Other than my damn-self I believe the Norfolk Jacket to be the trickiest thing in menswear. It's always conflicted me quite frankly. Why the conflict? Because it’s intrigued me to the point that I’ve considered making one on a couple of occasions only to have my rarely manifest better judgement stop me. Thank you, thank you, rarely manifest better judgement.
So what’s with the intrigue? I think for me, the allure comes from the same place that my affection for bellows-poacher pockets and affinity for Ghurkha shorts and khaki anything emanates. Think little ADG…1971…Mangum’s Army Navy Store. Then fast forward a couple of decades and we add to the military kit broth, a seasoning bag of 19th-early 20th century British Colonial aesthetic and bam…we're there.
And what’s with the reluctance? This one’s easy. It’s not the Shooting Party affectation. Hell, if that was the case, this English Country-ass poseur would a had to throw nine-tenths of his closet out the door two decades ago. Shut up. It’s that darned belt and buckle. If I’d a pulled the trigger on a Norfolk, the Santa Claus-ness of it would cause me to take a pass on wearing it more often than not.
While I’ve never spent the day in a Norfolk Jacket, I believe it to be similar to any double breasted jacket in that if left open, it’s just not gonna look right. And I love the sloppy Norfolk sprezzatura that our boy F. Scottie conveys but I just don’t think it’s practical for me. Hell, is the Norfolk practical for anybody?
In addition to the general obtuseness of the belt thang, the Norfolk by design is essentially a box…a square. A square with a bi-swing back that enables easy arm raising and Purdy gun shouldering when bird hunting. Functional for that particular endeavor and surely warm enough to protect you from the bone chilling elements. So buy one if you are stalking and shooting in the Highlands. Otherwise, where the hell are you gonna wear it and not look like you’ve wandered off the set of your community theatre’s production of Gunga damn something? Even slender folks like my sveltself are probably gonna look boxy in the Norfolk. Now if the bad boy was shaped like a rhombus, I might be in. I mean really, who wouldn’t want to posit the word rhombus when asked about their intriguing jacket?
Let me end my Norfolk ramble with a photo of one who seems to do the Norfolk justice…and vice-versa. I came across this photo of Prince Philip and it was the first time I saw a Norfolk that seemed to look right…to look stylish.
I gandered it for a moment to try and dial-in on what might be the trick to the Prince’s jacket’s lack of obtuseness. Here’s the deal. The front closure is the secret sauce. Two things about it. First, there’s no buckle. It’s a two button closure that when opened, doesn’t have the dangly bits with which one wouldn’t know what to do. (Story of my life) But I think just as important is the width of said closure belt/band. It’s thinner. The attenuated width of this bisecting horizontal girding makes all the difference in the world. Geez…a four inch bisecting girder belt on me would be eight point three percent of my height. Yep, that’s one of the key Norfolk dilemmas. Shut the….
And this obviously bespoken (bespeaked? bedazzled? bedamned?) rig also has just enough resultant waist suppression while merely buttoned. Cinch-up the belt on those Santa Claus razor strop widthed versions and you’ll get waist shaping too. Gathered up looking…strangu-damn-lation…like a Santa who just finished Weight Watchers.
Ok. It’s off to the shower and then to day-two with this new client here in no man’s land. Somewhere between Chicago and Milwaukee. Think industrial office parks…not the elegance of the North Shore.
Onward. Dangling and Attenuated.