, you don’t come into contact with these types of jackets very often. Truth be told, they are a thing of yore: the concept of the smoking jacket has been smoked out.

Still, like the past of many things, the history of the smoking jacket is interesting. Though you wouldn’t know it now, they were once very popular, almost like the jean jacket of the 1980’s, the Disco jacket of the 1970’s, or the straight jacket of the 1960’s. Originally developed for people to wear during times of smoking pipes and cigars (and occasionally cigarettes) smoking jackets are waist length and typically made of expensive material, namely velvet or silk. The jackets include turn up cuffs, fastenings, and a high collar.

While they can be any color, the ones of the past were usually made of hues that knew how to be anything but subtle. Burgundy, forest green, and dark red were common colors used.

During Victorian times, the smoking jacket was among the most popular of clothing items. Its development is believed to have been perpetuated by the belief that females were sensitive to the odor of tobacco. Thus, before a man lit a pipe or a cigar, he would put on a smoking jacket, trapping the odors in that jacket instead of his everyday clothing. The jacket also served as protection for the underclothing from ash and tobacco burns.

Smoking jackets are typically expensive, which helps make them almost nonexistent in today’s society. Their high expense is due to the high priced nature of the materials use. However, in defense of the smoking jacket, the expense may be worth it: they usually last a lifetime.

Sometimes a smoking jacket is accompanied by a smoking cap, at least for people who aim to wear the entire smoking outfit. The smoking cap, though also prevalent during Victorian times, was never quite as popular as its jacketed counterpart. It did, however, serve a similar aim: like the smoking jacket, the smoking cap purposed to appease women by keeping the odor of tobacco smoke out of the hair of men. For this reason, many smoking caps were made by wives or given as gifts to tobacco indulging husbands.

Today, smoking caps and smoking jackets are hard to find, though some are available online or in vintage clothing stores. The demise in their popularity could be from many things. They might be too expensive, and they might be too pretentious, but it’s most likely that it turns out women don’t really dislike the smell of tobacco smoke after all.