The History of the Smoking Jacket

Nowadays, chances are the only time you’ll see someone wearing a smoking jacket is on Halloween when guys dress up in cheap Hugh Hefner knockoffs. Other than that, the once popular garment has seemingly met its fate. There was a time, however, when gentlemen donned one for good reason. Here is a look back at the iconic smoking jacket.

Earliest Inspiration

The earliest inspiration for the classic smoking jacket popped up at this time. As fine silks began coming into Europe from India, China, and the Americas, it became increasingly popular for the wealthy to want to be depicted in paintings wearing a silk robe de chambre or banyan. These fine and leisurely garments would be the inspiration for the smoking jacket a few centuries later.

Defining The Smoking Jacket

Gentleman’s Magazine of London put out the earliest description of what a classic smoking jacket would look like, saying it was “a kind of short robe de chambre, of velvet, cashmere, plush, merino or printed flannel, lined with bright colours, ornamented with brandenbourgs, olives or large buttons.”

The Spread of Turkish Tobacco

The Crimean War popularised Turkish tobacco in England during the 1850s. Men began to retreat after a meal to enjoy a pipe or cigar with some brandy. The smoking jacket had evolved from the longer robes of the 1600s into a mid-thigh length jacket that served two purposes: to keep ash off the clothes, and so the man wearing one wouldn’t smell like smoke when returning to the women. Men would remove their formal tailcoat before going into the smoking room, put on their smoking jacket, and change once more before heading back to the table.

The Smoking Cap

It was common for men at this time to not only wear a smoking jacket, but also a smoking cap. The cap protected the man from even more of the odor. An embroidered smoking cap was a common gift from a fiance.

No Longer Just For Smoking

The man who really made the smoking jacket popular for more than just an after dinner cigarette was Edward VII (Prince of Wales at the time). He commissioned Henry Poole & Co. (Savile Row) to craft him a blue silk one that he would often wear to meals. This ushered in a new wave of acceptance for the piece of loungewear as a sort of comfortable yet formal article of clothing.

The King of the Smoking Jacket: Sherlock Holmes


When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first began the Sherlock Holmes series back in the 1880s, he paid particular attention to the clothing the brainy detective wore. Besides the tweed coats and iconic hats, one of the signature pieces Holmes wore was a smoking jacket while he enjoyed his pipe and worked on cases. He’s been depicted wearing one in many films, books, and theatrical performances.

Late 1800s
The Dining Jacket

While the ornate design and luxurious velvet would remain in the construction of some smoking jackets, others started to become something much plainer. This plain version would slowly morph into a simple, loose-fitting dining jacket.

The Derek Rose Smoking Jacket

The Derek Rose smoking jacket (no relation to the NBA star) combined the classic design with an even more relaxed feel. Their version did away with the frogging and the flair. The tartan pieces resemble a modern pajama top for guys.

The Rat Pack

The smoking jacket received another bump in popularity thanks to the likes of Cary Grant, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. The Rat Pack and others ushered in a new wave of popularity that would last for a couple of decades.

Hugh Hefner

While the smoking jacket was no longer a staple of the average man’s wardrobe, there was still one bastion of hope: Hugh Hefner. After starting Playboy Magazine in the 1950s, Hefner adopted his trademark silk smoking jacket look. He owns over 200 different smoking jackets/pajama tops that are custom-made for him.

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire is buried in his favorite smoking jacket.

The Return of the Smoking Jacket

Cigar Aficionado published a piece on the return of the smoking jacket. While it never returned in full force, designers like Tom Ford and brands like Louis Vuitton would reintroduce it as a piece of high fashion.

  • KryptoTSD

    Does anybody else here find it to be utterly ridiculous that men down through the ages needed a special garment just for smoking? I’m a man and I never used tobacco OR Marijuana in my life…

  • rick ross the boss

    Yeah, seems kinda gay…focusing so much on the style of clothing to smoke. I’ve smoked cigars and preferred to wear a specific jacket or whatever that I didn’t mind having smell like smoke and I’d use the same one for that reason, but besides that I don’t really care what it looks like.

  • Random Name

    Yea, you do seem like you wouldn’t be fun to hang out with.

  • KryptoTSD

    I’m also healthy. That beats every argument for smoking tobacco OR marijuana.

  • yahareena

    sort of but not quite

  • KryptoTSD

    It Simply DOES NOT MATTER. No further discussion is necessary because none is possible.

  • yahareena

    lulz k

  • Im right

    the reason why is cause if you smoke cigars it leaves a strong odor on your clothes so to stop that you wear a smoking jacket to leave your clothes free of smoke

  • Archibald Weaver

    Seems like the main reason you find it utterly ridiculous is that you do not partake in the activity that called for the invention of the garment in the first place. Perhaps, for those that do partake in the activity, it does serve a purpose?

  • court

    When you consider the cost of some men’s work clothing or dress shirts, wanting something to protect them is reasonable. I don’t smoke but I am aware that ash doesn’t wash out of white shirts, and if you have a 50 plus dollar shirt, and 30 plus dollar tie. And these are all things that are part of your image in life. you want them to look nice. and people notice what they smell like to even if you don’t

  • Nom de Plume

    The smoking jacket also arose during a time when doing laundry (as well as personal bathing) was difficult and inconvenient for all but the wealthiest individuals. Even into the early 20th century, men wore the same shirt every day and changed out the collars and the cuffs. An outer garment to protect your clothing from burns, ash, and odor was simply being practical.

    On another note, the concept of “special clothing” for specific activities is not just confined to smoking. Could one play baseball while wearing khakis and a sport shirt? Absolutely. Why do baseball players wear such odd looking clothes? Tradition, practicality, style, any number of reasons.

    Methinks “KyrptoTSD” doth protest too much. Certainly he seems to enjoy mocking something he does not partake in and clearly does not understand.

  • John

    Your eventually going to die so might as well enjoy it

  • Jayd

    Weed does not cause cancer. Do some research and stop spewing the lies our wonderful government used to implement prohibition.