Hugh Hefner and the Burgundy Velvet Smoking Jacket

Hugh Hefner in his iconic burgundy velvet smoking jacket with black satin shawl lapels.

Hugh Hefner in his iconic burgundy velvet smoking jacket with black satin shawl lapels.

When it comes to men and their personal uniforms, perhaps none is as iconic as Hugh Hefner and his velvet smoking robe he was often pictured donning while lounging about the Playboy mansion surrounded by the infamous playmates. 

As a Halloween costume, the velvet smoking robe look can be played out, however, the crushed burgundy velvet smoking jacket can be a wonderful addition to your wardrobe. 

While the most typical velvet smoking jacket is black, shades of deep burgundy, midnight navy and emerald green can offer a fantastic alternative. 

When it comes to design of your velvet smoking jacket, the first option will be whether or not you want to have silk facings on the lapels. If your jacket is black, the contrast will look very similar to a tuxedo. If it’s any other color, the black satin or grosgrain silk lapels will be a very visible contrast to the burgundy, navy or green fabric. 

Next, the shape of the lapels. Most would select shawl collar lapels for their velvet smoking jacket, however you could go with a peak lapel or even a notch lapel. Shawl is often preferred because it more closely mimics the smoking robe’s original collar. 

Pockets can be flapped and even have an extra ticket pocket — after all, where else would you store you pipe and tobacco? Add a final finishing touch with a bold liner and paisley pocket piping for a debonair look. 

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The history of the velvet smoking jacket comes from Victorian society, where after dinner men would retire to a separate room and don velvet robes over their dinner jackets (either black tie or white tie). The robes were to help minimize the smell of smoke on their dinner jackets and protect the fabric from errant burning tobacco embers. There was also a misguided impression that velvet naturally helped repel the odor of smoke. 

Eventually, as societal rules and formalities relaxed, the velvet dinner robe evolved into a velvet dinner jacket, typically worn by the host — guests were to always wear the stated formal attire and provided with robes later. 

While these customs have been lost, the velvet smoking jacket still retains popularity among those looking for something adventurous beyond the typical tuxedo. It allows for a bit more personal expression and often is worn more casually with dark denim and a simple white shirt sans necktie. Of course, dressing it up with simple black tuxedo trousers and a studded formal shirt with cufflinks and a bowtie will always be a wonderful look for any black-tie optional event. 

And, yes, you can wear your velvet smoking jacket as a Hugh Hefner costume — just add his signature sailor’s captain hat and a pipe of your own. Hall Madden can help you create your own velvet smoking jacket, custom made details and custom fitted to your body. Playmates not included.

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