What’s a dinner jacket? And when to wear it?

By on August 24th, 2014

For many years I was under the impression that a dinner jacket was merely a jacket that you wore to dinner. No parties, no nights out. Just for dinner.

Fortunately for me, the dinner jacket’s name does not restrict its usage.

So, just what is a dinner jacket when should you wear one?

Simple answer: A dinner jacket is a tuxedo.

When we call a tuxedo a dinner jacket it’s really just using the British nomenclature. Because the two are really one in the same – a satin shawl collar and with a similar stripe down the out-seam of the trousers.

However, countries like France and Italy have been known to reference the dinner jacket as a smoking jacket.

Regardless, just think tuxedo.

According to rather second hand sources, the tuxedo first made a splash back in 1886. A gentleman by the name of Griswold Lorillard, who was the son of one of the Tuxedo Park founders (Tuxedo Park was more or less an early suburb in New York) wore a jacket to a fancy party that we would recognize today as a tuxedo. With every other guy wearing more formal attire, Griswold made an impression.

Connecting the dots, local papers coined his jacket the tuxedo.

And if you need a little guidance on what to wear to a black tie event (clearly Griswold didn’t!), I wrote an article recently on just that very topic.

But the key takeaway here is that a dinner jacket is indeed a tuxedo for all practical purposes.

So, should you receive an invite to an event calling for a dinner jacket, don’t expect a big meal!


what is a dinner jacket

And the other version of the tuxedo’s origins: History of the tuxedo