A Jacket with Elbow Patches

Looking smart is almost as good as being smart. A jacket with elbow patches boosts your style I.Q. by twenty points.

Illustration: Mickey Duzyj

There have been no studies proving empirically that wearing a jacket with elbow patches boosts your intelligence. But slide one on and we’re sure you’ll figure out a way to write one. From Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters to Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, a jacket with elbow patches—usually in tweed, herringbone or corduroy—is synonymous with smartness. Call it a sartorial Pavlovian response.

It would be reasonable, but wrong, to assume the elbow patches on a blazer were intended for long hours spent wading through Marxist historiography. But the archetypal elbow-patched jacket was designed for men of the field: hunters — whose elbows needed padding as they bore the weight of a propped and properly aimed gun—and horseback riders, whose hacking jackets included similar patches. These days, with one good elbow patch-equipped jacket, you can channel both the ruggedness of the Scottish heath and the bookish cachet of a university library.

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