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What is a Blazer?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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The blazer or boating jacket is generally a double-breasted jacket, first worn by men, and normally by schoolboys during the late 19th century in England. While today’s blazer can be worn by either men or women and normally is available in subdued colors, the early jacket was often striped and made of bright colors. In boys’ uniforms, one side usually had a school or house patch. Other patches like prefect badges might decorate it too.

Early blazers in boys’ schools were often worn with short pants and knee socks. Today, it’s still quite common to see them at private schools — especially boarding schools require a navy blue blazer for both girls and boys. It may also be a part of dress wear for boys and men, replacing the suit jacket and worn with twill pants. Fabrics can vary from wool flannel, to light linen.

In the late 1970s, the blazer became part of women’s fashions, especially as the movie Annie Hall popularized “men’s wear” for women. By the 1980s, the garment seemed part of every working woman’s uniform. They often came in elaborate colors, featured gold buttons and enormous shoulder pads. Wool flannel, cashmere, and wool gabardine were all popular fabrics for the woman’s version. Lighter fabrics like cotton, polyester or rayon might also be used.

In the 1990s, the blazer was definitely on its way out of women’s fashions. Especially large shoulder pads were viewed as dated. Newer blazers or jackets for women were often more fitted to women’s bodies, rather than featuring the boxlike construction of the menswear inspired versions. Various jackets have since come in and out of style. Emphasis in current women’s jackets is either short jackets, or closely fitted pieces. The longer, hip-covering blazer is harder to find, but there’s little doubt that some designer will ultimately “invent” it again at a later point.

The name comes from the bright coloring of the early versions of the jacket. Patterns, stripes and colors “blazed” in the outdoor world, evoking a festive occasion. It’s interesting that now people view the blazer as a formal garment, when its first uses were much more casual. Cricket players and boaters wore them, hence the name boating jacket, to denote the celebratory and informal aspects of recreational activities.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By popcorn — On Jun 19, 2011

@Monika - I also have a lot of women at my workplace that think dressing overtly sexy is appropriate for the workplace. They love their short skirts and tight tops. I always roll my eyes when I see them teetering by on four inch heels. I often wonder if they are coming straight from a bar, or planning on heading there directly after work.

I think that professional dress should be stylish without the emphasis on sexy. The blazer is a great piece that has had a lot of modern twists to it lately with many being more form fitting, and sleek. I think the blazer would work for anyone, even those trying to catch a fellow employee's eye, if they just picked the right one.

By manykitties2 — On Jun 17, 2011

Modern blazers are pretty popular with the women where I live, though they have long abandoned the bulky shoulder pads and unflattering shape. Many blazers I see come in a variety of colors and fabrics. The blazers are also well fitted to accentuate a female’s curves, offering a professional look while still being stylish.

My favorite blazers are ones that are made out of a fabric with sheen, like satin or silk. If there is some detailing on the cuffs and edges of the collar I am happy too.

I think that the blazer can be updated and will be a fashion staple for a long time to come.

By whiteplane — On Jun 16, 2011

I never much like wearing blazers or any kind of suit jacket really. Then I got a nicely made one that had been perfectly tailored. That made all the difference.

You just can't compare anything to the experience of having a garment made especially to look good on you. I know it is kind of extravagant, but it makes you feel great about yourself. I would tell anyone looking for a little boost of confidence to go out and get a nicely tailored jacket.

By KoiwiGal — On Jun 16, 2011

@umbra21 - I remember having to wear one of those as a part of the formal uniform. It was really hot in the summer, and I hated having to wear a tie with it. I was always getting into trouble for not wearing the proper uniform.

I wish our school had provided us with blazers. You couldn't just wash the things, they had to be dry cleaned, so it was always a pain. Best thing to do was just wear them as little as possible (without getting into trouble!)

By umbra21 — On Jun 16, 2011

Blazers are still considered a common uniform item in New Zealand schools. I was at a girls' public school and we wore a blouse and a skirt or trousers ordinarily.

But, if we happened to be a prefect (which I was) we were expected to wear "dress uniform" at public events and that included a blazer. In fact they kept school blazers for us to use if we didn't want to buy one.

But we had to make sure all our badges were pinned on. I admit it did look smart.

My mother teaches at a girls' Catholic school now and all the senior students wear a blazer as a standard part of the uniform.

By JessicaLynn — On Jun 16, 2011

@Monika - You must work in a very relaxed office. Where I work the boyfriend blazer is alive and well-and I think I actually saw someone wearing shoulder pads the other day. I guess office fashion is probably different regionally and I do live in a very conservative area.

By Monika — On Jun 16, 2011

I dearly wish the women's blazer would come back in style. I guess blazers aren't very fashionable anymore but they at least look professional. Some of the outfits the younger ladies in my office wear these days are positively scandalous! Everything is skin tight and "sexy".

Some of these girls look like they just walked out of a Victoria's Secret catalog! That type of look may be desirable for the club but definitely not for the office.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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