Chris F. asks:
“I was wondering if you could shed a little light on blazer vents. What's the difference stylistically between a blazer with a center vent and a double vent? Is one more trendy right now? Is one going to go out of style faster? Is one more casual, etc?”
Thanks, Chris, for the perfect question to open up the upcoming fall season, because it’s the time to really rock a blazer. If you don’t already own at least one good blazer, I recommend you make it a priority to acquire one to anchor your fall wardrobe.
When shopping for a jacket, most guys focus only on how it looks on the front without considering how it looks on the back. The vent you choose is an important a detail as any other part of your jacket selection, so be sure to keep in mind the following points when you’re ready to pick out a new blazer or suit.
What’s a Vent and What’s It For? A Brief History.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a vent is the slit you see on the backside of blazers, sport coats, suit jackets, and any other type of jacket.
Like many modern menswear details, vents originated from military heritage. As a functional necessity while traveling horseback, the vent provided comfort to the rider by allowing the jacket’s tails to part and fall gracefully along the sides of the horse. Not only did vents ease the buttoned jacket from bunching and constricting the body while seated, it also prevented unattractive fabric creasing where the bunching would have occurred.
While very few men today travel by horse, the same functional principle applies in any situation where you need to be seated with your jacket on. Another benefit of the rear vent is that it permits easier access to your trouser pocket: the give from the vent negates excess fabric gathering and pulling as you dig your hand under the jacket to get into your pocket.
Bonus tip: Never put your hands, or any object, in your blazer or suit jacket pocket unless you want that area to get stretched out and misshaped. Most jackets come with basted (loosely stitched shut) pocket openings – keep the basting intact to prevent entry at all times and to preserve the jacket’s clean lines.
Center Vent vs Side Vents – What’s the Stylistic Difference?
Vents come in two types: center vent (single vent on the center of the back) and side vents (double vents with a vent on each side of the back panel).
Beyond the obvious number of vents, there are also inherent differences between the two as it pertains to the body.
In particular, if you have a protruding behind, you’ll be best with a center vent that fully covers your rear end, whereas the back flap on the double vent can end up kicking out and hanging off your butt, creating a cliff that gaps between the vents and the rest of the jacket. However, the center vent is only good as a derriere mask while you stand without hands in your trouser pockets, because the moment you do, the jacket splits right atop your booty like a drawn curtain, exposing the very anatomical area that you wish to conceal.
If you’re in great shape and want to show off your physique, an expertly tailored side-vented style will follow your form like a sleek glove. The side vent also aids in slimming down heavier men as the pronounced vertical lines along the back panel offer the illusion of length.
Tailored well to your body, the single-vented jacket will serve you handsomely and hold you up with mega confidence and high style. Having said that, when it comes to which of the two has extra flair and finesse, offers ease of movement with minimal bunching and creasing, flatters your silhouette, and exudes more style wattage, there’s no question that the double-vented jacket takes the win – every time.
Is One More Trendy Right Now? Is One Going to Go Out of Style Faster?
Rest assured, both vent styles are classics, with zero danger of falling prey to the pitfalls of trends. If you get a beautifully cut blazer in either vent styles, you’ve got a champion that will serve you well for years to come.
Here are some additional things to consider....
You’ll see more center-vented blazers in the market (and on guys’ backs) for a few main reasons:
1) It’s more readily available off-the-rack and a less-costly purchase than the double. Because it’s cheaper, faster and easier to make single-vented jackets, most mass market manufacturers prefer this style from a production and profit perspective – in other words, it’s good business for them and good value for you.
2) As the single vent is more mainstream and all-purpose, most guys feel more comfortable pulling it off than the more refined and attention-grabbing side vent.
3) Especially here in the U.S., the center-vented sack suit that became the standard Ivy League uniform in the ‘50s continues to remain America’s jacket vent-of-choice. This also applies to its popularity outside the U.S., as those who follow classic American style associate the center vent as an authentic detail representing the Ivy Style aesthetic.
Relative to the above points, the case for side vents can be considered from an equally opposing angle:
1) Because it requires higher costs, more time and better craftsmanship to produce, side-vented jackets are rarely offered in the mass market, and usually sold ready-made only by high-end manufacturers. The best way to acquire a double-vented jacket is to get it custom made, or make use of additional tailoring services post-off-the-rack purchase (this tip also fully applies to the single vent). A side-vented jacket, therefore, exudes a perception of exclusivity, high quality, and elevated taste level.
2) Men who prefer double vents are willing to show off their individuality. They enjoy standing out and being seen as more fashion-conscious, discerning and sophisticated.
3) Whereas the single vent jacket comes with a decidedly American flavor, the double vent chiefly says British. Especially for the American man, wearing a blazer or suit jacket with side vents provides an air of European glamour, a certain worldliness, and a masculine sensuality that distinguishes him from the rest of the standard-issue center-vented pack.
Is One More Casual?
Generally speaking, the simpler center vent is more casual; the more elaborate side vents, more formal.
However, vent styles alone don’t always equate to casualness or formality. Like everything in fashion, there are exceptions and options to the rules.
Two additional elements to consider into the casual/formal equation are construction and fabric. For example, if a single-vented jacket is made fully structured with finer fabric than a double-vented, unstructured jacket with coarser, more casual fabric, the the single-vented version would be more formal.
All else being equal, the side-vented style is more formal.
Although this isn’t part of the question, it’s important to mention:
There’s a third type of back-of-jacket treatment that’s neither single vent nor double vents, and that’s no vent, or ventless.
Cut close to the body with the absence of vents, it’s a slimming, sleek look that’s also formal, as exemplified in Tuxedo jackets. However, the very reason that makes this jacket so streamlined while you’re standing is also its downfall when you move or sit. No vents result in limited range of motion, less comfort, and lots of gathering and creasing with the slightest movement.
Naturally, it’s not a great option for guys who carry extra girth (stuffed sausage, anyone?). This style is reserved for lean, fashion-conscious men who don’t mind sacrificing limited comfort and mobility for looking ultra sharp while posing vertically.
Which One is Right for You?
Ideally, you would benefit from the variety of various vent styles in your wardrobe, but it truly boils down to your own personal taste, your comfort level, and often your body type.
Are you a pragmatic single-vent only kind of guy? A debonair double-or-nothing type? A charismatic ventless showman? Or a bit of each depending on your mood? The only way to find out is to try them out for yourself and come to your own conclusions. Only you can determine which style – or if all three styles – are right for you.
You’ll know it’s the right one when, upon putting it on, you feel like you can take on the world.