I travel quite often, and now that things have started up again, I’m looking for a lightweight jacket to wear. I want something that makes me feel better than a sweater, but not as tight and dressy as I would in a blazer. It shouldn’t wrinkle easily and should have pockets. Does such a garment exist? —Beth, Los Angeles
Not only does such a garment exist, but it even has a special name: a jacket! Like many newly relevant sartorial inventions (the megging, the jort), it is a hybrid garment (shirt plus jacket) well suited to meet contemporary needs.
Specifically, it has to pass through an air-conditioned airport during the very hot months, not be crushed by being crammed into a tiny seat for many hours, and then emerge ready for public viewing at the other end. Although it works equally well for trips from home to the grocery store for a morning milk run, or from home to the office for a daily commute.
It’s a more sophisticated alternative to the sweatshirt, without sacrificing ease. And it works perfectly well on sweatshirts, leggings and yoga pants, meaning you can have your comfy clothes stretchy and look a little cooler too. It is also a gender-neutral garment, which is equally popular among men and women.
Truth be told, the shirt is not, in fact, a new invention. It has its roots in late 19th century French workwear, in particular the bleu de travail, a blue shirt worn by workers to protect their day clothes. (Another name for the garment is the chore coat.) Later it was adopted by the U.S. Army, which issued CPO jackets to first petty officers in the 1930s. From there it made its way to Army-Navy surplus stores and therefore in all our wardrobes.
Its characteristics are oversized proportions, best worn over a t-shirt, turtleneck, vest or similar underlayer; large patch pockets; and snaps or button closures. You can, of course, find military and workwear versions of the jacket, but you can also find iterations in technical fabric, linen, silk – almost any material and personal aesthetic you could want.
Zara, for example, offers cropped linen versions as well as a satin-effect crinkled style with a drawstring waist. Everlane has a boxy cotton shirt with the added benefit of side pockets at the hips as well as patch pockets, just like Madewell.
And for something a little more zippy, check out prints from Kit, a commissioned label from ‘Project Runway’ and CFDA Fashion Incubator alum Daniel Vosovic. Wear them and fly away.
Answers to your style questions
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion question, which you can send her anytime via E-mail Where Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.