About the Author: James B. is a trained economist and semi-trained house-guest, who is hoping to prove empirically that marginal utility is greater than marginal cost until at least the twentieth pair of Goodyear-welted shoes. He enjoys fine French wines, rare Cuban cigars, long walks on the beach, and subverting well-worn clichés. If you recently drove past a puffed-out bicyclist with a jersey covered in cat fur halfway up a hill on the backroads of rural Maryland, that was probably him.
Bonobos will forever be known for their pants. Specifically their flagship washed chinos. But if the washed chinos are their bread and butter, then their unconstructed Italian Wool Blazers are their fine wine. Or perhaps more accurately, the tasty micro brew that’s always getting pulled out of the fridge.
Because they’re quite good. And their versatility means it’s rarely a bad time for one.
Plenty of color options have you covered.
What makes these things an industry stand-out is their (un)construction. These jackets have no padding at all in the shoulders, just some additional fabric, which makes them lean casual. And in our ever increasing casual world, that’s a good thing. Only the arms are lined for ease of access, which means that all the inner stitching is visible. There’s a misconception that unlined jackets are “cheaper.” That’s totally untrue. It’s more expensive and more time consuming to make an unlined jacket. The level of craftsmanship has to be top notch. Any shoddy workmanship would have no place to hide. Thankfully all the needlework on the grey jacket ordered for this in-person look was in good order, save for a few loose threads on one sleeve-button.
There’s the magic right there.
Almost totally unlined = super comfortable and extraordinarily breathable.
The lapels are fused. Given that there are custom firms out there that can produce a canvassed made-to-measure jacket at a similar price point, it might have been nice to have canvas rather than glue here, but it’s probably not a deal-breaker. Patch pockets on the lower half help keep these sportcoats from looking like orphaned suit jackets. Not that the total lack of hard/sharp construction doesn’t also firmly place these things in the “I’m not a suit jacket” camp.
As for fabric, the wool is from the Italian maker Marzotto, with a nice amount of texture and a feel of quality. Being unlined and a hopsack weave, it wears light. Certainly good for warm summer days, and or a good amount of spring and fall to boot. If you run cold, I’m not sure if it would be a first choice in the dead of winter, but with some judicious layering you could make it work.
Hopsack wool. Air-flow encouraging weave that still looks crisp and put together.
The details all hit the mark. The 2.5-inch notch lapels are slim enough to look modern today but classic enough that they’ll still be fine ten years from now. Two vents at the back are flattering and practical for most guys day-to-day, and also ideal if you decide to wear this bad boy while riding a push-bike, horse, or Lambretta. Cuffs are non-functioning, which is preferable (read: much cheaper) should you need to get the sleeves altered. And buttons are a medium-dark brown plastic horn, which gives the right amount of contrast with the fabric without looking stark.
36S standard fit shown above on James, who is 5’6″/135
Here’s how a 40R (in the lighter gray) looks on Joe, who is 5’10″/190
The fit was pretty good, on par with other Bonobos jackets I’ve tried in the past. You can see in the images that the sleeves seem to run long on me, but it might be fairer to Bonobos to say that my arms run a bit short. There was slight gape on the left lapel, which can be a result of shoulder height or chest shape, but this effect will vary from jacket to jacket and person to person (so there’s no substitute for trying on in person).
So the jacket is good, but what about the experience? After ordering online, delivery took eight days—hardly snappy, but these are extraordinary times. Shipping was free (as are returns and exchanges), and from personal experience the ‘ninjas’ who provide online support are pretty dedicated to giving good customer service (they also sign off emails with phrases like “Yours in pants”, which is… different).
Non functioning sleeve cuff buttons = cheaper to tailor.
Overall, this jacket hovers close enough to that line between formal and casual that you could certainly wear it in a good range of scenarios — to work in an office, to a fine-dining restaurant (remember those?), to a family event, concert, or place of worship.
But what about this grey option in particular? By now, you likely have a wheelhouse navy blazer in the bag, and might be wondering where to go next with your jacket collection. Sportcoats can get spendy, and with post-pandemic dress-codes still uncertain, it makes more sense than ever to get something that can pull double-duty on weekdays and weekends alike. In terms of a business/smart-casual crossover, mid-gray can be a solid choice.
Mid-gray sportcoats are so versatile for the same reason that gray flannel pants are—they can be worn with just about any color, even some other grays. Done well, they can look great with everything from navy or khaki chinos to dark blue jeans and charcoal business pants. A drawback is that, done badly, they can look too much like an orphaned suit jacket or just plain… milquetoast? In essence, gray jackets need to have some personality to stand on their own, be that from texture, pattern, or cut.
Straight off the rack. Needs some tailoring.
Sleeves run a touch long (or, my arms run a touch short).
Does the Bonobos in gray have enough personality? The answer is definitely… maybe. For me personally, it sits just on the formal side of the line and ultimately I think that the Bonobos’ Italian knit blazer (in cotton) does a better job in that business/casual crossover space (I own one and use it often), even though it lacks some of the sharpness, durability, and heat-regulating properties that come with wool. Ultimately, it will come down to preference.
And the price? Although you get a lot of jacket for your money, at full retail four Benjamins does feel kinda steep, but with the somewhat regular promotions at Bonobos (promo-bos?) these things often dip to around $280. If those sorts of prices suit your budget, and you prefer the properties of a light hopsack wool over cotton, you should get a decent amount of wear out of this unconstructed sportcoat for many years to come.