Despite being around tailoring for a long time, I always kept a certain distance from cashmere. I felt like it was something to be earned when you were a little older, wiser, and more accomplished. I eventually gave up waiting to become that person in my thirties. I had opened two outposts of my menswear boutique The Armoury, and the whole operation had not burned down yet, and so I indulged, commissioning a navy cashmere blazer from one of my tailors. To my surprise, there was not much fuss or fanfare around this momentous occasion; apparently, it was just in my head.
The first thing you notice with a cashmere blazer is how soft it is. This is because cashmere is made from the underhair of the Kashmir goat, a breed concentrated in China and Mongolia. This type of goat has a double fleece—an external fleece of longer, coarser hairs and an underhair that is much, much finer, perfect for milestone-marking consumer purchases. The second thing you notice is how warm it is. Cashmere fiber has significant crimp; it naturally wants to fold itself into a zigzag pattern at a microscopic level. When you put a lot of these fibers together as you make fiber into yarn and yarn into cloth, it creates a lot of air pockets within. This allows for cashmere to be an excellent insulator, trapping much more of your body’s heat than other materials.
As a blazer, cashmere is quietly eye-catching. While it is soft, it is not as hairy as flannel. Good suiting wool should have a definite springiness to it, but cashmere cloth has a gentler return, more pliant than crisp. In terms of colors, navy is the obvious first choice for a blazer (and Cifonelli’s version proves endlessly easy to style). Since cashmere has a natural luster, darker-colored cashmere cloths have a seductive richness to them, dark blues and navies benefiting the most.
When picking cashmere, it is important to focus on the “body” of the cloth. A soft, smooth touch will come naturally with use. A little heft to the cloth is more important, because it suggests that the cloth has been made of a substantial amount of cashmere rather than as little as possible while still retaining the 100 percent cashmere tag. Over time, a heavier cashmere will be sturdier, pilling less on its surface and bagging less at the elbows.
A good cashmere blazer can go with you anywhere. It ages well with use. Its softness allows it to mold to your body, so the “old cashmere sweater” comparison is apt. As a regular traveler to colder cities, I find the extra warmth cashmere provides very practical, often making the difference between carrying a heavy overcoat on the road or not. In terms of pairings, a navy cashmere blazer runs a wide gamut but stops short of the most formal occasions. At its dressiest, I love to wear it with flannel trousers, a white button-down shirt, and a crisp grenadine tie as a contrast to the soft textures of the jacket and trousers. However, it’s just as at home with a simple roll-neck and a pair of jeans and loafers—the weekend-gentleman look.
In my limited record of making good life choices, having a cashmere blazer ranks high. My trusty navy cashmere blazer has been with me for years now, and thanks to the magic of tailoring and subsequent waistline-related alterations, I continue to enjoy its company. What I thought would be an unnecessary indulgence ended up being a beloved piece, worth every penny.
Mark Cho is an entrepreneur and the cofounder of menswear emporium The Armoury (in New York and Hong Kong) and the co-owner of Drake’s.