The Cringletie House Hotel is a place in Eddleston, Peeblesshire, Scotland where well-heeled English folks go for a summer holiday. A brown stone, 19th century manor house on a hill amid sheep meadow and forest, it was where I was introduced to the concept inherent in Level 3: casual elegance.
Picture 007, James Bond, played by Sean Connery, wearing a sport jacket with a roll-neck, or with a spread collar shirt and old-school. Turns out it’s a cliché of an Englishman’s dress. It’s the way these blokes dressed for dinner every night: relaxed, and yet distinguished. They had an air of stylish vacationers, simultaneously well dressed and completely at ease.
The jackets they wore were not tweedy. The American sport jacket was either a heavy, scratchy thing you wore with a big Beat Yale pin, waving your pennant, or some form of pseudo-suede polyurethane substance you wore to the craps table in Vegas. These guys’ jackets were made of worsted wool, so they were lighter weight than tweed jackets, more like suit coats, but the neat, colorful patterns made them “sporty.” They almost always were three-buttoned and side-vented, and they had a trim, suppressed-waist line that was the trademark of English tailoring. And even though these jackets’ patterns were plaids and checks, with them the Brits wore patterned shirts: small checks, subtle stripes, or even a tattersall, with striped or “club” ties. Difficult to describe or even to imagine, the combinations of pattern in the jacket, shirt, and tie seemed natural, natty, even. What made it all work together was the color range, the subtle ensemble of complementary tones, and the matching dimensions of the patterns. An olive and rust check jacket would go with the ecru shirt with tan and dark green stripes, and the rust and burgundy stripes of the tie would bring the whole thing together. Or they might have worn a roll-neck or long sleeve polo. It would not be unusual to see a suede or doeskin vest in brown or the color of chamois. With all this the gentlemen sported gabardine or serge or whipcord trousers, the colors of which, from beige to dark brown, olive or grey, were another perfect complement to the outfit. It seems to be intrinsic to the British culture, this sense of elegant ease, as if it were a required course at school.
FYI The dart, or the seam that runs from the middle of a jacket’s chest to beneath the pockets, when sewn together creates suppression in the front of the jacket, giving the effect that the waist is smaller than the shoulders and the hips. The old-school version of the Natural Shoulder jacket had no front darts because the desired effect was a straight-hanging jacket with an easy-fitting waistline. People called this the “Sack Coat,” because of that, but it was a mistake. The sacque was what the French called a jacket with no tails, as distinguished from a frock coat by its cropped back length. The English “sack” coat was nothing more than any such coat. “Sack” might have aptly described the silhouette of the 50’s Ivy League jacket, but it was really a misuse of the term.