Ivory Tower Style
If you’ve talked to anyone connected to the Italian clothing industry in the last 20 years, you have surely been regaled with panegyrics on the Italian deconstruction of the stuffy, overly padded British tailoring that imprisoned gentlemankind for the 150 years previous to the glorious Neapolitan liberation. Nearly every Italian brand I talked to at Pitti claimed to have invented the deconstructed jacket. A dozen years ago, I remember Armani salesmen telling me that it was Giorgio Armani that had invented the deconstructed jacket. Rubinacci and Attolini customers have likely been hearing the same thing for decades. While Italians may squabble over which of them invented the Italian jacket, they all agree that it was a radical departure from the structured straitjackets of Savile Row.
The truth is more complicated than that. It is true that heavily padded garments have been popular at various times in the history since Beau Brummell’s era. Brummell’s revolution was to emphasize and reveal the male physique through simplicity of color and closeness of fit. For someone of Brummell’s Adonis-like proportions, the benefits were obvious. But the style was not so flattering to more corpulent imitators such as Brummell’s early friend and supporter the Prince of Wales, later to become George IV.
Undeterred, the twig-legged and the bird-chested resorted to artifice in an attempt to simulate the Beau’s athletic figure. These methods were not restricted to padding inside jackets; dandies were known to pad their calves as well, a non-surgical precursor of the equally ridiculous modern implanted female body.
But this fad was mocked almost as soon as it began. The lampooning cartoon above is from 1818, soon after Brummell’s flight from England. Here is Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton - who made a career out of differentiating the comfortably aristocratic from the ambitiously ton - ridiculing stiffly constructed clothes in the 1836 novel Pelham:
“Sir Henry Millington was close by her, carefully packed up in his coat and waistcoat. Certainly that man is the best padder in Europe. “Come and sit by me, Millington,” cried old Lady Oldtown; “I have a good story to tell you of the Duce de G——e.” Sir Henry, with difficulty, turned round his magnificent head, and muttered out some unintelligible excuse. The fact was, that poor Sir Henry was not that evening made to sit down – he had only his standing up coat on.”
Later the main character, narrator, and gentleman superhero Mr. Pelham reprimands his tailor for wanting to pad his jacket:
“You will have the goodness then to put no stuffing of any description in my coat; you will not pinch me an iota tighter across the waist than is natural to that part of my body, and you will please, in your infinite mercy, to leave me as much after the fashion in which God made me, as you possibly can.”
The tailor responds:
“But, Sir, we must be padded; we are much too thin; all the gentlemen in the Life Guards are padded, Sir.”
These passages tell us that: 1) There was plenty of padding going on at this time. 2) Padding was not restricted to the shoulders. Shoulder padding would not prevent poor Sir Millington from sitting. Mr. Pelham’s tailor wants to pad not just the shoulders, but the chest as well. 3) These prostheses were acknowledged as ridiculous at the time, perhaps not unlike current trends such as short jackets and cropped trousers. There were those who did not follow fashion and preferred instead “no stuffing of any description.”
Of course the coats Mr. Pelham would have worn were not coats such as those worn today. They would likely have been either morning coats or frock coats. The “lounge suit,” or as it is known today, “suit,” which gained in popularity towards the end of the 19th century, was born as a deconstructed garment, the denouement of the gradual move away from the foppish imitations of Brummell. Here in 1875 we see Oscar Wilde in a softly constructed precursor to the lounge suit. Early models of the short-jacketed suit were similarly “sack-like” and many-buttoned. Then, as Farid Chenoune tells us in his A History of Men’s Fashion:
"…around 1910, a single-breasted model appeared that was even more important insofar as it survived the war. It had two or three closely-spaced buttons, a high, nipped waist, and unpadded, naturally-sloping shoulders. This model was all the bolder when worn with narrow cuffed trousers cut short above the ankle, revealing boots or shoes with slightly raised heels."
Later Chenoune tells us that the young Prince of Wales “would be one of the first men to wear, in the 1930s, unlined, unstructured tweed jackets.” Unstructured here means that not only is there no padding, but also there is no canvas or any other internal structure to the jacket.
Of course, nothing lasts forever, not even those natural shoulders. Wide-shouldered Zoot suits, double-padded Nutters, and linebackeresque Boss jackets would come and go over the next hundred years, each enjoying a few years of adulation before someone, inevitably, ingeniously, again invented the softly constructed jacket.

If you’ve talked to anyone connected to the Italian clothing industry in the last 20 years, you have surely been regaled with panegyrics on the Italian deconstruction of the stuffy, overly padded British tailoring that imprisoned gentlemankind for the 150 years previous to the glorious Neapolitan liberation. Nearly every Italian brand I talked to at Pitti claimed to have invented the deconstructed jacket. A dozen years ago, I remember Armani salesmen telling me that it was Giorgio Armani that had invented the deconstructed jacket. Rubinacci and Attolini customers have likely been hearing the same thing for decades. While Italians may squabble over which of them invented the Italian jacket, they all agree that it was a radical departure from the structured straitjackets of Savile Row.

The truth is more complicated than that. It is true that heavily padded garments have been popular at various times in the history since Beau Brummell’s era. Brummell’s revolution was to emphasize and reveal the male physique through simplicity of color and closeness of fit. For someone of Brummell’s Adonis-like proportions, the benefits were obvious. But the style was not so flattering to more corpulent imitators such as Brummell’s early friend and supporter the Prince of Wales, later to become George IV.

Undeterred, the twig-legged and the bird-chested resorted to artifice in an attempt to simulate the Beau’s athletic figure. These methods were not restricted to padding inside jackets; dandies were known to pad their calves as well, a non-surgical precursor of the equally ridiculous modern implanted female body.

But this fad was mocked almost as soon as it began. The lampooning cartoon above is from 1818, soon after Brummell’s flight from England. Here is Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton - who made a career out of differentiating the comfortably aristocratic from the ambitiously ton - ridiculing stiffly constructed clothes in the 1836 novel Pelham:

“Sir Henry Millington was close by her, carefully packed up in his coat and waistcoat. Certainly that man is the best padder in Europe. “Come and sit by me, Millington,” cried old Lady Oldtown; “I have a good story to tell you of the Duce de G——e.” Sir Henry, with difficulty, turned round his magnificent head, and muttered out some unintelligible excuse. The fact was, that poor Sir Henry was not that evening made to sit down – he had only his standing up coat on.”

Later the main character, narrator, and gentleman superhero Mr. Pelham reprimands his tailor for wanting to pad his jacket:

“You will have the goodness then to put no stuffing of any description in my coat; you will not pinch me an iota tighter across the waist than is natural to that part of my body, and you will please, in your infinite mercy, to leave me as much after the fashion in which God made me, as you possibly can.”

The tailor responds:

“But, Sir, we must be padded; we are much too thin; all the gentlemen in the Life Guards are padded, Sir.”

These passages tell us that: 1) There was plenty of padding going on at this time. 2) Padding was not restricted to the shoulders. Shoulder padding would not prevent poor Sir Millington from sitting. Mr. Pelham’s tailor wants to pad not just the shoulders, but the chest as well. 3) These prostheses were acknowledged as ridiculous at the time, perhaps not unlike current trends such as short jackets and cropped trousers. There were those who did not follow fashion and preferred instead “no stuffing of any description.”

Of course the coats Mr. Pelham would have worn were not coats such as those worn today. They would likely have been either morning coats or frock coats. The “lounge suit,” or as it is known today, “suit,” which gained in popularity towards the end of the 19th century, was born as a deconstructed garment, the denouement of the gradual move away from the foppish imitations of Brummell. Here in 1875 we see Oscar Wilde in a softly constructed precursor to the lounge suit. Early models of the short-jacketed suit were similarly “sack-like” and many-buttoned. Then, as Farid Chenoune tells us in his A History of Men’s Fashion:

"…around 1910, a single-breasted model appeared that was even more important insofar as it survived the war. It had two or three closely-spaced buttons, a high, nipped waist, and unpadded, naturally-sloping shoulders. This model was all the bolder when worn with narrow cuffed trousers cut short above the ankle, revealing boots or shoes with slightly raised heels."

Later Chenoune tells us that the young Prince of Wales “would be one of the first men to wear, in the 1930s, unlined, unstructured tweed jackets.” Unstructured here means that not only is there no padding, but also there is no canvas or any other internal structure to the jacket.

Of course, nothing lasts forever, not even those natural shoulders. Wide-shouldered Zoot suits, double-padded Nutters, and linebackeresque Boss jackets would come and go over the next hundred years, each enjoying a few years of adulation before someone, inevitably, ingeniously, again invented the softly constructed jacket.

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    Im going to be honest I didn’t read this once I noticed how much was written
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