The Casual Vintage Gabardine Short Jacket

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I’ve always loved vintage jackets. They’re full of character and details that you can just seldom find today!   We’ve talked about Field Jackets and leather jackets before, but there’s one king for lightweight casual wear and that’s the gabardine (gab) short jacket.   It’s a versatile piece that can serve you well, whether you’re in tailoring or something extremely casual.  

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1930’s Gab jacket with bottom ribbing.

In the 1930s, there was an emergence of something called “sportswear”.  There was finally a term for casual, dressed down clothes!  This is where you get action back sportcoats, casual suits, polo shirts, and casual jackets in a variety in fabrics.  One of those fabrics was gabardine, a twilled wool fabric that you typically find in trenchcoats.  Depending on the weight, gabardine can either be extremely light or pretty hefty.  It is this quality that makes them ideal for all types of outerwear, including the gab short jacket.  At first, these jackets were mainly used as actual workwear but eventually they transitioned for full use as sportswear.

The gab jacket (later called “Ricky Jackets”) was extremely popular as the go-to piece for a casual layering piece.  You could wear it with your tie after work or you could wear it with your sport shirts!  In terms of design, the basic features were the same:  button latch sleeves, two pockets (either flapped-patch or regular), a zipper front, and a sharp collar.  Over time there were slight variations in some designs like the collar (the 1940’s had the largest while they became shorter until the 60’s), shoulder padding, and quilted lining, but for the most part they had a pretty standard look! They pretty much shared the design with the basic single breasted leather jacket, just cut from a softer, lightweight fabric.   Most people remember the khaki ones since they look pretty “vintage” but these gab jackets were available in multiple colors and prints!

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A 1940’s gab jacket with a pleated back and long spearpoint collar.

If you’re wondering why I call them “shortjackets”, it’s because these jackets are meant to end at your natural waist, i.e your bellybutton.  Doesn’t make sense with modern pants but perfectly appropriate for high waisted trousers!

Montgomery Ward Spring Sale 1935 Leather Jackets

Gab jackets had a similar design to other casual jackets of the era.

Two tone gab jacket worn with cuffed jeans and boots.

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A great example of a regular gab jacket.

thehauntedballroom: “ Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Oct. 1935. ”

Two gentlemen in a gab jacket, circa 1930s.

Brilliant two-tone gab jacket! Colored gab jackets are the most rare and expensive.

Early gab jacket in 1922.

 

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Amazing green gab jacket worn with plus-fours and kilt-tie wingtips.

yesterdaysprint: “  Poolroom, Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, October 1939 ”

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CRAZY ricky jacket.

As you can see the gab jacket is excellent, whether you wear them with with a tie or just with jeans!  They’re great if you want to pull off a vintage casual look (try rockabilly if you’re daring) or even a workwear look.  Pretty versatile right?  Back in the day, guys would probably only have one jacket, so they wore it with everything.

However, as great as they were, the traditional gab jacket was soon replaced by bomber jackets and the more “modern” Harrington G-9 baractuas which was popular in the 1950s and 1960s.   Additionally, fabric for these jackets were cotton or nylon, with knit lining. The overall styling was similar, but you can see how much America became more enamored with tie-less casual style.

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Today, the traditional gab short jacket is all but forgotten, with most men preferring the harrington/baracuta jacket to be worn with their “biz caz” looks. It’s not bad by any means, but I definitely like the older, 1930s-1940s style of the gab jacket!

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J. Crew harrington jackets.

Rex David 'Dave' Thomas RIP 1932-2002

Some companies still product jackets close to the original gab jacket but they tend to lack the wide, pointed collars and the short length.  The Ralph Lauren Harrington is probably the best one you’ll find that’s close enough, but you can definitely find similar ones at thrift stores; these jackets were big in the 80s sand 90s.  Still a great look for you modern dressers.

Jeff “Life Finds A Way” Goldbum in a suede jacket, white tee, and blue jeans.  Makes a simple Americana look.

Green Zip shirt jacket with a faded tee, black jeans, and white sneakers for a minimal look.

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A streetwear look incorporating a fully zipped RL harrington. I kinda dig it!

 

How We Wear It

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Spencer in a wonderful two-tone gab jacket, with a vintage sportshirt and high rise denim.

While there isn’t anything wrong with modern casual jackets, we prefer wearing the true vintage versions of the gab short jacket.  There’s much more detail (and history) in going true vintage!  Don’t worry; true vintage gab jackets are still able to be found, either on eBay or a vintage store! Just remember that the more details, colors, and patterns, the more expensive they can be.

By following our post on vintage casual, we wear our gab short jackets with sport shirts and denim or even with some slight tailoring!  I understand that this might be a bit different for most of you guys, but that’s what makes this blog unique right?

 

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This is a great example of those alternative designs for the gab short jacket.  This one is a western style gab jacket, apparent by the deep pick stitching and the front yoke design.  Note the use of box pleat pockets!  Even though it’s in the typical brown color, the details are set it apart.

 

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Blake wears gab jacket with some casual tailoring: a tie-less 1930’s shirt and high waisted grey herringbone slacks.  You can see how heavy the shoulders are padded in this model.

Instagram media by ethandesu - Ambrosi in Fresco, vintage Rayon and the 'Politician' by Solakzade.

Lastly, we have Ethan Newton from Bryceland’s.  Ethan has been one of my inspirations not only due to the name similarity but because he creates such great modern interpretations of vintage outfits. This look is similar to Blake’s, but its got a tailored Italian edge.  He pairs his light brown short jacket with a denim shirt, grey high rise trousers (with extension tab, pleats, and slightly tapered leg), and sockless penny loafers.  It definitely exudes the vibes of a casual 1930s-1940s look, since the jacket is built for high rise trousers; as I stated before, jackets today are not built with a short length.  Even though its slightly vintage looking, it’s perfectly at home in the modern day.

Now that we’re approaching spring time, I thought it would be appropriate to show you guys the main ways that I’d wear my true vintage gab short jacket!  You can still wear them with ties for an “after work” look, but I prefer them much more with an open collar in a “sportwear” outfit.  The gab short jacket is something extremely versatile and that’s what I want to show you.

 

Vintage Casual Updated

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This look is taken almost exactly from Ethan Newton with a slight more spring weather twist. I swapped his denim shirt and grey slacks for my chambray work shirt and high rise pleated chinos.  The overall light combination works well with the pale colors of the jacket to provide a great spring look!  Much less dress than wearing a sportcoat, even if the coat was casual in nature.  It’s just a great easy going look that still provides that slight vintage-meets-modern vibe that this blog is all about.

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I got this late 1940’s gab jacket from Joyride Vintage in Orange, CA for only $50!.  It’s rapidly become my favorite jacket due to its lightweight nature and color!  It is a little stained, but I think that it just adds character to the jacket.  Cut from a light houndstooth gabardine, the jacket  features a zip front, elastic bottom hem, two side pockets, and button latch sleeves.  Looks wonderful with casual tailoring, don’t you think?

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Epic color and pattern.

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Completely unlined, which is perfect for hot weather or if you want to layer a sweater underneath!

1940’s Gab short jacket, J.Crew Chambray Workshirt (thrifted), J. Crew pleated Khakis, AE loafers (eBay) 

 Streetwear Vibes

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To prove how versatile this jacket is (and to add some part to the STREET my blog’s name) I wanted to show off this extremely casual look.  I wouldn’t call it full streetwear, but it’s definitely got some of the vibes.  It’s a simple look, comprised of the gab short jacket, pink crew neck sweater, black jeans, and suede chelsea boots. Still perfect for spring, since it uses a light colored top half on top of a darker, grounded bottom.  Light wash jeans would probably be better though!

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Even though its from the late 1940’s, this jacket is extremely easy to pair with much more modern pieces.  That’s why I love this jacket so much; it goes with skinny jeans and pleated chinos.  Plus there is a distinct lack of branding, which is a huge contrast compared to the RL ones; plain jackets in a similar style can be pretty expensive.   Overall, I’d say outfit looks like what’s currently en vogue just with my own special spin!  Nothing too baggy, but the vibes and color palette is definitely there.

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For all you people who are wondering, this is what a typical “Ethan Date Outfit” would look like. I know that I mentioned it somewhere on this blog once before, but you can’t really go wrong with jeans, a nice crew neck sweater (or shirt), and a vintage jacket.  I probably wouldn’t wear chinos and loafers to a date or a real night on the town, but this streetwear style outfit is much more appropriate (especially for my age).  Either way, it’s a simple look that provides a slight amount of pop and conversation thanks to the jacket!

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The button-latch sleeves.

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Here’s the look without the jacket! If you can’t tell from this post or my instagram, I’ve been really feelign 1990’s inspired oufits, especially in regards to a palewave color palette. This pink sweater was definitely an impulse purchase, but I love it so freakin’ much.  Perhaps I’ll incorporate it into a sartorial outfit in the future!

1940’s Gab Short Jacket, Pink Sweater from Gap, Black Rude Fit jeans from Hot Topic, Loake Chelsea Boots (eBay)

Conclusion

We love the true vintage gab short jacket here on Street x Sprezza.  We’ve seen them worn before by Spencer and Blake, but it’s nice to see some modern interpretations with the look!  Even though cotton/nylon harringtons are currently the “in” piece to have, they just don’t have the same details that the true vintage ones have! This is especially apparent due to the use of logo (looking at you RL), short collar, and longer length.  Even baractua jackets don’t cut it for me!

The true vintage gab short jacket will have a cropped length (ending at your natural waist), as well as have a longer pointed collar; other details like pocket type or ribbing will vary depending on the era of manufacturing.  Either way, it’s still a versatile garment that will serve you well, whether your style is casually tailored, streetwear, or both! I hope that you will gain some inspiration from this post and pick one up for yourself.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza

Photography by David W. and Noelle F.  

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8 comments

  1. jason · April 7

    What size is the pink sweatshirt — has it shrunk?

    Like

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  5. Ab de Bills · June 10

    pink color suit for your profile..!!!!

    Like

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