Ah, the ‘80s. That decade-long sartorial stench between the 1970s and the 1990s that brought us everything from mullets and lycra to shoulder pads and the Canadian tuxedo. It was a most unfortunate yet unforgettable era in all things men’s fashion. As a result, much of anything 1980s fashion-related is, even 40 years removed, sure to spook the most confident man away from venturing back into those acid-washed colors — even something as simple as the T-shirt under a blazer.
Now, if you were born in the era directly preceding or anytime after the millennium, you know this look as the divorced dad who was coaxed into buying some “young” pieces of clothing from a saleswoman he thought was hitting on him at Nordstrom. The T-shirts were Affliction and adding a blazer into the mix was considered rock ‘n’ roll — if rock ‘n’ roll is a midlife crisis and a Ferrari you can’t afford. But recently, one brave redditor veered into those musky, Drakkar Noir-scented waters to ask a very astute question: Can you wear a T-shirt under a blazer and not look like a 1980s leftover?
According to Alarna Hope, a personal stylist and image consultant based in Sydney, because fashion is a revolving door, the T-shirt and blazer combination isn’t completely put out to pasture. Just be sure to wear the right type of T-shirt. “The deep v-neck and scoop neck was a big thing in the early 2010s, but now, necklines are a little higher and neater,” she explains. “A crew neck will look more current paired with a blazer, rather than a v-neck, but if you feel like you don’t have much of a neck and you’re worried your jacket might wear you, try a short v-neck.” But, she insists, “don’t forget about T-shirts with a henley neckline — these can look rugged when paired with a textured blazer.”
Even more important than the T-shirt, however, is the type of blazer that you pair with said T-shirt, per Hope. Which is to say, don’t take a suit jacket and pair it with jeans if you’re going to try out this look — “unless you’re going to wear the full suit with the T-shirt,” Hope says.
Instead of a standard suit jacket, Hope suggests a textured blazer — “think tweed, linen, velvet, suede” — that has patch pockets. “You can play around with single- and double-breasted styles, just lay off the shoulder pads if you don’t want to look like your style is referencing the 1980s,” she adds.
To that end, if you really don’t want to look like you’ve just stepped out of a DeLorean, Hope advises, “Don’t wear a boxy cut, wide, shoulder-padded blazer, and keep the colors neutral rather than adding bright, solid pops of color.”
Or, if you’re still feeling unsure of the entire aesthetic, well, do as Nancy Reagan instructed: